Thursday, 25 April 2013

New Horizons

Spring is almost upon us and I had to be quite severe in my cuts at Coursera. May is my busiest month of the year, and as it turned out, despite the bad weather, April has been hectic too. So I cut two of the new courses. The STS in China course was interesting but something had to go, and the Einstein course was, as I suspected, math heavy. Not my thing. At least the first week's lectures about his early life were worth my time.

So, with a number of courses ended,  I'm now down to this schedule:

Know Thyself      Week 8 of 10   (Philosophy)
The Ancient Greeks      Week 6 of 7 
Democratic Development      Week 4 of 10
Greek and Roman Mythology      Week 1 of 10

As you can see, this is a much lighter load. The mythology course requires a lot of reading, so timewise it probably equates to two. The first two finish shortly, and two others will begin:

Introduction to Psychology   Starts in 11 days
History of Rock, Part One  Starts in 18 days

So results are in. Here's my complete list so far:

Astrobiology and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life  You earned 91.0%
Energy 101  You earned 90.6%
Introduction to Philosophy  66.0%

Aboriginal Worldviews and Education  87.0%
How Things Work 1   You earned 70.0%   (Physics)

Results for the two courses that ended this week will be in soon:

The Modern World: Global History since 1760

I would recommend all of these courses to absolutely anyone EXCEPT the Introduction to Philosophy. If you are interested in Philosophy, find a different course. 

Saturday, 13 April 2013


Spring is coming (eventually) and soon quite a big part of my day will be spent outdoors. I had to go through the courses at Coursera that I had been interested in taking and do some gardening - I had to prune!

I'm hoping that those that didn't make the list will be offered again, I'll take them then, but for now I had to cut back. So how did I choose?

The whole point of doing this is to learn, which is a pleasure, if it becomes an onerous chore there's no point doing it. At the same time I want, need, benefit from a challenge. As with everything in my life I seek a balance there, the right level of challenge. The right amount of workload, of commitment, and of difficulty.

So, my schedule right now is as follows:

Global History: Week 13 of 14
AIDS: Week 8 of 9
Philosophy: Week 6 of 10
Ancient Greece: Week 4 of 6

And I've started 3 new courses:

Democratic Development
Science, Technology, and Society in China I: Basic Concepts
Understanding Einstein: The Special Theory of Relativity

Quite how I'll do with the latter is anyone's guess but it is apparently possible to pass without doing any math. We'll see.

Several courses have finished recently, and I await grading. I received  no grade for Genetics and Evolution as I stopped taking quizzes the last two weeks and did not attempt the final exam. This is an example of a challenge not worth the effort, for now. I have enjoyed the course, studied all the material, including reading the optional book, and I fully understand all the concepts. I have no real use for the math, as I'm never going to be a geneticist, but I have gained enormously from taking the course.

In fact with the possible exception of the first Philosophy course I took, I have enjoyed all these courses, and have gained enormously from them all. I can't "pick a favourite" but if I must single out one that has made the most difference to me, then it is this second Philosophy course. This proves two things, the obvious one being that courses are not all created equal. The difference in the two philosophy courses is so great that I could write a very long blog on it, but in fairness to those who created the first one, I won't critique it in public.

But most of all it proves to me that Philosophy, as a subject, is far more important than many people think. So many people just roll their eyes at the idea of it. I have been one of them, and I don't mind admitting it.

I never studied it before. It wasn't offered when I was at school, and I never had the privilege of a college education. Of course I have read philosophy, I have written it, I've certainly done plenty of it in my own way. But not like this. This was life-altering, and I do not exaggerate. Some of it is new ideas to me, some just ties up loose ends. But it has honestly, seriously, changed the way I think. For the better, in my opinion.

Of course I have met people who have studied it, didn't enjoy it greatly, and who still roll their eyes at the word. All I can say is, you didn't have the right teacher. Had I only experienced that first course, I'd be dismissive of it too. What drove me to try again? I really don't know, I'm just glad I did. I'm glad I was awakened to it. I am now keen to study more, and to consider why people are resistant to learn.

And overall, all this study has changed my attitude, not just to specific things I've been taught, but to the whole idea of formal education, study by lecture, commitment to assignments, and so on. More than ever I feel I missed out....... let's not go there, waste of time, I am catching up, better late than never.

If there is anyone reading this dithering over their education, stop it. Do it. Work hard. Commit. Enjoy. As soon as you can, as much as you can. If my friends are reading this, stop your damn excuses for not taking part.