Coursera, Code Academy, and Why I Love MOOCs

I’m two weeks from finishing my third Coursera course. Even though it’s meant extra time management, I’ve had a lot of fun. This most recent course, Music’s Big Bang: The Genesis of Rock ‘n’ Roll, has turned me on to a lot of music and taught me some interesting history. I found out that I’m not a fan of old, guttural blues, but Fats Domino is pleasing to my ear. I know why Chess and Sun records were such big deals, and I realize that Led Zeppelin, one of my favorite bands, owes a great deal of their catalog to artists who predated them by a few decades.

Before this, I took a course about nutrition and diet trends. Before that, my first course was one about irrational behavior. From each of these, I came away with knowledge that changed some of my thinking and some of my behaviors. I took the classes at my own pace, and it didn’t cost a thing.

I love MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses).

I have no desire to go back to school, but I like to learn new things. The structure of weekly lessons, videos, tests, and the occasional assignment is just my speed. Coursera has certified options for those looking to have something more official, but you can receive a certificate of accomplishment just for taking the tests. Different classes have different requirements for earning a certificate. You can do as little or as much work as you want.

Coursera also offers message boards where you can interact with other students, and some classes count your interactions as part of your final grade. Because I’m not a message board person, I generally opt for just watching the videos and the taking the tests. For people who tend to be group learners, this feature is awesome.

Another learning opportunity I’ve recently started is Code Academy. Jon clued me in to this site when I told him I wanted to learn more about coding. I’m not the best at wrapping my mind around tech concepts, but I think if I focused and put time into it, I could be. In fact, were I to go back to school, it would probably be to get a degree in coding or programming.

Code Academy gives you points and badges for getting through step-by-step lessons and learning the building blocks of code. I did three fun ones before starting the actual course. It’s fun, though it’s a little bit harder for me than the Coursera courses.

There are other sites on the web that allow you to sign up for courses and lessons. Some are free, some have a fee, and some are a mix of both. If you’re looking for an actual degree, you still have look into classes from an accredited school, but I think the implications of MOOCs as other avenues of learning are exciting.

Plus, if you’re a geek like me, learning for the sake of learning is a blast.

Question: Have you ever tried a MOOC?
Bonus question: Do you think MOOCs could ever replace a college classroom setting?

*I haven’t been asked by either Coursera or Code Academy to do this post. I really just wanted to share something cool with my readers. 


Day 2: Becoming an Outdoors Woman 2013

I was awake at 5:30 on Saturday morning, but after getting dressed I laid back down for awhile. They brought coffee to the camp at 6:15, so I got down and dirty with some caffeine and Aleve to give myself a little extra pain protection.

My first class was GPS for beginners. Even though Jon and I geocache, we use our phones to find the coordinates. I was curious about the actual GPS handhelds and how they differed from what we used and from our auto GPS. We walked around and played with the devices for a bit. I really liked it and am hoping to get one soon. I’ll probably start out cheap and move up later. For now, I’m good with something basic.

Need to get me one of these bad boys...
Need to get me one of these bad boys…

After lunch, my afternoon class was nature journaling. The class talked a little about what it was and what we were hoping to get out of it. Most of the others wanted something physical to keep. I wanted to know how I could do a better job at conveying my outdoors experiences online.

To put the whole nature journaling thing into practice, we went to one of the picnic areas to observe and take notes for awhile. We had tools to draw or collect things, but I took pictures and wrote, and the note taking ended up being mostly a free writing experience. The exercise was really relaxing, almost meditative. Even if I don’t start doing it on a regular basis, I’ll definitely be posting a journal blog from that session.

This little stream was one of my favorite journaling spots. So relaxing...
This little stream was one of my favorite journaling spots. So relaxing…

I chilled at the dining hall lounge for a little bit, using the Wi-Fi to do some updates and visiting with another attendee of both the weekend event and the nature journaling class. I’d been going back and forth about doing the mini Race for the Cure that BOW was holding to support the Susan G. Komen foundation. I was going to support it with a donation, but I couldn’t decide if I was up for the walk yet. It was 1.25 miles, which isn’t a lot, but more than I’ve done all at once in several years.

I finally decided to do it, figuring I’d be late for dinner, probably, but really wanting to push myself. So I committed. Jami, the BOW coordinator, offered to walk with me. I warned her we might miss dinner but she came anyway. I’m glad she did. The company and motivation were great. I don’t know if I would have given up if she hasn’t been there. Maybe, but maybe not.

The walk was hard, mostly because of the hills I think. But each hill was a small accomplishment inside the big accomplishment of the walk itself.  In the last stretch, two sisters, older women who’d finished their walk, joined us to finish the lap. The support and friendliness was overwhelming and totally worth the hills.  We made it right as dinner was starting. As we got closer to the end, I warned the others I was going to collapse on a bench the minute we got back. But when we got there, I stayed upright. Here’s the thing…once the walk itself was over, my recovery was really quick. Yeah, I was fatigued and hot, but I don’t think it even took 30 seconds for my breathing and heart rate to go back to normal, and I was nowhere near as exhausted as I’d expected to be.

After dinner, I went to another mini session. This one was about photo editing in Picasa. I’ve had Picasa for awhile now, but haven’t done anything with it, so it was nice to see some of the nifty little things I could do.

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go to the campfire. By that time I was exhausted and a little unsure about walking that long stretch to the fire and then back to cabin in the dark. However, some of the volunteers gave me a ride to the fire, and Jami gave me a ride to the cabin later. I got to experience the campfire and even had a s’more.

The second night’s shower was much better thanks to the learning curve. I was in bed a little later than the night before, but I slept through the night and actually ended up sleeping in on Sunday morning.


Quiero Hablar, Por Favor

I really want to speak Spanish.

I took high school Spanish and loved it. I took college Spanish and probably would have liked it if I’d engaged more in classes and not extracurricular activities.

In the past year, I’ve had the urge to learn it again. I’d like to hold and understand conversations. I’d like to be fluent in it, but even just passing Spanish would be good. I have people at work who indulge me and will converse with me in the language. I also have a couple friends who support my need to speak Spanish. One of them got me the dictionary pictured here and has offered to have teaching sessions with me, since she’s fluent.

At some point, I might take a class, but for now I’ll just pick it up here and there for no other reason than that I want to. Because really, that’s usually the only reason I need.