I started lockdown with all of the enthusiasm and motivation Instagram wanted me to… ready to climb a mountain, learn a language, transform my style and become a glittering lingerie model who single-handedly solved conflict in the Middle East and was a role model to all. It’s been three months and it’s fair to say: none of that has happened. But, amongst the many smaller positive ‘wins’ I’ve experienced in lockdown, is the fact that I’ve started studying a university module in a subject I’m fascinated by… at Stanford University, one of the best universities in the world!
I don’t have any existing related qualifications and I don’t have a desk, nor have I moved to California (unfortunately). No, I’m still sitting on my sofa observing a very wet ‘Great’ British summer and I’m still juggling a toddler and a freelance career and maintaining some semblance of a decent home – and I still definitely don’t have the funds to pay hefty tuition fees. I’ve started distance learning through an online MOOC; that is, a Massive Open Online Course.
I’ll take a minute here to give my mother full credit. She’d spotted a reference to MOOCs online and knowing that I wouldn’t be able to afford a full uni course – and would probably have commitment issues in choosing just one subject to focus on long-term anyway – she encouraged me to have a browse through some and see if I could find anything I liked. So that was it: I took to Google!
MOOCs are online modules offered by universities to anyone, for free. They’re optimised for distance learning and are often available in different languages to maximise the amount of people able to study them. Whilst you won’t earn a big qualification or a degree through MOOCs, you can earn certificates (although sometimes you’ll have to pay a fee for a physical copy to be sent to you in the post) – imagine how a module from Stanford or Harvard would look on your wall or, better yet, your CV!
Modules studied are often a mix of online lectures and videos, ebooks and online journals and articles, with discussion forums and Facebook groups giving students a chance to interact and bounce ideas off one another. Most courses are open over a few months, but that’s dependent on the university and the type of learning resources they’re making available.
What’s more, the subject matter on offer through MOOCs is pretty much infinite. Because the world’s universities and colleges now allow you to study just about anything, that’s reflected online too! From coding and cryptocurrencies to cookery and contract law, from psychology and physiology to pandemics and prophecies, from scripture and Spanish to science and statistics, pretty much anything you’re into is covered. Just google ‘MOOC’ and start browsing. Even if you don’t find something related to your job or profession, you might find something relevant to your interests or your aspirations – and that may even work out better. What I’m studying is purely an interest of mine, and I’m finding it much more interesting than I probably would something I spend my time doing, day in, day out!
I’m about halfway through my module now and really enjoying having a new challenge. My brain is being stretched in ways it hasn’t been for probably years, and that can only be beneficial. I’m already thinking about which course to do next… and even at age 32, considering it a damn good excuse for some new pens and stationery!
The header image was taken by JEShoots, for Unsplash.