Oh what a pleasure. I remember an autumn day in Graz, Southern Austria, in 1999, when 18 year old me just got herself the freshly published university calendar – a book of 1000 pages, listing all faculties, all degree courses, all lectures. Everything was undecided, every single entry in that book could have been my future “field of excellence”.
Now I am not even restricted to one university.
I know Udacity, Stanford’s spin-off. It’s where I completed about 60 % of a course where I learned Python. Udacity is strongly focussed on Computer Sciences, though, and I want to get a bit further away from my comfort zone.
Additionally, I also know Coursera. It feels like a large register to me, an immense list of courses offered by various universities, searchable for certain criteria. “Explore courses” is exactly what I want to do, and I decide to focus on the following categories, as they seem to correspond best to my previously defined criteria: Biology & Life Sciences, Chemistry, Energy & Earth Sciences, Information, Tech & Design and Physics.
And here comes the first difficulty: “Just enrol in everything you might like. It’s not gonna cost you anything if you don’t do it seriously.” It’s true. The initial “investment” is ridiculously cheap. No money involved. No contract signed. No commitment made. “Do as you please.” But if I know one thing about my personal learning style…”do as you please” is not a very promising policy. Because as much as I like learning in theory – in practise, there is always a load of laundry, a TV show, a friend I haven’t met in a long time or an interesting discussion on Facebook that gets priority.
That means…I am not enrolling in everything I might like. I am going to pick a course. Wisely.
My shortlist consists of the following courses: Synapses, Neurons and Brains (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), Global Sustainable Energy (University of Florida), Energy 101 (Georgia Tech), Genes and the Human Condition (University of Maryland).
And I already have learned my first lesson about MOOCs: The lack of an initial investment does not spare you the necessity of making conscious decisions. Because your decision will grant you motivation. And motivation is the currency that enables – or disables – self-organised learning.