MOOCs and Treadmills

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are a hot topic in education, and no one seems to know quite how it will play out.  After sitting in on several of these, I’ve come to find (at least for me) that they are the treadmill of education.

I try to keep up a running schedule, which I’ve been able to do during the spring and summer, but have always fallen off the wagon in the winter.  In the winter, the dark and the cold makes it hard to run outside and the academic schedule makes it hard to run during the daylight hours.  I hope to overcome this, but it means running more on my treadmill (which I have).  The difference between running outside and running on a treadmill is psychological – if you run a mile and don’t feel up to the second mile you can get off the treadmill and go back upstairs for a break.  The same thing happens with a MOOC.

I’ve “attended” a few of these classes, but never really finished.  This is due to time and motivation, because the classes generally were pretty good.  However, given pressing time of things that I have to do, it is hard to push my way through assignments that I might like to do.  In addition, I find it hard to find time to sit and watch a video, instead of reading or listening to audio books, seminars and podcasts which are all more convenient (at least for me).

Perhaps this is my particular failing, but I wonder how common this perspective is.


About brianblais

I am a professor of Science and Technology at Bryant University in Smithfield, RI, and a research professor in the Institute for Brain and Neural Systems, Brown University. My research is in computational neuroscience and statistics. I teach physics, meteorology, astonomy, theoretical neuroscience, systems dynamics, artificial intelligence and robotics. My book, "Theory of Cortical Plasticity" (World Scientific, 2004), details a theory of learning and memory in the cortex, and presents the consequences and predictions of the theory. I am an avid python enthusiast, and a Bayesian (a la E. T. Jaynes), and love music.
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