Where should I put my focus?

The best thing about MOOCs? The low barriers to participation.

The worst thing about MOOCs? The low barriers to participation.

There’s a lot of angst about low rates of completion of Massive Open Online Courses but for anyone who has ever signed up for one it is not hard to see why this is the case. I know from time to time I go to sites like Coursera, Canvas and others; I look at all the course offerings, I get excited, I sign up for things and then I wait for them to begin. Assuming the course isn’t self-paced and I haven’t signed up after it has begun, there is always a period of waiting. Usually I forget about the course. And then eventually — a day, perhaps a week, before the course starts — I get an email. Usually by this point it has become apparent that my life and my work (my schedule) probably won’t make my participation possible. Perhaps I will log in and download videos and other resources to look over at a future time. Perhaps I won’t get there at all.

Because the investment is low I don’t usually worry about this too much, though sometimes I feel bad. Sometimes I tell myself the time is not right. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever have time for online learning. Sometimes I tell myself I have to make that time.

[Even while writing this blog entry I’ve discovered an interesting course at Stanford Online — Creativity: Music To My Ears. Will this cycle ever end?]

Actually this — this MOOC lament — is just the tip of a much larger iceberg. There is an element of time management to it, but also the feeling that I am not really very confident about where I should put my attention. What avenues of enquiry will pay off? Which will be dead ends? In creative endeavours wildly disparate activities and ideas often produce compelling results, but while I’m trying to be more deliberate, a bit more focused, a bit more results-driven I want something a bit more (dare I say it) linear.

Some Questions [A Framework?]

What do I need to learn?

What specifically do I need to know? While it is useful to follow general trends and guidelines this won’t help my confusion on this particular front. What do I already know? What more do I need to know? How will I bridge the gap?

Why do I need to learn it?

Motivation is an important consideration when attempting to learn anything. I often make the mistake of assuming students are in my class to get a qualification when they may have other reasons for being there. Again, getting specific on your own reasons here will be very instructive.

When will I learn it?

Schedule times. Follow up. Can content be put on my new Tablet and watched or read on the train to work? Use whatever time you can find.

How will I learn it?

What resources will I use? What videos? What books? How will I take notes? How will I commit things to memory? How will I work them into personal / professional practice?

Forget ‘The Next Big Thing’ — At Least For Now

The rate of change in modern life is huge and for anything vaguely related to technology it seems exponentially so. While it is good to be aware of new exciting things, it is not useful to feel anxious about not knowing everything about them. It might be useful to let some other trailblazer work out the bugs for now. And you’ll know it exists and that if you need to know more you can do some follow up.

1 comment… add one
  • I took a few online courses and was disappointed. I also read “instructional” books that don’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. I keep looking for the holy grail, but so far, no luck. I do need to keep your #1 and #2 in mind next time an online class looks too good to pass up:)

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