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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.