On Missing Academia, and Finding a MOOC

This time last year, I had just started some summer courses. After frantically trying to figure out if I could finish my graduate program in the summer instead of returning in the fall (and realizing that I could), I had found some online classes to finish my elective requirements. Applying as a non-degree student was easy, but issues with getting my transcript to my home institution and barely turning my paperwork in one day before the deadline was a bit more difficult. It was a stressful couple of months, but when it was over, reality set in: I was done with graduate school! I was done going to class after a full day of work, I was done waking up early to get to the library to write papers on a Saturday morning, I was done dealing with the world’s worst elevators every week.

One year out though? I miss it. A lot.

I only took one year off between undergraduate and graduate school (and to be truthful, I only waited a full year because after a year of full-time employment at the college I work for, they help you pay for graduate school). Being surrounded by college students is a constant reminder that I can’t count myself among them. They complain about finals and papers (and yes, I did that too), but I find myself wishing I had those things on my to-do list again.

And so I signed up for another online class, for a MOOC. Assuming that not everyone that reads my blog stays up-to-date on the latest happenings in higher education, a MOOC is a “massive open online course”. It’s not quite a traditional seminar class, or even a traditional lecture course in a large theater. Instead, websites like edX house courses that are a mixture of readings, videos and quizzes. They offer courses from professors at prestigious institutions like Georgetown, MIT and Rice, and the content is available over the course of several weeks, so you can complete it at your leisure. If you finish the course and pass the exams, you get a certificate of completion.

edX logo, via edX

logo via edX

Do they count for anything? In most colleges, not just yet. Should they? Well, that’s a big, ongoing debate in higher education circles. For some (like me), they are a great way to stay fresh and learn new things. From a professional standpoint, taking one of these courses is a good way to get first-hand experience so I can actively engage in the “MOOC debate”.

So, I signed up for “Ethical Reasoning 22x: Justice” by HarvardX. Let’s see how it goes. If I like it, great, I’ll get a shiny participation certificate to download. If not, it was free, no harm no foul.

If you’re interested, check it out! Classes do close (once the “semester” ends, registration closes), and new ones open frequently. Some of the current offerings through edX are things like “Human Health and Global Environmental Change” and “The Ancient Greek Hero”. The ones coming down the pike sound intriguing also, like Science and Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science:

Top chefs and Harvard researchers explore how everyday cooking and haute cuisine can illuminate basic principles in physics and engineering, and vice versa.

Let’s not kid ourselves, I already signed up for that one. Have you ever considered taking a MOOC? How else do you satisfy your need to be a lifelong learner? (Besides reading voraciously, I already do that.)

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2 thoughts on “On Missing Academia, and Finding a MOOC

  1. Please let us know how you like taking a MOOC! I’m so curious, even though I don’t think they’re the cure-all for the many problems in higher education that some profess them to be. I work in academic publishing, so they are a hot topic for sure. I’m tempted to try one out for myself. If I do, we can compare notes!

    • I wonder how anyone with sense can assume that there *is* a cure-all for all of the problems in higher education. There can’t possibly be, and it’s certainly not MOOCs! I can see both sides of the argument, I think it will be difficult to implement anything across the board because like so many other online courses, the quality will be varied and whose to say that one counts but another doesn’t.

      If you take one, let me know what you think!

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