Nearly three months ago I disappeared from public life. And the reason is Coursera.
One of my pet obsessions these days is the microbiome and when co-founder of American Gut, Rob Knight, announced that they were organizing a class on the microbiome I knew I had to be there.
It was to be hosted by massively open online course (MOOC) provider Coursera. This was the first I’d heard of Coursera. As I was poking around checking out their courses I noticed a physiology class… looked interesting, so I signed up. Then I noticed a genetics class… and a neuroscience class… and before I knew it I was signed up for all of these:
Jumping into the MOOC world with both feet, I also meandered over to Coursera’s main competitor edX and signed up for:
I will come back to edX and talk about how it compares to Coursera in a bit.
For now, suffice it to say that taking all 7 of these classes at the same time made me wonder if I had bitten off more than I could chew. But I persevered. Now nearly three months after I started I’ve finished four of these (one of them being the first part of Useful Genetics) and I’m just weeks away from finishing all of the others.
So what was taking an MOOC on Coursera like? Let me say that I was impressed. Very impressed.
I had so much to say, this review wound up being twice as long as I originally planned. By the end I think you’ll have a very good idea of how the Coursera platform compares to a traditional classroom education and what a Coursera course can and cannot do for your academic or professional career. [click to continue…]
All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten? Hogwash. Everything I really needed to know about life, I learned outside of formal schooling.
One secret the most successful and most interesting people know is that studying and learning does not end the day you finish K-12, college, or however far you made it through formal schooling.
Want to learn how to start and run a company? How to do a PPC advertising campaign on Google Adwords? Play the guitar? Improve your social skills? Or goodness forbid, pursue traditional school subjects like math and biology even though your school days are well behind you?
It might be convenient if you could drop everything and enroll in classes to pick up these skills. But that’s not always an option, especially if you have pesky commitments like jobs and/or children that need tending to.
Even if you could drop everything, you might not have access to the best teachers. Really interested in studying neuroscience with a Harvard professor? Or an acting masterclass at Juilliard? Even if you discount obstacles like possibly not even living in the same hemisphere, there are still some pretty significant hurdles to getting successfully enrolled in one of their classes.
And some things, like running a company, are very experiential and do not lend themselves well to traditional schooling. Maybe you could get a close approximation by becoming Warren Buffett’s apprentice, but again you have the formidable challenge of getting him to take you on.
Enter the self-directed learner. To wit, the autodidact. If you are reading this blog right now, then you probably are one. [click to continue…]