MOOCs: an experiment in online learning

Today’s the first day of my English Literature degree. It’s a very 21st century degree: a MOOC (massive open online course).

I discovered MOOCs a couple of months ago, which I know is rather later than many people.

As a learning enthusiast, finding that someone has invented a way of studying what look like intellectually satisfying courses (medieval women writers? John Donne?) at any time of the day or night – is really exciting.

What I intended to look for, a stats course to improve my working understanding of stats, soon morphed into ‘but I’ve always wanted to do an English degree but couldn’t possibly justify it’. So could an online English degree from the Saylor Foundation in any way approach the satisfaction of my History degree? What kind of quality of learning do you get from it? Will I pass the exams?

Today, day one of the degree, I’ve found enrolling and getting started with Saylor’s English Literature major extremely easy. I’m about 5 hours into the first module, on Literary Studies. I’ve read a fascinating essay on The Uncanny, by Freud, and listened to some illuminating lectures by Yale’s Dr Paul Fry, read a dark short story by Edgar Allan Poe and some poems.

So far, so interesting. The course has already pushed me towards lots of writing I didn’t know about.

However, I do feel I have been skimming the surface.

The whole Saylor literary studies course, one of several degree modules, is only supposed to take about 130 hours – that’s about 1/3 of the time, or less, than University friends would devote to a course. I am not sure you can get to know writers like Simone de Beauvoir or Claude Levi-Strauss without immersing yourself in their writing.

What I will be really interested to see is what the exam at the end of this course assesses. And how I do.

One thought on “MOOCs: an experiment in online learning”

  1. You’re starting this ENGL101 course about the same time as me and my friends, though we are taking it in 12 weeks, like a regular course. We sit and chat about it Wednesdays and Sundays at the local coffee shop. You seem to be taking it at a brisk pace.
    Also, technically Saylor is not a MOOC, it’s open courseware. MOOCs have a lot of people all start and end at the same time.

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