12 of My Favourite Courses

My Favourite Courses

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One survey respondent asked for a list of my favourite courses. Having done so many, it was difficult choosing my favourites, but some have stuck in my memory.

Learning How to Learn (Coursera)

If you only do one MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), do this one. If you plan to do more study (either online or on-campus), this course by Barbara Oakley and Terrence Sejnowski explains the learning process. You will also learn how the brain works and discover plenty of tips for study and improving your memory. With Coursera’s current format, you can spread the approximately ten hours of work over the recommended four weeks, cram it all into a week or two, or make it a more leisurely activity. There are plenty of optional extras as well. Here is a more in-depth review.

The Science of the Solar System (Coursera)

Having crashed and burned in two astronomy MOOCs, I was wary about straining my rusty high school mathematics and physics on yet another one. Several fellow students in an earth science MOOC recommended this course, so I decided to give it a go. I really enjoyed it! Presented in a refreshingly enthusiastic style by Caltech professor Mike Brown, it was light on the complex calculations but packed full of how the solar system evolved and why the planets are in their current positions. There is even a section on the evolution of life and the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe. You can read my in-depth review of this course here on Class Central.

Mountains 101 (Coursera)

I am constantly fascinated by the way everything in the world is connected, how ecosystems work and how living things have evolved for their individual niches. Presenters David Hik and Zac Robinson of the University of Alberta obviously love the mountains. As well as the basic and in-depth geological and ecological processes, this course included plenty of stunning pictures of mountains in Canada and around the world. There is a section on mountains in folklore and legends from many cultures, and the weekly Tech Tips discuss hiking, camping and safety in the mountains. You can see my in-depth review here on Class Central.

Mindshift (Coursera)

The creators of Learning How to Learn came back in 2017 with this MOOC about changing your life direction. It gives students the tools and confidence to take control of their career and learn subjects they may have never considered before. You can read about my involvement with this MOOC here and see my small contribution in video 1-5 of the course.

Making Sense of Climate Science Denial (edX)

Scientists have been predicting global warming due to the burning of fossil fuels for more than a century, but there are still plenty of people who refuse to believe humans could be causing the earth’s climate to change. I have chosen this edX course because presenter John Cook not only explains in clear terms how and why our climate is changing due to increased greenhouse gases, he also discusses why people may not accept the scientific findings. Here is my in-depth review of this course.

Writing for Young Readers: Opening the Treasure Chest (Coursera)

Presenters David Hill, Maria Gill, and Alex Alexandrou are all published authors. They also interviewed several other authors during the course. As an older writer who is currently dabbling in a range of genres and has never had an ambition to write specifically for children, I was surprised to find myself drawn in and encouraged to consider this field. By the time I finished the course, my imagination was exploding with ideas for several children’s books. See my in-depth review here.

Genealogy: Researching Your Family Tree (FutureLearn)

I have been interested in researching my family tree for many years and this course provides plenty of resources and tips. It recommends and explains how to keep comprehensive notes and to verify all information from at least two sources. It also shows how errors can happen, especially in old handwritten records in the days when many people had limited education. Many course participants were interested in DNA testing to connect with relatives all around the world. See my in-depth review here on Class Central.

Ignite Your Everyday Creativity (Coursera)

Whether or not you think you are a creative person, this course might help you. I was pleased and surprised by the range of techniques used to boost creativity and help us with everyday problems. This is a MOOC to revisit from time to time to freshen up our creative juices. My in-depth review is here.

Archaeology’s Dirty Little Secrets (Coursera)

It’s such a shame this wonderful course is no longer available. Sue Alcock of Brown University had such a dynamic style and each week students could choose from three assignments to complete. Sometimes, I wanted to do all three! Many of the assignments were practical activities, and this course made me realise that famous sites such as Pompeii in Italy and the Terracotta Army in China are not the only examples of archaeology. Even my own town (established in 1867) has some historical sites, heritage-listed buildings and a museum crammed with artefacts from bygone days. After finishing this course, I was so enthusiastic about online learning, I immediately enrolled in 6 other MOOCs.

Powerful Tools for Teaching and Learning: Digital Storytelling (Coursera)

Have you ever made a video? Even if you aren’t keen on putting yourself in front of the camera, this course teaches you how to make still photos interesting, how to add a soundtrack with dialogue, sound effects, and music, and where to find free resources. What a pity the assessment items are now behind a paywall. I managed to complete this MOOC while it was still free.

Start Writing Fiction (FutureLearn)

Before I did Writing for Young Readers mentioned above, I completed Start Writing Fiction. This eight week MOOC took students through many aspects of writing such as developing characters, observing and describing details, finding inspiration, writing and editing.

Dinosaur Ecosystems (edX)

The University of Alberta has produced several excellent paleontology courses on Coursera including the popular Dino 101. I have included this edX course about dinosaur ecosystems from the University of Hong Kong because I was fascinated by how much scientists can learn from fossil remains. They looked at a barren area in China and showed students the relationships between the plants and animals that lived there millions of years ago.

Nutrition & Exercise (Several Courses from Various Providers)

I have taken several courses on the various platforms that discuss nutrition and the role of exercise in promoting better health. The common theme is to exercise frequently, stay away from processed foods and eat plenty of plant-based ones and sufficient protein. Different courses focus on different aspects of why our bodies need exercise and good nutrition, and their benefits.

A Final Thought

Your taste might not be the same as mine, but as I wrote about these courses, I remembered that most of the presenters in the above list are enthusiastic and love their subject.

If you have particularly enjoyed any MOOCs, please let me know!

By Pat Bowden, published January 16, 2018.