Of course there’s a course!
For those of us who are 1) concerned about keeping our minds active; and 2) want to learn new things or update our areas of expertise; there is good news out there.
You may have heard of MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) or edX. These are the online courses available to anyone with internet capabilities.
The universities making courses available include some of the most prestigious in the world from virtually every area of the world including North and South America, as well as many other international universities from Australia, Asia, and Europe. The majority are free, but some involve a usually nominal cost if one wishes a certificate or course credit.
This has grown so rapidly from the first tentative steps of universities trying distance education only a few years ago that the courses now being offered cover virtually every field of academia and some newer course ideas are moving into the area of vocational training, where one can pick up or expand a specific skill.
For a quick look at possible offerings and their costs these three might be a good place to start:
- MOOC List or
Response to these offerings has been so massive (some courses have enrolments of well over 100,000 participants) that MOOCs quickly evolved into one of two designs for instruction so that participants can get both the feedback and the interaction that keeps courses interesting and the “students” growing.
In general terms the two approaches meeting these needs are 1) peer-review and group collaboration; or 2) automated feedback through objective, online assessments, including quizzes and exams.
The format of each specific course itself can vary greatly. And while any given course may include videos, lectures, and course books, the driving aim is to build a community of peers through some peer group work as well as interaction with the instructors and any teaching assistants. Some instructors have become very creative in devising ways to build student interest and community.
Although, initially, MOOCs have experienced a high dropout rate for various reasons, this field will, undoubtedly, evolve quickly to address this problem and to improve the variety and quality of courses available.
Personally, I am looking forward to some history courses for my own amusement, language refreshers to be able to converse with recent migrants in my community, and some of the vocational courses being proposed that I can use to enhance my hobbies and leisure activities.
Given the variety of subjects available for little or no cost, if you cannot find a course that arouses your own interests, I would suggest that your interests more likely are limited to seeing how many reruns of Gilligan’s Island (or other equally challenging offering) you can find on the cable/satellite channels of your “idiot box”.
List of universities participating in edX
NYT – The Year of the MOOC