Online Learning

I have a nerdy confession to make: one of my hobbies is learning. What I mean by this is something a little more structured and interactive than reading. In particular, the online space provides some really exciting developments in self-guided and self-paced learning, especially the growth of MOOCs (massive open online courses), which give the learner a taste of university-level content.

Here I’ve recorded a little about some of the courses I’ve tried, and hope to try. All of these have been free courses; I haven’t ventured into the world of paid online learning yet, but may in future depending on the subject/content. I may update or refer to this post in future as I complete more courses.

Khan Academy – Physics, Waves and Optics

I think Khan Academy is a wonderful idea. When I first heard of it a few years ago, I visited to refresh my knowledge of the physics of sound and waves. Unfortunately I found the very first video in the series really difficult to get through. It seemed to plunge in randomly and I found it hard to concentrate. I haven’t really explored the full offerings, but am considering attempting this particular course again, and would be really interested to hear from others about courses they enjoyed on this platform.

Small Business Building Course

Formerly known as Business Building Blocks, this is a course supported by the Australian Government and developed by the University of Western Sydney. The content in this course makes up a Certificate III in Micro Business Operations. The learner can follow the course independently or elect to receive the qualification by registering with a training provider.

The music degrees I’ve completed have of course been academically-focused rather than vocational. They’ve also been a really great opportunity to network within my industry. However as a contractor operating a “micro business” alone, there have been times where on the paperwork side I needed to get organised and seek out basic knowledge about finances, regulations, etc. I haven’t completed this course yet, but I’ve completed certain modules at times where I really needed to do some “business planning” in terms of finances, and also thinking about how to grow and thrive when things have been hectic.

Note that the course has an Australian focus, especially in terms of regulations/compliance. I feel it is really suited to someone who is starting from scratch with a business idea, but I also think it’s useful for someone wanting to do a little planning or set some goals for a new direction in their work/business activities.

UNSW computing

This course is amazing! Richard Buckland’s delivery is entertaining, engaging, and exciting, and the international community taking the course at the same time was thriving. I’ve always been interested in computers and programming, but tended towards more creative subjects in my school years. I joined the late-2012 cohort, when I was deep into the second trimester of pregnancy. I figured I could complete the 12-week course before baby arrived, but unfortunately I didn’t finish it; I trailed off at about the 4th week. This was not due to the course itself; the reason I dropped out was mobile phone reception! An ideal time for me to watch the videos was on the smartphone, during my train commute 2 days a week to a job at the Australian Music Centre in Sydney’s CBD. I was on the Vodafone (unaffectionately known as Vodafail) network and I could barely watch 20 seconds of video. I know that’s a slightly indulgent complaint, but in between hurrying to tie up my work affairs before taking parental leave, nesting like crazy, and resting my weary pregnant legs, there weren’t a lot of other times in the week where I could follow on with the course. I’m actually going to attempt the course again now that it is self-paced.

Introduction to Philosophy, University of Edinburgh, Coursera

My university education in the humanities/creative arts touched on a lot of philosophical concepts, but not much philosophical technique. I’ve always been curious about philosophy, so decided to take this course, and joined the October 2014 run. I really enjoyed the mini lectures and the range of topics covered. Due to time constraints, I just quietly watched the lectures and completed the quizzes, and didn’t participate in the forums, but the few times when I browsed, the forums were incredibly active, so I could see how learners could gain much from joining the conversation. It looks like it might be available on demand at the moment. This is one course which I did complete!

Blogging 101: Zero to Hero

I took this course in January 2015 as did many now-readers of this blog. I was a little shocked at how many participants there were and how vibrant the community was; I guess I never before realised how huge WordPress was. I found some of the content a little basic, however it was great for giving me an opportunity to rethink some aspects of my blog, such as design/theme/presentation, and importantly get feedback to help decide on some of these things. I also followed this course through until the end. I wanted to follow on to Blogging 201, but I’ve had a really busy few weeks of work, so I’m going to patiently wait until this is offered again. My blogging activities have trailed off slightly since the course ended, but actually I’m dividing my WordPress time now between this creative/work blog and a new collaboration, Making Waves. I was able to apply some of the thinking and ideas from Blogging 101 to this new venture.

Future courses

This week I embark on another Coursera offering, Australian Literature: A Rough Guide, from the University of Western Australia. I’m hoping this will fill some gaps in my exposure to Australian literature. I’m still obsessed with Picnic at Hanging Rock, with many other works on my to-read list, starting with Eucalyptus, by Murray Bail.

There’s another offering I’m toying with joining, called DS106 (ie Digital Storytelling).  I stumbled upon it in recent thinking and searching to do with getting more organised with social media. It’s self-paced and really flexible, and I love the fact that there’s a daily audio prompt, though I doubt I could contribute one daily, even though they suggest spending just 20 minutes on a prompt. Maybe weekly?

I also love the fact that it’s heavy on culture remixing, and a real punk/mish-mash approach. This is something completely at the other end of the spectrum to the composing and composers that I am familiar with, and I really want to explore and challenge my feelings on creativity, while maintaining a professionalism about my practice. It may turn out that I reject the remix approach, but I still want to experiment a bit in this arena. Any past/present DS106-ers out there want to share their experiences?

Last but not least: I’ve noticed some really interesting music courses around; music appreciation, composing and songwriting, audio mixing, software, music theory. I have a few thoughts about joining some of these and reviewing them here on the blog.

In the meantime I’m keeping this pursuit sustainable by only allowing myself to participate in one course at a time!

2 thoughts on “Online Learning

  1. jrbjork says:

    I also have taken some MOOC courses. Great fun and educational but as you say, time is short. My blogging isn’t as frequent as I would like so I now what you are meaning. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person


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