I’ve just completed a MOOC with one of the world’s top universities!
A MOOC short for Massive Open Online Course, offers anyone with access to the internet the chance to study at a top university for free, anywhere in the world. This is online distance learning at its best!
The courses are flexible, normally 3-5 hours of study per week and are often designed to fit around your life, with short activities and clear goals to encourage you to make progress at a comfortable rate that suits you.
The courses are usually fairly short 5-10 weeks in duration and use a variety of media and materials such as videos, audio-presentations, and PDFs. The courses are also designed to provoke questions and stimulate debate, and there is loads of opportunity to post questions on the discussion boards, or just chat to fellow students via the on-line forum.
It’s also okay if you don’t manage to finish the course, or even pass every assignment, as often you will still get a certificate of participation.
I gained a diploma in Spanish for free
In July of this year (2014) I visited the wonderful vibrant university city of Salamanca in northwest Spain. I’m learning Spanish at the moment and so was really interested in visiting Salamanca’s very old and prestigious university (founded in 1134) which has been offering Spanish language course for foreigners since 1929 and is the go to place for learning Spanish.
While I was finding out more about the university’s intriguing history on their website, I came across a list of the MOOCs that they offered. I could choose a course from a diverse range of subjects such as physical sciences, social, life and health sciences, history, psychology, economics, linguistics, pedagogy, mathematics and law. They all looked appealing but since I was learning Spanish I thought that I’d have a go at doing their 6 week Spanish course entitled ‘Español Salamanca A2’.
The course was very enjoyable and perfect for my needs being orientated towards communication and social interaction in everyday situations.
The course provided audio-visual materials, PowerPoint presentations , PDFs, forums, wikis etc.
There were 6 modules to the course (one per week) and each module began with an episode from the miniseries which followed an American student of Spanish, Wei, who was living with a Spanish family while studying in Salamanca. After watching the video, which contained all the vocabulary and grammar points for the module, there were audio-presentations, and optional tests to check comprehension.
We also had to submit a piece of work electronically which was reviewed by fellow students (two different students for each piece of work submitted per module) and I in turn did the same. I really liked this learning method, known as peer2peer, and found that by reading and reviewing other student’s work I actually learnt a great deal of Spanish.
Finally at the end of each module we had a compulsory test to complete which was submitted electronically and for which we had to gain at least 70%. However, the tests were all multiple choice and we were given two attempts at completing them so it wasn’t too bad at all.
At the end of the course, if you had managed to complete at least 75% of the course, you gained a certificate of participation and if you completed 100% of the course you could obtain a diploma from the University of Salamanca which cost €40.
I thought the quality of the materials and the teaching method was of the highest quality and I think that MOOCs are great for anyone who: has been away from education for some time and wants to ease back into study without too much commitment; or would like to learn something new. MOOCs offer a taster of exciting and innovative topics which are taught in leading universities.
In the autumn of 2013, the Open University launched its first courses on FutureLearn, the UK’s answer to the US platforms such as Coursera , EdX and Udacity, which have been offering MOOCs from top US universities for the past two years. Take a look at http://www.class-central.com/ for a list of courses.
With FutureLearn you can learn online for free and choose from a range of topics such as Science & Technology to Arts & Humanities, from Body & Mind to Business & Management.
The response to MOOCs has been incredible with millions of people registering worldwide.
MOOC Pros and Cons
No entry requirements – all courses can be taken by anyone from anywhere online;
You can choose any course that interests you;
The courses are often short and flexible and only require a few hours of study each week;
The courses usually run two or three times each year;
The courses are led by world-class academics;
The courses are self-directed and you can get help from a large community of fellow learners via on-line forums;
Although the majority of MOOCs do not have formal university credits assigned to them, certificates of participation or statements, digital badges, e-portfolios, certificates or diplomas of accomplishment are often available to any learner who completes a course;
The courses are comparable to a standard university course enabling you to get an idea of the level of study, and get a flavour of what different universities have to offer in terms of subjects and teaching.
Online distance learning means no face to face interaction with other students;
There is less or no one-on-one contact with tutors;
Because MOOCs are strictly online, not a blended experience with some classroom time, you may find it harder to stay motivated and therefore, you might be more likely to quit the course;
As most courses are not accredited, in most cases it won’t replace a university degree.
As for me, I like MOOCs. I’m very used to distance learning having gained a degree with The Open University and having studied for my Masters in Careers Guidance through a blended learning system – a mixture of classroom and on-line, self-directed study. It’s a method of learning that works really well for me as I can fit it in with my already very busy lifestyle.
Over to you. Have you ever done a MOOC, or do you feel inspired to have a go at doing one? As always I love to hear your comments so please leave a message below.
