Over the last 12 month I have become a big fan of learning in a MOOC – Massively Open Online Course. I have taken these courses on the Coursera platform where I watch videos, do quizzes to check my understanding, participate in discussion forums and complete assignments – multiple choice questions or peer-assessed written responses.
I recently started a course on the History of Rock Music which was covered in a recent news story on Yahoo. This course is run by Professor John Covach of the University of Rochester and his comments appear in the article.
After I left university I wanted to learn some Arts subjects to balance my Science degree. In the 1980’s the way to do this was to enroll in an adult education class. This involved attending a class on a weeknight evening and listening to a qualified person give a lesson. Sometimes there was some discussion involved but generally there was very little interaction with other students.
I took a course titled Looking at Art which ran for one evening a week for about 4 to 6 weeks. An art teacher gave some interesting talks and projected colour slides of art works. She organized a Saturday excursion to the Art Gallery of NSW which I attended and had a lot of fun. I made some new friends on this excursion as well.
A couple of years later I took an Introduction to Psychology course organized by the WEA which was interesting, but rather challenging to attend. Classes were held in the city on Monday evenings and I drove in, and found a parking spot in a side street. I didn’t make any friends in that course and there were no discussions, just a lecture.
Now I am continuing the “adult education” and pursuing courses of general interest in a global classroom. I discovered the Coursera web site and have now completed three courses – Listening to World Music (University of Pennsylania), Introduction to Digital Sound Design (Emory University), Introduction to Music Production (Berklee College of Music).
Other courses I am looking forward to are Maps and the Geospatial Revolution (I love maps!), Exploring Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas and Introduction to Programming for Musicians and Digital Artists where I will learn about the ChucK programming language for audio.
What I like about online learning is the total flexibility in when and where I watch the videos. I can pause or replay a video, download the transcript to use as lecture notes, and interact with other students in the forums. I am currently enrolled in a 4 week course on Teaching Adult Learners on Open2Study.com – a collaboration of Australia tertiary institutions.