Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Massive Open Online Course or MOOC sites are increasing since the success of, the first online course that attracted thousands of virtual students, an attendance record that cannot be matched by ordinary classroom participation., the online site where I am attending a couple of courses is an example, offering interesting courses like ‘Gamification’ and ‘Modern Poetry’ and conducted by known professors from Ivy League colleges. The attendance record of thousands of students in a single ‘virtual’ class is enough to make any professor happy. Inversely, people like me have a chance to attend Ivy League classes remotely and for free. This is one of the most exciting outcomes of the internet, by engendering the possibility of educating thousands of people without cost, no matter where they live. The courses I have attended so far are well-made and extremely educational; unfortunately I am unable to do the homework or exams thereby minimizing any further benefit I could have enjoyed. But it’s still a great experiment in the democratization of knowledge.

I spend most of my free time attending these courses; last night I attended 2 lectures on investment and world history while this morning before going to work, I attended 2 lectures on design artifacts, a new course I am excited about - being a new topic for me.  I just finished a course on modern poetry last weekend, done well by an erudite and charismatic professor who led the lectures via a discussion group with students from the University of Pennsylvania. An article I read yesterday was critical of MOOC, offering the view that the ‘secret sauce’ of live classroom attendance is missing, where the interplay of student participation and teacher interaction is like a jazz ensemble, where a gifted teacher can really shine and provide a unique experience to the attendees. But this was disputed by the writer saying that the best courses he attended in college were done by student trainees or teacher assistants. Anyway the professor of gamification and modern poetry were exceptional, as I felt I was in the presence of someone unique and engaging. My only problem is that I am attending too many courses like attending college full time while working full time.

But the future of education is here and I am glad to experience first-hand, but it’s a curse for someone like me who can accept a lot of input but without the discipline of focus. I am stimulated by new things but I don’t know when to stop, though one benefits from being educated with the latest knowledge. One needs to synthesize all these data to survive or drown in an avalanche of facts. I wonder if I am stressing myself too much by treading too much on the new, where there is no stability of the routine; the serenity of the common place and the mundane. It’s the same at work when one jumps from one project to another, while others keep doing the same thing over and over, being experts in their field (hedgehog) while people with different projects flit from one different task to another (fox). So to synthesize all these knowledge, one needs reflection and journal writing, visual tools to make associations, physical exercise to improve cognition and, most importantly, to sleep and allow the sub-conscious to process the new stimuli (and rest the brain). But since moving to my new home (a stressful event in itself) I seem to have increased my capacity for the new, a survival mechanism in order to live in new surroundings. Perhaps MOOC is a way to give people the ability to survive in the modern age where knowledge is important, but an addiction for people like me.

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