It’s Monday. How do you feel? Does the day of the week dictate your emotions? Do you define your working life by how long it takes to get to Friday afternoon?
Thank Goodness It’s Monday
Perhaps it’s time to change the way we think about work? Perhaps we need to change from the mindset of TGIF (Thank Goodness It’s Friday), where we count down the hours to 5 O’clock, feeling steadily brighter as we progress towards Friday, to the mindset of Thank Goodness It’s Monday? Let’s start Living for Monday.
Barrett Brooks, entrepreneur, perpetual learner, and community builder, is passionate about helping people find work they believe in, embody a growth mindset, and to create powerful relationships. Continue reading Thank Goodness It’s Monday→
Our society rates self-confidence as a positive attribute and the key to success. Yet could too much self-confidence actually make us less successful? A controversial new view is that it’s actually self-doubt that drives us to succeed.
There has been a plethora of articles written lately, such as on the Harvard Business blog, in the BBC News Magazine, and in various health and lifestyle magazines such as ‘Healthy’ about whether or not self-confidence (that is high self-esteem and self-efficacy) really does breed success. Research suggests that it may be less confident people who are more successful.
Is confidence overrated?
I’ve got to say that, up until this point, I would tend to disagree with the statement that ‘less confident people are more successful’, as in my experience, I’ve always found the opposite to be true. My view is that confident people do tend to be more successful and moreover I believe self-confidence is the principle contributing factor to a successful career.
I’m not talking about those people who go around thinking that they’re someone special, are cocky, arrogant or hold narcissistic tendencies, but rather people who believe in themselves, their skills and their ability to succeed.
Here’s 5 reasons why I think self-confidence leads to success
Ever thought of getting away from it all? Ever dreamt about quitting your job and your 9-5 existence even for a little while? If the answer’s YES you might like to consider taking the plunge to do some serious travelling.
How we got to New Zealand – not the quickest route!
(Article by James Moss, author of ‘Ultralight Cycle Touring: Self-sufficient with 4.2kg and a road bike’)
The way we (my partner Ellie and I) arrived in New Zealand involves a story of travel and adventure in itself. We didn’t scour the internet for the cheapest flights, (which is the only fast and practical way to arrive – if you can call a 24hr flight fast!?) Instead we cycled. I started out in England and met Ellie in Slovenia, who flew to meet me off the back of a 6 month stint in Taranaki, New Zealand. The plot thickens further as we actually had intended to go to China, or perhaps Japan. During our Easterly cycle adventure our destination changed several more times eventually ending in Australia, where we spent about a month before deciding that we wanted to be in New Zealand. So here I am nearly 18 months later in Taranaki, New Zealand, the very same place that Ellie had spent 6 months previously, whilst I finished my degree in England.
It’s been a while since my last ‘Jan’s Work-Life Balance Diary’ post. We, my husband Robert and I, have been to New Zealand (in January) to visit our son, James, and we’ve just arrived back in the UK after another spell in Spain.
I have to say that New Zealand has got to be one of the most beautiful places on earth, and I feel so privileged that I was able to spend a whole month there. I realise that this is something that I would never have been able to do if I was still employed at the university where I used to work. I would have never have managed to get that amount of time off of work.
The lovely warm and friendly people (Kiwis, Aussies, Americans, British and Germans) that I met while in New Zealand also introduced me to the fascinating concept of ‘Workaway’, which gives you the opportunity to travel anywhere in the world without spending a fortune. ‘Workaway’ is a brilliant way to travel, learn a new skill, get work experience, meet new people, learn a new culture and/or language, and to generally learn about life and to broaden your horizons. For more information visit www.workaway.info
Work-Life Balance – My Definite Major Purpose (DMP) revisited
As promised in my last post in this series ‘Can You Achieve a Work-Life Balance (Part 13) Success!’ in this post I will revisit my Definite Major Purpose in life (my DMP) to see if I have (nearly two years on) indeed achieved, or have come close to achieving, my DMP goals. I split my DMP into two parts – Freedom and Fulfilment. Freedom and Fulfilment are the two things that I value very highly and I wanted them to feature permanently in my life. In this article (so as not to make the post too long for you) I’m going to look at one of them – starting with Freedom.
Freedom – I want to live where I choose (My lock-up and leave lifestyle)
We have two homes now – one in the UK and one in Spain. You may recall that we downsized last year, selling our large family home in the UK to live in a much smaller townhouse just several miles down the road, and in Spain we bought a two bed apartment back in 2012 in the Costa Calida.
Both places are great lock-up and leave homes. It takes me no more than an hour to zip around each home and clean it from top to bottom. This is helped by the fact that when we moved from the family home we de-cluttered and adopted a degree of minimalism. I say degree because we didn’t get rid of everything that we owned, however, we did get rid of an awful lot of stuff – and now we live in a less cluttered and more serene environment which also has the added benefit of being easy to keep clean and tidy!
