I know something about dropping out. Now, I didn’t drop out of high school, but I dropped out of
The University of Iowa (to get married, 1989)
Brigham Young University (sort of a lame distance learning program, ~1999)
Austin Peay State University (to move back to Iowa, 2004)
Then I did the University of Iowa again (distance learning), did some general requirements at Western Iowa Tech Community College, back to the University of Iowa for a TAG endorsement, and then actually started graduating!
University of Northern Iowa (BA, Elementary Education, 2009)
the University of Missouri (MA, Information Science and Learning Technology, Emphasis in Library of Science, 2011)
Oh and reading endorsements from Morningside College, too.
But, with my long history of going to school, I couldn’t stop at that, could I?
Luckily, my graduation coincided with the MOOC movement. MOOC (pronounced “mook”) standards for Massive Open Online Courseware. I first heard about MIT’s Open Courseware, where they were putting course materials for hundreds of classes online. I had quite a list of courses I wanted to take: How to Learn (Almost) Anything, Designing Your Life, and Kitchen Chemistry.
Doesn’t that picture make you want to take Kitchen Chemistry, too?
The problem was, I had no motivation to take any of these. I wanted to take them, but it was more like I wanted to want to take them. Because if I really wanted to take them, wouldn’t I just, like, TAKE THEM? (Sort of like exercising for me, alas.)
Then, Coursera came along! It solved so much of the problems that I had with MIT’s Open Courseware. They both had quality instructors and materials, but Coursera was in real time. There’s a whole community of people – in some cases, over 100,000 (Yes, one hundred thousand) taking a class at once! It wasn’t that there were people who knew me and encouraged me to stick with the class (what I could’ve used in my earlier iterations as a college student), but just knowing there were other people right now doing the same material I was, it made a difference. But bigger than that were the assessments – quizzes! Even, I kid you not, papers. (How do you grade papers with 100,000 students? You don’t. You let the students do it for you. Crowd sourcing. Genius.) Deadlines are what made me finally succeed, go figure.
So, I’ve started many classes with Coursera and got a lot out of all of them – Think Again: How to Reason and Argue (Duke University), Introduction to Computer Science (Stanford University), Greek and Roman Mythology (University of Pennsylvania) Internet, History, and Technology (University of Michigan) (Well, except for Introduction to Logic – that was waaaaay over my head.) Some of those I intend to finish (Internet History – due in a week!) or retake when offered again.
But I finally did finish one! No longer am I a MOOC dropout! Today I finished – after the regular deadline but before the hard deadline, so I still qualify for a certification of completition – The Camera Never Lies with Emmett Sullivan from the University of London. It was an excellent class. It was only six weeks, but I feel I learned a lot about how the camera can lie, through our manipulation of its output. It’s really been a thought-provoking topic. And actually, I like that it doesn’t align perfectly with my job description. That itself demonstrates I’m really a life-long learner.
I feel like I’m graduating all over again!
Of course, there’s always another course up ahead. Next week, I start Learn to Program: The Fundamentals with a librarian friend, and Think Again: How to Reason and Argue is being offered again. Then there’s Creativity, Innovation, and Change, and Accountable Talk: Conversations that Work, and Comic Books and Graphic Novels, and . . . (See their full list here. Udacity and EdX also offer MOOCs.)
What are you going to take?