The Coursera course on volcanoes is going well. The second introductory lecture got into topics I find challenging, but that was a learning experience, too.
It’s a video, so you can instantly play back something that goes over your head. Also, when the first thin sections appeared and some more in-depth (but still quite superficial) discussion of chemistry came up, I panicked but then immediately calmed down after remembering this is just a general information course and my future career path does not depend on it.
I wonder if such anxiety was actually the foundation of my failure back in those undergraduate geology courses.
Anyway, another plus for this course is that one can stop the video and quickly do an online look-up of any terms that aren’t perfectly clear (for me, it was a quick refresher in alkali metals and alkaline earths). That helps tremendously in getting the most out of the lecture.
These massive open online courses are designed for free open access education on a wide variety of topics.
On its current front page, for instance, Coursera offers courses ranging from the simple “The Music of the Beatles” (University of Rochester) to the quite detailed “Calculus Two: Sequences and Series” (Ohio State University).
You don’t get a degree, rather, a certificate if you complete the course. Completion rates, according to Wikipedia, are overall quite low – in the single digits. Not surprisingly, rates are much higher if learners have to pay for something, for example, a feature mentioned by Wikipedia that prevents online cheating.
The volcanoes course is a good example of how this works. Everybody’s interested in volcanoes, for some reason…
(RT stands for “Russia Today” – the volcano is Tolbachik, specifically the flat part [Plosky Tolbachik]).
Ten thousand people were interested enough to sign up for the course, but I don’t think all will complete it. Quite apart from the general completion rate statistics for MOOCs, my background, such as it is, tells me that the going is about to get very complex (for a general audience), now that we have completed the two introductory courses.
And yet it’s worth it. Already I can look at that Tolbachik video above with new eyes, understanding it a little more deeply than I’d ever thought possible before.