Hi! I’m Sheila B Robinson, aea365’s Lead Curator and sometimes Saturday contributor. While I cringe at describing myself with the heavily clichéd “lifelong learner,” I’m afraid it’s all too accurate. In fact, when I dream of winning the lottery I don’t think about whiling away my days on a beach reading cheesy novels, but rather sitting in a classroom, taking all the courses I missed out on in college. Problem is, my other half Larry has the beach dream, and I’d really miss him!
Try MOOCs – Massive Open Online Courses. MOOCs have been mentioned a few times on aea365 (see here) and many evaluators (including me) have taken a course on data visualization and infographcis from the Knight Center for Journalism from the author of The Functional Art: An Introduction to Information Graphics and Visualization, Alberto Cairo. But, did you know there are additional MOOCs that might appeal to evaluators?
MOOCs offer flexibility. They’re free, distance learning (read: you can take courses from the beach!), and you can do your coursework any time of day. Most MOOCs have a video lecture component, some exercises or homework to be completed between sessions, and a final project. There are usually discussion boards where students can communicate with each other, pose questions to the professor, give feedback on each other’s work, or just have conversations. Some courses allow you to work collaboratively on the final project.
With a MOOC, there’s no pressure. While I don’t encourage registering for a MOOC with no intention of finishing, I must admit I am one of the over 90% of MOOC starters who have not finished one. I’m not proud of this, but realities of life called for me to drop something each time, and my MOOC always got the axe. The caveat is, however, that I feel as if I learned a great deal from the weeks I did participate in each course!
MOOCs can offer high quality, rigorous coursework. I took the first few weeks of a course on data analysis and statistical inference (offered by Duke University through Coursera), just to brush up on my skills and see if I could pick up anything new, and before I knew it, we were deep into conditional probabilities, Bayesian inference, and using R! Many offer certificates of completion.
Rad Resources: While Coursera is one of the most popular MOOC sites, look at MOOC aggregators like Class Central or Course Talk to search multiple sites. You’ll find courses on statistics, data analysis, R programming, research methods, writing, problem solving, and much, much more.
So if you see me at the beach under an umbrella with a laptop…
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