MOOC: massive open online class

MOOCs are massive, open, online classes that can enroll an unlimited number of students and often enroll tens of thousands. As I mentioned yesterday, I start one next week. To explain, here is part of the email reminder I received to-day:

Thank you very much for signing up for Think Again: How to Reason and Argue. Over the 12 weeks of the course, you will learn how to analyze and evaluate arguments and how to avoid common mistakes in reasoning. These important skills will be useful in deciding what to believe and what to do in all areas of your life. We will also have lots of fun.

Each week will contain a series of short lectures along with exercises after each lecture and a quiz at the end of each of the four parts of the course. You should expect to spend  about 2 hours per week watching the lectures, another 2 hours per week doing the exercises, and about 1 hour on each quiz. The course website will also contain detailed information about discussion forums, and we will post notices as the course develops.

You will get more out of this course if you share the adventure, so we suggest that you encourage a few friends or family members to take the course with you. You can learn from each other if you discuss your own examples of arguments in areas that interest you. It will become easy for you to find stimulating and amusing examples of arguments in newspapers, television, advertisements, books, other courses, and elsewhere.

There is now an exciting selection of online courses, free for the asking from Coursera, available to people all over the world who have access to the internet and a few hours weekly to spare. There are many others I would like to take and I have already registered for another  that starts in February. This gives everyone access to that elusive goal of life-long learning, or an opportunity to try their skills before registering for an expensive university course.

Cousera, founded by two computer science professors at Stanford,  envisions reaching millions. Co-founder Daphne Koller’s TedTalk provides a good sense of the organization’s mission.

And here is Margaret Wente from the Toronto Globe and Mail, explaining why the University of Toronto has also joined the movement to provide online university classes for the masses. She begins:

How would you like to take the best courses from the best professors at the best universities in the world – basically for free? How would you like to interact online with fellow students, have your online questions answered within minutes and take quizzes for real marks?

As you might imagine, I would really like it! This is a topic I taught at a very elementary level in my gifted classes, a topic I have been interested in since coaching debating skills as a high school teacher, a topic of personal interest because my family loves a good discussion! I am sure there’s much more for me to learn, and the course outline looks very interesting.

It would be even more fun if some of you would like to join the enterprise and we could use the blog… or another one, depending on numbers… to share our experiences. Look it up and let me know.

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3 Responses to MOOC: massive open online class

  1. debbierodgers says:

    I’m very excited by Coursera, too, and created an account last week. The course you’re taking intrigued me, but I just don’t have time right now. I’m thinking about the Global History course that start in January.

    Sorry I can’t join you this time – maybe a future class.

    • motleydragon says:

      Hi Debbie

      Why am I not surprised that someone who likes to read and write as much as you do has also discovered Coursera!

      Choosing was very difficult. In the new year I have registered for a literature course, The Modern and the Postmodern.

      The Fantasy and Science Fiction also sounds really great. The date is TBA… it is at the end of the list. There is a lot of reading, so the date is critical.

      I have often set myself independent learning challenges, just like I did for my students, and kept journals and summaries as I went through the chapters and topics. My blog seems to have crowded that out. I am looking forward to getting back to it in a disciplined way through the Coursera program.

      I was an arts major way back in the class of 1962, and my background in science, mathematics, and technology is basic and very general. Maybe I can work up to some more challenging courses, but I plan to start within my comfort zone and areas of interest.

      These are the courses I have found most intriguing… and accessible. Literature, history, philosophy, and psychology dominate my wish list. The January course on modern history sounds really challenging.
      What else do you like?


      The Modern and the Postmodern
      Michael S. Roth… starts Feb 4

      Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World
      Eric Rabkin

      How Things Work 1
      Louis A. Bloomfield

      Critical Thinking in Global Challenges
      Celine Caquineau, Mayank Dutia

      Introduction to Philosophy
      Dave Ward, Duncan Pritchard, Michela Massimi, Suilin Lavelle, Matthew Chrisman, Allan Hazlett, Alasdair Richmond

      Greek and Roman Mythology
      Peter Struck… already started in September

      Introduction to Astronomy
      Ronen Plesser… starts next week

      Know Thyself
      Mitchell Green

      The Modern World: Global History since 1760
      Philip Zelikow

      Modern & Contemporary American Poetry
      Al Filreis

      A History of the World since 1300
      Jeremy Adelman… started Sept 17

      Why We Need Psychology
      Simon Green of Birkbeck, University of London

      A Brief History of Humankind
      Dr. Yuval Noah Harari

      Planet Earth
      Stephen Marshak

  2. debbierodgers says:

    Ellen, I took post-graduate studies while working full-time, completing my degree 25 years ago – it seems only yesterday that I was studying in a disciplined manner. I have always loved learning though and hope never to stop!

    I would have said that history & literature would have been my areas of interest but this list seems to have a bit of science too. Of course, timing & workload would be key considerations.

    We have a couple of overlaps, I think.

    A History of the World since 1300
    Jeremy Adelman (started Sept 2012)

    Introduction to Astronomy
    Ronen Plesser (Nov 27 2012)

    Jonathan D. Moreno, Ph.D. (Jan 2013)

    Science from Superheroes to Global Warming
    Michael Dennin (Jan 2013)

    How Things Work 1
    Louis A. Bloomfield (Jan 14 2013)

    The Modern World: Global History since 1760
    Philip Zelikow (Jan 14)

    Computational Photography
    Irfan Essa (Jan 2013) – although I don’t really have the pre-requisite knowledge

    Energy 101
    Sam Shelton (Jan 2013)

    The Language of Hollywood: Storytelling, Sound, and Color
    Scott Higgins (Feb 2013)

    The Modern and the Postmodern
    Michael S. Roth (Feb 2013)

    Nutrition, Health, and Lifestyle: Issues and Insights
    Jamie Pope, MS, RD, LDN (April 2013)

    Climate Literacy: Navigating Climate Conversations
    Sarah Burch and Tom-Pierre Frappé-Sénéclauze (amy 2013)

    The Camera Never Lies
    Emmett Sullivan of Royal Holloway, University of London (Jun 2013)

    Social Psychology
    Scott Plous (july 2013)

    Disaster Preparedness
    Michael Beach, DNP, ACNP, PNP (TBA)

    How Music Works
    Alexander Reed, Ph.D. (TBA)

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