Today I'm taking a little sideways step to tell you what's been filling my time this year...
Not pictures of cats or videos of people falling over, but the democratisation of education has to be the best thing the internet has given us after the facilities for easy communication. I joined Coursera in December, since then I’ve taken a 15 week course on world history which has quite literally changed my life, ideas and goals. I’ve studied Ancient Greek history and Philosophy too. Currently I’m taking a Child Nutrition course and one on Greek and Roman Mythology. I’ve never studied Latin or Greek and would have considered something like reading Homer impossible. Okay, so the original may remain a blank for much longer, but after 4 weeks of our Myth course spent on a close reading of The Odyssey I feel very personally much the richer for the experience.
This is all free. If you have an internet connection, it’s all there for you. With classic novels now available for free download too, not to mention excellent educational podcasts, education really is now there for the taking. It's wonderful.
I now feel so much more motivated to learn than when I was an undergraduate. I put more love and effort into my peer-marked myth assignment then into essays in my university days and certainly enjoyed it a lot more. The courses I’ve taken have all been of a really high standard from good universities.
Another advantage of this system is there’s no commitment necessary if you try a course and it’s not for you. I’ve started a few other courses and decided not to continue so I could focus my attention on the ones that really grab my interest. No penalties, no embarrassment, just click ‘un-enroll’. Easy. This would also be a really great way for people considering studying with the Open University or similar to try out online learning and see if they enjoy it and how motivated they are, before paying the not-inconsiderable course fees.
Online university courses won’t replace bricks and mortar universities, and neither should they. Many people keep learning and studying after they graduate but far more do not as they move into the workplace. Others don’t have the opportunity to go to university, or like me would love to go back and have another go. Coursera and other providers can really help bridge this gap for those that want to learn something new without stopping working or paying a lot of money for the priveledge.
Maybe I can’t put my completed courses on my CV and they probably won’t help me get a better job, but learning purely for the love of learning- there’s nothing better.