When I assumed this associate dean position six years ago, I was told that “distance learning” would be part of my “decanal portfolio.” That’s academe-speak for it’s my job to know a “MOOC” from an “LMS.” I’ve taught myself a lot from the time when I didn’t know “asynchronous” from “synchronous” delivery.
The hot button in online higher education right now is what’s going on with a company started by a couple of Stanford computer science professors called “Coursera.” They’ve put together a consortium of universities, including Caltech, Princeton, Duke, and Stanford, of course, to offer Internet-based continuing ed (non-credit) courses for free. Coursera espouses a humanitarian mission to bring world-class education to the masses, but my DL colleagues and I think it’s really all about brand marketing. So to see what the buzz is all about and to be able to speak to it first-hand, I become one of more than a million “Courserians” who already have signed for a Coursera course.
I scanned the offerings, up for learning something new and challenging, but the “Basics of Nanotechnology” didn’t look all that basic to me. I reconsidered the topics; perhaps I should take something in which I had at least a little background so I could have some pedagogical frame of reference. “Modern and Contemporary American Poetry” – now that I can handle to evaluate, and even enjoy.
Day one, and I’m impressed and intrigued. Immediately after registering, I got a series of e-mails telling me everything I could possibly need and want to know about how to maximize my learning experience. I can even “meet-up” with other Courserians in different parts of LA and other cities across the country, if I want (I don’t, but just think about the social networking implications).
So for the next ten weeks, I’m going to be studying 19th-century protomodernists to 21st-century conceptual poetics. And, as one of my favorite professor colleagues often says, “Whee! I get to read as part of my job!”
Excuse me now, but I’ve got some homework to do. I should be going to bed, but my post-treatment resolve to get lots of sleep is dissolving with the temptation of Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman.