Take This MOOC: Learning How to Learn

First of all, what is a MOOC? “MOOC” stands for Massive Open Online Course: free courses you can take online, usually alongside dozens, maybe hundreds of other classmates from around the world. They’re created by professors at prestigious universities and experts in the field and usually consist of video lectures, readings, and homework assignments.

Whenever I have a lull in my schedule, I like to see if there are any MOOCs coming up that pique my interest. I’m a member of Coursera.org, but I hear that edx.org also has a lot of great classes and will be looking into it in the future. MOOCs can be hit or miss, so I thought I’d collect some of the hits here.

The first MOOC I’d like to recommend is Coursera’s Learning How to Learn. It was created by Dr. Barb Oakley and Dr. Terry Sejnowski and is offered on Coursera via UC San Diego.

In my experience, it’s really easy for MOOCs to fail. There are two traps they end up falling into: (1) spoonfeeding you almost no information, or (2) throwing you in the deep end right away. Learning How to Learn charts a middle course; it might even err towards spoonfeeding, but because the information is immediately applicable to learning and habits generally, it maintained my interest throughout the course. The videos were short and punchy, making them the perfect thing to watch while taking a break from something else. There are quizzes with every module, but to be honest they are low stress and not excessively challenging. They’re clearly designed to repeat and reinforce information rather than to challenge students or freak them out.

Learning How to Learn covers these areas:

  • What is learning?
  • Chunking
  • Procrastination and memory
  • Renaissance learning and unlocking your potential

The video lectures are in English, but if you’re not comfortable enough to take an entire course in English, the subtitles have been translated into a variety of languages: Arabic, French, Russian, and Chinese (among others). As far as I’m aware, the quizzes are still in English, though I could be wrong.

The most helpful parts for me came in the third week (procrastination!) and in the weekly email digests. I finished the class long ago, but I still get the weekly “Cheery Friday Greetings” newsletter. Normally email newsletters are not my bag, but Dr. Oakley and Dr. Sejnowski manage to dig up a lot of great book recommendations on memory, learning, and psychology—it’s a really great free source, in my opinion, especially for anyone studying or teaching a foreign language.

Overall it’s a casual but nonetheless helpful MOOC that I think anyone, especially students, can immediately apply to their lives. Take it! Let me know what you think!

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