MOOCing for fun (and profit?)

Last year I read an inter­est­ing blog post that taught me the name for some­thing I’d been hear­ing more and more about for a while: MOOCs (“Mas­sive Open Online Cours­es”). You know, they’re those online class­es that you can take, offered by uni­ver­si­ties like Stan­fordHar­vard and oth­ers — plus a host of pri­vate com­pa­nies — typ­i­cal­ly for free and with­out cred­it. Oh, and across an absolute met­ric fuck­ton of topics.

Yes­ter­day, set­ting aside any traces of an um-yeah-I-already-finished-college-thank-you atti­tude, I spent some time pok­ing around MOOC List — an exten­sive aggre­ga­tor of avail­able class­es — and found some­thing that caught my eye: Intro to the Design of Every­day Things, taught by Don Nor­man, author of that book you may have seen on my din­ing room table, wait­ing patient­ly to be read, for a lit­tle while now. (Okay, Ama­zon says it’s been over two years.)

So I’m tak­ing Don’s class now, and while I’m not sure if I’ve had my eyes opened to any tru­ly new con­cepts yet, I’ve picked up a cou­ple of terms: “affor­dance” and “sig­ni­fi­er.” And to fin­ish off Les­son 1, I’m cur­rent­ly on the look­out for a sig­ni­fi­er to pho­to­graph, cri­tique and improve.

So, why Intro to the Design of Every­day Things? I can actu­al­ly share the answer I post­ed to the class forum:

I’m tak­ing this class because, as a copy­writer whose opin­ions on the fin­ished prod­uct tend to extend a bit beyond my spe­cif­ic area of exper­tise, I’d like a more sol­id ground­ing in these oth­er areas.

Basi­cal­ly, soon I’ll be telling you why I’m right about even more things, using all the right terms. Look out.

2 thoughts on “MOOCing for fun (and profit?)”

    1. You know, I’ve actu­al­ly been spend­ing more time just read­ing Don’s book than work­ing on his class, and I think I know why.

      While the class presents mate­r­i­al in an inter­est­ing way, there’s some­thing weird about doing the exer­cis­es and par­tic­i­pat­ing in the dis­cus­sion forums now (in April), while the class has been “run­ning” since Decem­ber. The glut of posts in all the dis­cus­sions seems like they hap­pened in the first few days the class was avail­able. While I’m not self-conscious about being so late to share my answers and what­not on the forums, it’s clear that the, um, ener­gy of the class just isn’t there at this point late in the game. 

      I can still par­tic­i­pate, but on an exis­ten­tial lev­el, I don’t real­ly feel like I’m a part of some­thing. On a more prac­ti­cal lev­el, my posts are less like­ly to get peer or pro­fes­sor feed­back because few­er peo­ple are around the class in April.

      Per­haps excelling in this brave new MOOC world means being so incred­i­bly self-directed that you can sol­dier on regard­less of what every­one else is doing. But there’s lit­tle dif­fer­ence between tak­ing a class like that and just read­ing a book.

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