I’ve been getting emails asking where I’ve been. I’ve been here! I took a break from blogging for what I thought would be a couple weeks and that magically turned into a couple months.
In any event, I thought I’d share information on a couple online classes that I took last year through Coursera. If you’re not heard of it, Coursera offers a huge selection of MOCCs — or massive open online courses. It’s an incredible opportunity to take classes from over 80 top universities and organizations.
The first class I took was through The Pennsylvania State University (what I refer to as Penn State) called Introduction to Art: Concepts & Techniques. Although it was designed for individuals without any artistic background, I found it very interesting and believe anyone with any interest at all in art will enjoy. The seven week class covered art elements and techniques, fantasy, correspondence with memory (yes, mail art), stories through the lens (black and white portraiture), inside the space (installation and 3D art), personal collections, and the artist critique. Anna Divinsky taught the class, and she was excellent. Each class contained reading material and a series of online videos. Also, there’s a Coursera app which makes viewing the videos on an iPad great.
The second class which I finished in November was also through Penn State. The 8 week class, Creativity, Innovation, and Change, was taught by three instructors: Jack V. Matson, Darrell Velegol, and Kathryn W. Jablokow. The class was so very eye-opening. One of the most fun concepts taught was something called “intelligent fast failure” and dealt with embracing failures because they eventually result in success. The success of one exercise was based on the number of failures, which was liberating! Because the goal was to try over and over to come up with a large number of failures before you decided when to stop, I tried all types of things just to get my number higher. But then I got into it, with me thinking, “but what if I try this, and that, and this, and so on.” As a result, I came up with something that was much better than I suspect I would have had I not been required to come up with a number of failures!
Another aha moment for me was understanding the different approaches to creative problem solving and where one falls on the creative diversity scale. After taking some tests, I learned I’m more methodical than shotgun in my approach. No one approach or place on the scale is the correct one. Rather, understanding how you work and recognizing how others work allows one to adjust how tasks are done to bring out the best of each in the creative team. I’ve already been able to apply this in my professional life.
Topics included idea generation, idea evaluation, creative collaboration, research, metrics, experimentation, and synthesis of creativity, innovation, and change.
I’m one of those people who enjoy getting some kind of proof of completion when I finish a class, and I’m glad that both offered a certification (not all classes do). Such incentive tends to motivate me and keep me on track, which is especially important considering it’s a free online class. Each class had over 100,000 students — yes, that many — from all over the world. Grading is done through weekly tests and, depending on whether you’re trying for an “Explorer” or “Adventurer” Certificate, can include participation in peer forums. It was often enlightening to read the forums, both in how people from different areas of the world approach solving problems and interact. For example, in one instance, a student created a beautiful final solution to an assignment that required one sheet of paper. Looking at it, it was clear she used many sheets. Even so, being it was a creativity class, I (and some others) gave her credit for creating something that was very good. Others weren’t as kind, some slamming her for using more materials than stated in the instructions and saying things like she “cheated.” She apologized, stating the country she is from, that English isn’t her first language, and that she interpreted the meaning of the assignment incorrectly. She was so ashamed and suggested she drop out. Even more then came to her defense. It seemed such a slice of life!
As with any class, you only get out what you put in. I did start a public speaking class that was excellent. However, there was so much work involved, and the videos were very long. After several weeks, and knowing there was no certificate award upon completion, I goofed off and didn’t yet complete the class. Luckily, once you enroll, you have access to the class and can complete it whenever you’d like (although you don’t earn a certification for it; that is, unless you un-enroll, re-enroll, and start from the beginning). You also have access to any class you completed so that you can revisit lessons. It’s a win, win.
If you’re looking to study something new this year, I wholeheartedly recommend visiting Coursera and checking out their mind-boggling class offering (iTunes is another excellent resource of MOCCs). I’m scheduled for two more classes this year. Anyone else?