If Not Now, When: On-line Learning

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If Not Now, When: On-line Learning

Welcome to guest blogger, Kristina Bicher, one of our first good friends in our hometown.  Kristina Bicher is a poet and mom living in the New York metropolitan area.  She has published a chapbook, Just Now Alive, and numerous poems in literary journals, as well as a recent article in The Atlantic on on-line learning.  Thanks to Kristina for the wonderful post on the latest innovation in education: on-line courses.

Next to Nike’s ubiquitous Just Do It, one of my favorite catchphrases is, If Not Now, When?  I find myself using it regularly to help kick me out of the lethargy instead of that third cup of coffee.  It reminds me not to wait until… the kids are in bed (or out of the house), the bills are paid or I just feel more inspired.  Writers know that motivation, and its evil twin procrastination, are always duking it out for our attention.

Last fall, The Rye Arts Center sponsored a fabulous evening of local writers called, “I’ve Got a Pen and I’m Not Afraid to Use It!”  Four Rye women, including me, talked about our work, what motivates us and the importance of making time to follow your passions.  Each of us represented a different writing genre. Mine is poetry.

Given that we live in the greater metropolitan area, we have found that there is no shortage of opportunities for writers.  There are writing groups, formal classes and even advanced degrees, be they at the Hudson Valley Writers Center, Manhattanville College , Purchase College  or Sarah Lawrence.

But no matter where you live, I’ve found an even easier option: the internet!  There has been an explosion of free on-line courses, known as MOOCs (massive on-line open courses), that you can access from your desktop, laptop, tablet or smart phone.  One big provider is Coursera, founded by two Stanford professors, which offers over 200 free on-line classes in some 20 subjects from over 115 top universities, including Stanford, Yale, Princeton and Penn.  There are also Udacity, which offers nanodegrees, and edX, which is a joint effort between Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  The variety is astonishing.  You can study current events, economics, computers, healthcare, foreign languages, art history, philosophy, statistics, literature and more.

Since poetry is my beat, I recently took two on-line poetry classes, one from Harvard (Poetry in America) and one from Penn (ModPo).  I was floored by what a dynamic, engaging and rewarding experience it was.  I was so inspired that I wrote an article called, “Web Poets Society,” that was published in The Atlantic (click here to read it).

I thought the set-up was fantastic.  The materials (text, audio and video) are clearly organized, and there are lots of opportunities to interact with other students and faculty.  Although many people don’t complete the whole course, and, in fact, completing the course is more the exception than the norm, this shouldn’t deter you.  To participate in even one or two sessions is highly rewarding.

The whole world of on-line learning and its impact on traditional colleges is still in flux. For the most part, as of this writing, many of these classes function more as enrichment or continuing education. Having said that, several MOOC providers do offer certificates, sometimes called nanodegrees, if you complete all of the assigned reading, quizzes, essays and other assessments.  Depending on your field of study, these certificates can be valuable additional job credentials, if enhancing your resume is one of your goals.  Either way I would certainly explore these many on-line options further.

 IMG_6674The Author of this Blog: Follow @KristinaABicher or www.kristinabicher.com

 

So, what are you waiting for?  If not now, when: On-line Learning.

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