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.