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MOOCS - Online Courses From Around the World

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by Sue Stevenson (subscribe)
I write essays, short stories and political commentary and believe the colour orange is unfairly discriminated against.
Published August 5th 2015
MOOCS - the thing you have when you're not having a degree
MOOCS - Massive Open Online Courses - are a thing. Especially for people like me who just love learning but have become disgruntled with degrees. I've taken soooooooo long to get mine because of health reasons that the subjects I originally did (back in the 90's - don't laugh) have been taken off my record, because some rule says they're only valid for a max of 10 years. If I finish my degree, I will still have to pay for those old subjects, even though they don't count, plus pay for the new ones that take their place.

Now, this isn't about me, but while we're here you can see my conundrum - I don't particularly wish to pay double for an Arts degree that wouldn't get me a job anyway because there was a dearth of Arts positions to start with even before George Brandis shoved lots of our funding away under his bed in order to refabricate it into some ghastly thing that's composed of just opera and opera and opera with nothing else but opera.

So. Despite bureaucracy and politicians, isn't it cool that there's other ways of indulging your love of learning now that MOOCS are a thing - mini courses that go between 5-20 weeks, and which are FREE! You can even get a verified certificate if you're willing to pay a little bit to snazz up the CV. It's kinda cool when you consider that MOOCS couldn't have existed until now, what with the interwebs and unlimited broadband plans and net speeds that play video content.

Your brain on MOOCS (results not guaranteed). CC pic - Allan Ajifo

If you're interested in taking a course from the comfort of your own device, there's a whole stack ranging across different disciplines, from different universities around the world. Here's a sample.

If you enjoy thinking about how you think and what you think, and thinking about all the thinks around thinking till it feels you may just explode your head, then philosophy is right up your alley (as it's up mine, when mine's not full of brainfog).

This course explores what philosophy is. It will cover the nature of knowIedge, and how we know what we know (epistemology). You'll thrash about in the philosophy of science. You'll explore the philosophy of mind - what it is, how we use it. Moral philosophy explores the nature of our moral judgments, while metaphysics will send you down the rabbit hole exploring the nature of reality (which is even more fun now quantum physics is such a freaky thang).

As if this isn't exciting enough, this course runs out of Scotland. So aye - Scottish accents. Yum.

Clicking on the subject title will take you to the sign-up page, where there's also an introductory video.

Starts Self-paced - start when you like
Weekly Time Commitment 1-2 hours a week
Duration 7 weeks
Through Edinburgh University, Scotland


If you're a writer who's considering trying your hand at historical fiction, this could be your entre. You'll explore the genre by reading excerpts of several novels. Then you'll take part in a series of seminars that explore the craft of historical fiction writing with the assistance of five working novelists. There will also be the opportunity to research and begin crafting your own, if you so choose to burn all your witches at the stake by horrible church men in dresses who hate women and hate herbs and are probably gay or maybe even aliens and who don't seem very Jesusey at all. You could choose to repay them with the plague, if that fits into the correct historical timeline, because in this book, baby, you're GOD. Yeah!!

Click on the subject title for an introductory video.

Starts Whenever you want, whenever you like (self-paced)
Weekly Time Commitment 2-3 hours a week
Duration 7 weeks
Through University of Virginia, US


Chess looks hard. All those kings and rooks and side moves and stuff. Here you will learn the basics of this game, and then you'll move deep into stylish terrain where you'll learn how to foil your opponents with strategic prophylaxis and the fire breathing sicilian dragon. I don't know what those things are. Luckily Andrew Ng does.

Starts Whenever you damn well please (self-paced)
Weekly Time Commitment Unknown
Duration Unknown
Through Chesscademy


An introduction to physics and science for non-science students, exploring basic laws of motion via everyday situations. Explore inertia by studying why skaters coast, and weight by studying why balls fall after being dropped or thrown. Why is it easier to push a piano up a ramp than to lift it up a ladder? I don't know, but this course will tell you. You'll explore rotation by studying a bunch of children balancing on and rocking a seesaw (hope it has that rubbery stuff underneath. Children aren't allowed to play outside anymore unless it's on that rubbery stuff). Explore friction by studying how it moves vehicle wheels and explore momentum and angular momentum through the smash-up crashes of bumper cars.

Click on the subject title link for an explanatory video.

Starts Self-paced
Weekly Time Commitment 2-4 hours a week
Duration 6 weeks
Through University of Virginia, US


You know what they say about public speaking - people dread it more than death. Do you find yourself waking up dripping with nausea from a nightmare where you were forced to give a TED talk at gunpoint? All because you're worrying about having to give a presentation at work about the proper use of safety gloves because you're the health and safety rep? Then here, come and share your nausea with your classmates. Who knows - maybe you'll get so good at public speaking that TED will be blown away by your weaving of philosophical concepts into the historical wearing of safety gloves down through the ages that they'll ask you to give a talk after all. Don't hold your breath though.

Click on title above for an introductory video.

Starts When you want, how you want - do it naked, if you want. It's all on your terms, bro (ie, self-paced).
Weekly Time Commitment 3-5 hours a week
Duration 10 weeks
Through University of Washington, US


Tackled your fear of public speaking and now want to confront your fear of death? Then study someone else's through this intro to forensic science. A dead body is located on Dundee's Hill and it's your job to identify it. This course will take you through the grisly process of learning how to identify the mortal remains that you yourself will one day be. Ponder your own impending mortality from the warmth and comfort of the house you are now too afraid to leave, ever, and learn some cool stuff in the process.

Starts 7 September 2015
Weekly Time Commitment 4 hours a week
Duration 6 weeks
Through University of Dundee, Scotland


This course explores new approaches to healthcare, where the patient is treated in a whole-person way, rather than the traditional way where she is put in a glaring white room surrounded by beeping large machines and expected to bow down to the stupid doctor in his dumb white coat who doesn't have any manners, especially at your bedside? How weird is that? This course sounds like a much more awesome idea. It straddles the fields of medicine, medical anthropology and the arts and its contributors include a psychologist, heart surgeon, pathologist, oncologist, geneticist, sociologist, poet and visual artist, exploring questions of humanity, health and healing and doing it all nice and ... healing, like.

I'm planning on doing this course. Come and join me if this area takes your fancy like it does mine :)

Starts 21 September 2015 (or check the link for new starting dates after this time)
Weekly Time Commitment 3 hours a week
Duration 6 weeks
Through University of Cape Town, South Africa


Poetry. She's, like, sneered at these days. We're too good for poetry. She's spat at as she walks down the the street. Tumbleweeds flow past. People walk past her and glare, with their left-brain-dominance evident in the way they walk tilted to one side, too cool and too busy for dumb baby stuff like stupid useless poetry.

Yet she knows that when you're curled up in despair 'cos he's said he was going to get milk but instead he's left - not even a break-up by text, the coward - that you won't be rolling around on your bed lamenting in your despair by looking at a spreadsheet or turning on the TV to check what the FTSE's doing. Poetry is your friend in your inconsolability. This course will show you how to enter her embrace and be comforted by her warm motherly arms.

Or something.

Starts When you click on the "Go to Class" button (self-paced)
Weekly Time Commitment Not sure
Duration Not sure
Through George Washington University, US
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Why? Learning is noice
Where: Online
Cost: Free!
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