MOOCs and my continuing education in writing

I’ve mentioned MOOCs (massive open online courses) here before and just to prove I do listen to myself occasionally, I’ve now followed that up with a short essay, MOOCs, a piece of the higher education jigsaw as my entry to this year’s NUHA foundation blogging prize. The NUHA foundation being an education and development NGO, all the essay titles were kind of education-related (one of my favourite topics) so I couldn’t resist entering.

Apparently, part of the voting comes from how much comment and debate the essay sparks off so if you feel like participating in the conversation, you know where to find it…

Easter holidays and productivity

I’ve almost caught up on the insane amount of things I’ve been trying to fit into the last few weeks, now my Easter holidays are done. For those still relaxing, here’s a couple of things for you to check out.

My MOOC participation moves on to creative writing soon, with an Open University course via FutureLearn (begins April 28th), which you can look into here. Free, so probably worth a go – almost any course in an area you’re interested in will have something new for you to learn, some new connection to make, or at least will remind you of stuff you’d forgotten. In the meantime, the OU has a few free creative writing resources available here.

I came across an online vocab test recently which was quite fun and apparently feeds into someone’s research too. Reassuringly it claims I’m at the higher end of my age group, as you’d hope from someone who reads as much as I do and has writing pretensions. Have a go, and learn new words by looking up all the ones it lists that you don’t recognise. Then (if you have a decent enough memory) do the test again next week, hope enough of the list is repeated (OneMonkey’s list wasn’t the same as mine but there was a lot of overlap) and feel smug.

Right, I have tea to drink, a jam doughnut to eat and lectures on American Capitalism to listen to. Oh the hedonism.

MOOCs, autodidacts and organisation

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned I’d signed up for a free online university course. I’ve now done the first week’s work, haven’t touched the second yet despite it being available since Monday (I need to get more organised. Again) and I’m enjoying it so far. It’s what’s known as a MOOC (massive open online course) and is an introduction to forensic science, partly chosen because I thought it might be useful for crime-writing – apparently I’m not the only one, as the MOOC Twitter feed claims well-known crime author Stuart MacBride has also signed up for it (Stuart MacBride is one of those authors whose name seems to crop up everywhere but I’ve never actually read any of his stuff. I’m back on James Ellroy at the moment – White Jazz, not quite as gruesome as The Big Nowhere but neither is it as compellingly written and I keep coming close to putting it aside and moving on to something more pleasant).

Regular readers will perhaps recall that I’m a fan of lifelong learning, autodidacts, and acquiring knowledge with no immediate purpose other than to entertain or broaden the mind. So, while the MOOC was partly about adding flavour to crime-writing it was also largely about doing a MOOC to see what they’re all about. As the name suggests these courses are open i.e. free (and often with no prerequisites), and they’re online so it doesn’t matter if you can’t make a regular commitment on a Tuesday afternoon, or don’t live near a good bus route, you can do the lot in your own home (or the local library if you’re lucky enough to still have one) whenever it’s convenient.

Coincidentally, this week The Guardian has begun a series on MOOCs, trying to get to the bottom of what and who they’re for. Some people seem to think MOOCs herald the end of universities as we know them, or at least will be a game-changer. Personally, I’m not so sure they’re even direct competition, certainly not to undergraduate degrees. It strikes me that at least at the moment, when most of the open courses aren’t credit-bearing, what they’re actually replacing is all that recreational education that FE colleges ran out of funding for, or that’s being squeezed out of university lifelong learning departments in favour of access courses (stepping stones for mature students to go do a degree). With all the recent arguments about tuition fees seeming to revolve around the idea that universities are some kind of employment training centre conveying no benefits other than the increased likelihood of a well-paid job, I think we need MOOCs in a big way. You might want to check them out while they’re still free.