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As a voracious learner, the advent of MOOCs couldn’t come at a better time. MOOCs are Massive Open Online Courses, a recent experiment by major Universities in social-entrepreneurship . There are three big MOOCs ‘competing’ to give you education for free: edX, UDACITY, and Coursera. It is still not completely clear why major academic institutions around the world (MIT, Stanford, Columbia, Yale, U of Toronto, etc.) are diving into this world. Much has been written about the risks and benefits to these institutions. But, whatever their motivation, we the learner benefit enormously.
A few months ago, I completed a course in Innovation (Leading Strategic Innovation in Organizations) from Prof. David Owens at Vanderbilt University. It was busy work — video lectures with interspersed quizzes, readings, discussion forum, end-of-lecture reflection essay and grading the essays of fellow students were the weekly tasks. Keeping up was sometimes a challenge. I found the course material to be a little basic for me, but the production quality of the delivery was exceptional.
I am now taking a far more expansive course ( A Brief History of Humankind ) from Prof. Yuval Noah Harari at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is a great lecturer, but there seems to be a far less demanding set of weekly tasks. We’ll see how this one goes…
Prior to MOOCs, finding quality courses, lectures, etc. was a bit of an art. TED had (and continues to have) a breathtaking array of excellent lectures — but they are quite short and are meant to appetize curiosity, not to provide a deep dive into any one topic. Some of the places I used to (and still do) frequent for learning material included:
|John Brockman’s vast compendium of interviews and book reviews of great thinkers and their ideas.|
|The annual Massey Lectures which are often streamed by CBC on their Ideas program.|
|The Annual Reith Lectures which are streamed by BBC.|
|The Teaching Company’s “The Great Courses”. These cost $money to buy but are excellent.|
|The Perimeter Institute’s Public Lecture Series — webstreamed on their site.|
|Charlie Rose has exceptional thinkers on his program and, from time to time runs series on special topics such as the Brain.|
So, now I can add MOOCs along with my work reading, conference tutorials, industry webinars, books (paper, ‘ebooks’ and audio books). The scope of choice and ease and availability is breathtaking. There really has never been a time in history when so much of the worlds knowledge is so freely available to so many learners.