Until a few weeks ago I hadn’t even heard of the term “MOOC”, let alone what the latest in acronyms stands for.  Right now in Virginia, there’s a debate going on about whether they’re great or not…. Oh, you want to know what it is?  Massive Open Online Course.  Thanks to a link from a friend, I’m studying Coursera’s “Plagues, Witches and Wars” an 8-week programme on historical fiction, along with 18,000 others around the globe.

I don’t understand the resistance – well, I probably do if I think hard enough.  Oh yes, it’s fear.  This is a thoroughly modern approach to learning, and those in a part of Academia don’t like it.  It’s not real, they say.  It’s not quality, they say.  People don’t complete it, they say.  Well.  It is real, the quality is astounding and if someone drops out – who cares?

Did I mention it’s free?

I love it as someone with intellectual curiosity – I haven’t studied literature since I did my A level English Lit many years ago, so I am enjoying connecting with the student in me.  I’m being introduced to some amazing books, some fascinating discussions (in learning communities) and the insights given by some of the writers of historical fiction is an indulgent delight.  Especially for this writer!  I feel less isolated as a writer and more motivated by what I am trying to create. Oh, and I get to learn about mad intellectual concepts like “historiographical metafiction”; can’t wait to drop that on some unsuspecting soul sometime soon. 😉

There are a number of courses on Coursera (other MOOCs exist, but I haven’t worked my way there yet), including an incredible one that looks at understanding Dementia.  Philosophy, maths, classics… What a great resource for those of us that don’t live in the big cities, or those of us that have accessibility issues.  I wish I’d known about it when I was recuperating from a knee injury earlier this year; a really productive way to while away the hours of rest.

I’m not saying that this MOOC virgin, probably now a MOOC newbie, is going to become a MOOC junkie (as it won’t get the book written), but this one has come at the right time.  Another one of life’s coincidences… and had I not been in an online community, I would probably be none the wiser.  Ain’t technology grand?

For more about the Coursera programme that I’ve chosen, read the blog of its creator, Bruce Hollinger, a truly inspirational guy.