Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Sunshine and MOOCs

One of the things that I love about winters in Kansas is that we always have a lot of sun. Nearly every day the sun shines, filling the rooms on the south side of my house with an abundance of light. Regardless of the cold weather outside, it's warm, cozy and green inside. I have large bay windows in my dining room, which is filled with trees and plants of various sizes, and with the sun shining in, it feels like a small jungle of green.

the dining room, where I also have my computer, so I spend a lot of time here
Another aspect of winter is that it provides more time for introspection and study. I have several months where my work load is low, which frees me to pursue other interests. In the past, some of my best creative efforts have come about during winter. More recently, when the cold weather inhibits outdoor activities, I've developed the habit of learning something new, and online courses have become the venue of choice for my learning.  Last year I introduced the topic of MOOCs in my February and March posts. MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course, and these courses are offered free of charge.

My jasmine plant can be seen in front of the window on the right, with a fig tree behind it.
There are several sites that offer MOOCs, including Coursera, Udacity, Khan Academy and EdX. I've only taken classes from Coursera, which last year included courses on Digital Learning, Philosophy, Social Psychology, Greek and Roman Mythology, and the History of Rock. I've completed some of them, but mostly I enjoy learning from the video lectures that are presented in each class. A certificate of completion is offered to students who complete quizzes and written assignments. Completing the course on Digital Learning provided a certificate that was accepted as a professional development requirement for my job as an adjunct professor.

Coursera offers free classes from more than 100 universities that span 16 countries. At present, there are more than 500 courses available in 20 categories. For instance, I've signed up for several classes that start this month:

Roman Architecture, taught by Yale University

Early Renaissance Architecture in Italy, from Alberti to Bramante, offered by Sapienza University in Rome

Moralities of Everyday Life, from Yale University

I'm eager to see what develops with these courses. The two courses on architecture will cover many of the buildings I've seen on my travels in Italy, so it will be a great way to learn more about them while also reminiscing. It's amazing that I can take courses that are taught by leaders in their field from renowned universities, for free, in the comfort of my home. I feel so fortunate to have the time to take advantage of these learning opportunities!

In March, I've signed up for a short class on Digital Cameras, which is offered by the university in my town, to learn more about my new camera. I've also found two Coursera classes on Buddhism that interest me. All in all, I'll be busy learning until spring!


Susan said...

Marybeth, thank you. I will look into the course you are taking. Winter, in Umbria, is also a great time for online courses.Susan

marybeth said...

Ciao Susan!
thanks for the note. It reminded me that I haven't read your blog for awhile, so I added it to my list of blogs to follow. I've visited many towns in Umbria, and enjoy reading of your life there. It gives me hope that someday I might also be able to live full time in Italy.