As an outsider, I never considered online education for my professional studies as I used to think that the absence of real life student-student and student-teacher interaction won’t let us learn anything in real sense. Then, someone told me about Coursera.org, where leading universities of the world offer 300 hundred undergraduate level online courses for free. Since we don’t have any Creative Writing Programs in Pakistan, I thought of taking some online courses there. I took two Mass Open Online Courses (MOOC), which was an amazing experience. I believe that people from the developing part of the world must make most of the opportunity and experience the first class education.
Here, teachers don’t interact with the students directly, rather they address the students through Video Lectures, In-Lecture Quizzes, workshops, interviews, hangouts and discussions, providing reading material, and designing quizzes. That’s how they communicate until all the concepts are clear and you are ready to apply the concepts through your weekly assignment.
These courses go step by step, like pieces of a puzzle come one by one to complete the picture. You never realize that you have jumped so many levels of learning unknowingly, unconsciously and without any burden, though you have to be regular and efficient. You can’t do it without scheduling yourself properly. You have to fix certain study hours; otherwise you can’t meet the deadlines. Also, you have to be prepared to face power failure, internet connection fluctuation and computer craziness. So, here, no one can afford to leave the assignments to the last minute. Also, one has to be smart enough to access alternative multi-media resources like net cafes, libraries, university computer labs, etc.
Every week, they ask you to watch the video, read the relevant print material, base your weekly assignments on them, and, share your work, peer review, questions and issues regarding course through discussion forums, where students are very courteous, concerned and helpful towards each other. Many times one feels touched by their kindness and openness. They don’t hesitate to speak up their minds when it comes to share their real life experiences with others, no matter how complicated or messed up they are. Here, you will find people of any age from teenagers to senior citizen. You feel like a community when you find people having similar issues and perspectives despite living in remote parts of the world. Every time you feel, you are one of them. Their presence on the online course brings inspiration and encouragement. Hangouts are also a very effective source of work sharing and teacher and peer reviews.
Here, not only you have to spend some fixed hours on your studies, but also for peer reviews. The more you review others work, the more professional understanding and skill you develop for yourself. In return, other students will also do the same for you. Thus, you interact with multi-national, multi-cultural and multi-talented people around the world.
Rules and regulations are followed by the universities very strictly, despite all the cooperation from their end. This firm attitude of theirs not only helps you to be on time and be regular but also to take benefit of all the learning tools that they offer.
By the end of the day, you discover that you have not only learnt how to be an effective online learner but also become more proficient in your area.