Since discovering Coursera while it was in beta testing, I’ve been determined to take at least one class through it—but school always got in the way. So as finals were coming to a close in June, I decided to enroll in two classes: Food Sustainability- A Global Perspective and Introduction to Public Speaking.
If you’re unfamiliar with Coursera and other MOOCs(Massive Open Online Classes), such websites provide free classes in practically every subject imaginable taught through a college university. Each class has different requirements, homework assignments, and global peers, but has the same purpose; to further educate the curious. You wouldn’t necessarily receive a grade or class on your transcript for it, rather, a certificate of achievement and newfound knowledge in a field of interest. Thus, MOOCs are truly made for the curious and eager to learn type of folks including myself—which also explains why only 10% of those who enroll actually pass.
My favorite part about MOOCs has to be the peer diversity and communication. As a vegetarian of 4 years, avid pedestrian and recycler, with an eco-geek perspective, I thought I’d fit right in with my Food Sustainability peers—until I realized how obsessed the majority was with attempts of living off the grid. These people were so passionate about the course material that I considered too 1D for my taste, so I dropped it. I figured if I spent more time dreading doing the assignments rather than doing them, it was of my better interest to move onto something more fascinating—like Gastronomy. On the other hand, people in my Intro To Public Speaking class were equally as passionate(if not more) as they enrolled in the class to better both their English and public speaking skills. For me, the best part about the contrast between the two groups was how each set of peers interacted with each other on the Facebook groups differently. Food Sustainability’s page was dense in news articles and statistics, while Public Speaking had a plethora of people asking for speech feedback, TED talks to watch and analyze, and even Google + Hangouts for people to interact with one another—the class professor even stopped by once which was amazing.
Joining the Gastronomy class and page was surreal. Since the class material already focused on chemical and biological application to food, most conversations hovered around food preparation, culture, and nutrition…it was basically a one-stop resource for me to further independent learning I’ll sometimes focus on more than actual school. I love food and health/nutrition and milking subjects for real life relevance so really, Gastronomy gave me an answer to a question I’ve been struggling to answer. I’m 95% positive that I now want to spend the rest of my life pursuing food science.
On the other hand, I joined Intro To Public Speaking in hopes of improving both my presentation and communication skills as an introvert. Last semester I was fortunate that the only presentations I gave were for my yearlong classes I felt comfortable in, but I wanted to focus on presentations overall and better grasping how to handle nerves with enrollment in this class. Although I’ve yet to give a school presentation this year, I’ve noticed skills acquired in this class have been tremendously helping me at my job.
Despite how much I’ve enjoyed taking these two online classes, I could never see myself dropping the traditional classroom to solely depend on them. Sure, my professors and peers are great, but the act of actually going to school made deadlines and assignments seem more “legit” and harder to bullshit. For example, I’ve never missed turning in a school assignment but deemed it “okay” if I blamed not turning in a speech on being too busy working 25 hour weeks. MOOCs are nice supplemental or further learning classes, but I could never see myself completely depending on them for an education.