01 September 2019


MOOC stands for massive open online course. MOOCs are provided online and free of charge by universities, incl. top universities, and institutions from all over the world.

They usually consist of video lectures, questionnaires, readings, problem tasks, discussion boards etc. and provide access to sources such as libraries, journals, research papers and archives.

When I explained the concept of MOOC to my father, I said it was an online activity for bored teachers and their wives. He understood.

A MOOC typically lasts for a couple of weeks and depending on how serious you are, you can spend between 3 and 30 hours a week on it. There is no pressure, you can take from it what you wish and drop out any time. The language of a MOOC is not academic but you are encouraged to use your brain cells. If like me you get lost after the first bit of statistic or maths, there is the discussion forum and about 2k people ready to explain. I am also known to have skipped the hard bits. Nobody noticed.

I have done a MOOC from UCLA on dental medicine  (when I was struggling from the aftermath of gruesome oral surgery, you can ask me anything about tooth decay), a MOOC from Trinity College Dublin on the Irish Easter Rising of 1916, a MOOC from the University of Melbourne on the effects of climate change on Pacific island nations (not just because I find their names and language so amazing), one by the University of Copenhagen on Nordic cooking (that was weird), one by the University of Norfolk on food as medicine (which was very helpful) and I failed/dropped out of about 20 more.

The worst was the MOOC from the University of Cape Town on the threat of a sixth mass extinction. I did that together with a friend who is a biologist because I am shit at biology. About half way through, we just sat there shattered and in tears, calling our daughters across the globe to listen to their carefree voices.

I have stayed away from all this dangerous fact finding since then. Despite the fact that I open my big mouth all the time.

But today, I enrolled again.
This MOOC is provided (free online, click here) by Harvard and MIT via edX:

Climate Change: The Science and Global Impact
In this course, you will explore the science behind anthropogenic climate change with climate expert, Michael Mann. By joining this course, you are becoming part of a global movement to act on climate change. The first step toward any action is knowledge and understanding.
Because, once you have a firm grasp on the science, you'll be able to translate your understanding into action, so we can ultimately curb our emissions and keep our planet from warming beyond dangerous levels. 

 The course is open to all and is accessible to learners without prior background in the topic of climate science.

(Michael Mann is professor of meteorology at Pennsylvania State University)

I expect to be completely lost. But if a 16 year old girl with Asperger's can sail across the Atlantic Ocean and less than an hour after disembarking, speak to the media in clear sentences (and that not in her native language) about science and facts, fully aware of the hostility awaiting her from - let's face it - angry white men, I can at least give it a try.


Colette said...

That's the spirit! The good thing about our world today is that our heroes no longer fit the traditional mold. That gives me hope and encouragement.

Ms. Moon said...

You are amazing, Sabine.

ellen abbott said...

I fear it's already too late. especially since Trump is doing everything he can to increase polluting emissions. this time methane. but the MOOCs sound interesting. I had never heard of that.

Anonymous said...

I love the idea of MOOC. I think I'll take a peek at the one at Climate Change and see if I can handle it.

My life so far said...

I will look into it. I always enjoy learning. And yes, Greta is an amazing and strong you woman. We need more like her.

Steve Reed said...

No one can accuse you of laziness, that's for sure! These courses sound interesting -- even the Sixth Extinction one, although I doubt I could handle it either. (I've deliberately avoided reading Elizabeth Kolbert's book.) Let us know how it goes.

am said...

With Greta Thunberg and Sophie Scholl (our library had just ordered a copy of the DVD, "Sophie Scholl -- The Final Days" -- thank you for letting me know that it existed -- I'm still absorbing it all) and so many others, including you, showing how moving forward can be done and that there are no easy answers, we can only go forward.

I take what I have gathered from coincidence. I've been looking for a free way to learn Spanish, and you've directed me to a teacher:


Gracias, Sabine!

Barbara Rogers said...

Excellent. I took a couple of courses, two history courses given by Yale, and one on the ___Bible with all the beautiful art. My memory isn't so great, can't remember the name of that Bible painted by hand by Irish monks.

37paddington said...

Greta is thrilling. Now you have me wanting to look into MOOCs after a particularly boring long weekend in which i accomplished nothing of value, or that is how it feels. I am not used to "resting." Work is my drug, I'm starting to realize this. MOOCs could be a happy medium. Thank you.

Roderick Robinson said...

It's not called MOOC, it's not free and it's not online. WEA (Worker's Educational Association) was launched in1903 in Britain and has similar aims. I'm surprised it still exists since for me it evokes winter evenings in unheated halls then referred to as Mechanics' Institutes. Especially in the north of England. One's intellect was perpetually at war with one's body which insisted that the ambient temperature was insufficient to sustain life. Everyone wore overcoats since anoraks weren't then considered to be polite clothing.

We've lived in Herefordshire for over twenty years without a single sniff of WEA. Then a few days ago their 2019-2020 programme dropped through our letterbox. It was as if they'd detected - by unknown means - my vulnerability. A one-day course in March, costing £28, about poetry. But not just poems in general, only sonnets.

Up to my seventies I'd ignored poetry. Seen it as too intimate, too private. But I was then running a blog (Works Well) that was far more popular than my present Tone Deaf and I seemed surrounded by poetry freaks. I felt I had to take the plunge. But these were vers libre freaks and I knew enough Auden to recognise that non-rhyming poems were harder to do than those which rhymed. Sonnets had three great attractions: they rhymed, they were iambic pentameter and they were limited to fourteen lines. Over the years I've written and posted fifty or sixty sonnets with the Free Versers snapping at my heels to drop the rhymes. "But," I protested, "I need a structure. I can't start out just floating." All my sonnets were Shakespearean format and I did make one - disastrous - concession when after endless urging I fashioned a Miltonian sonnet. It could have been in Choctaw for all the affinity I felt for it.

I feel I must take the WEA course even if I'm the only applicant and I have to pay the fees of a dozen other "ghosts" to make the course viable.

I apologise for taking up so much of your space writing about myself (an ever-present weakness) and I recognise that poetry hardly compares with the serious stuff you've been imbibing. But I see you've signed up for climate change and I'll be interested to read any further observations you make, notably about MOOC's effectiveness as communicators since I see you failed/dropped out of 20 courses - a heroic admission. As I've said many times my relationship with formal education has not been entirely fruitful. In this context, learning singing doesn't count. Perhaps sonnets won't either. Anyway I wish you a greater depth of understanding of this vital subject.

Ellen Hawley said...

Credit to you for doing this. Strength to your sword arm.