The house in the UK is also a new build and so is super warm and energy efficient and our apartment in Spain is in the South and is coastal so is always warm. As both homes are fairly small our community charge and council tax bills are also quite low and so all in all we have two fairly low cost properties which are very easy to maintain.
As for the outside of our homes, our townhouse in the UK has got a tiny garden and our apartment in Spain has two terraces with no garden so both are low maintenance. I must say that, as gardening is a passion of mine, that I do miss having a good sized garden to potter around in though. I’ve promised myself that I will have a proper garden again one day but this will not be until we move to Spain permanently.
Freedom – I want to decide when and how many hours I work each day
Overall, this is working out brilliantly for us. Better than we ever expected. As you know we both have our own businesses which we have designed to give us ultimate flexibility in terms of where and when we work. Some days we work really hard and on other days we take the entire day off. For example, if it’s a nice sunny day and we feel like going for a walk, or if we have an invitation to meet friends for lunch, or want to attend a conference, or exhibition, or whatever, we plan our work around the event so that we never miss out on any opportunity that comes our way and more importantly what is truly important to us – freedom to choose how we spend our time.
This particular DMP goal – ‘having the freedom to decide when and how many hours I work each day’ was put to the test recently when we visited New Zealand. We put in more hours of work than was usual for us before we went away, and then managed our businesses while we were in New Zealand by making the most of the current technology i.e. talking to people via Skype and by email. Telephone conversations were unfortunately out of the question due to the time difference between the UK and New Zealand of 13 hours!
We probably did a bit of work most days – just to keep things ticking over and to check and respond to emails but this was never for more than half an hour per day.
Freedom – I want to be able to earn enough money to have more flexibility and choice in my life
I’ve always said that the reason why I love having my own business is because there are no limits to your earning power. I have control over my income. I can look at my business cash flow projection and can often see any potential shortfalls months in advance. I can then take action and make the necessary adjustments to my business plan in order to accommodate the shortfall or to increase revenue.
Of course, this is often easier said than done. I wouldn’t want to give you the impression that it is always easy to generate extra income just when you want to, in fact it’s hard! However, after a while you do become quite creative and do find more and more ways to top up the pot. Up until now, anyway, I’ve managed to generate a level of income that I’m happy with and which supports my lifestyle. Obviously, I wouldn’t mind earning a little more money, who wouldn’t, but then I know that the extra work load could negatively affect my freedom to choose when and how many hours I work so it’s always about maintaining a balance. For more information, check out ‘Can You Achieve a Work-Life Balance? (Part 2) Your DMP‘ where I talk about DMP and starting a business.
Of course occasionally I do have to make some small sacrifices. For example, sometimes I do have to increase my client work in the UK for a while and this often means that some days I can’t take a day off when I want to, or go off to Spain for a few weeks. Similarly, if my husband has a big job on which requires him to be in the UK, then that takes precedence. However, once the work is finished we can either go to Spain or just take some time off in the UK, we always make sure that we maintain a good work-life balance.
Freedom – I want to have the freedom to be creative and implement my own ideas
Having my own business allows me to do just that. I’m able to work with clients from all walks of life, or just focus on one particular client group for a while if I want to. I’m free to make all the decisions as far as my blog and website are concerned, although I always listen to those who are more expect in their field than me, such as my web developer. Most importantly though, there’s nothing and nobody to stifle my creativity which is, for me , by far the best part about having my own business.
Overall then, I’m quite pleased with how things are going in terms of meeting my DMP as far as Freedom is concerned and that I can honestly say that I have achieved the following:
Freedom to live where I choose; Freedom to decide when and how many hours I work each day; Freedom to be able to earn enough money to have more flexibility and choice in my life; Freedom to be creative and implement my own ideas.
In my next post in this series I’ll take a look at the second part of my DMP, Fulfilment. Am I fulfilled? Find out in my next post.
I hope that you enjoyed reading this article. Over to you. Do you have a Definite Major Purpose or DMP? If not, perhaps you might like to think about what yours might be. How might you change your current lifestyle to accommodate your DMP? Could you do it? I’d love to know what you think, so please leave me a message below.
It’s that time of year again! National Careers Week – a celebration of careers guidance and free resources in education across the UK.
National Careers Week 2014
Celebrating the very best of careers guidance and opportunities
National Careers Week (NCW) aim is to provide a focus for careers guidance activity at an important stage in the academic calendar to help support young people leaving education. However, the free resources below are extremely useful for anyone who is looking for employment or is looking for a career change.
You may recall last year that during NCW 2013, The Careers & Lifestyle Journal featured daily articles with advice and tips and loads of free resources including videos on: