The problem when you live in Japan is that everything is in Japanese, especially for those of us who live in areas that are not as connected globally. You do have to rely on the local language most of the time–so if you choose to take classes, most of it will be in Japanese.
Enter online learning.
I’m surprised I haven’t written anything about this topic at all.
Ever since I discovered that I can still keep on studying–all for free–I’ve been off and on taking courses from Coursera.
I love it. It’s been such an awesome experience. Right now, I am enrolled in two courses about environmental science. I decided to take some introductory courses to see whether I really want to go after that PhD in Environmental Science.
I am learning a lot of the basics. It’s all very interesting so far. I am solidifying a lot of core facts from the news I’ve been hearing all these years. Before, environmental studies used to be very vague information about climate change and global warming. Now, I’m understanding the mechanisms of how these systems work. I am looking at the science, basically the physics and the chemical components of how they happen, and I can keep up with it–somehow.
I then asked myself whether I can see myself doing this for the next three to six years, and I decided that yes, I can. I’m fascinated by all this. I have fully committed to getting that PhD. I really want to go for it now. At least, I’m going to try to get into the program.
This wouldn’t have been possible without Coursera, which is a MOOC, or massive open online course. I’ve also taken a class on EdX. Anybody who has access to the internet and are interested in taking classes that are free and available can sign up through both of theses sites.
There are many classes available. I usually go for the free ones, but you can also choose those that are paid. Usually, these have more bells and whistles, like certificates to show you’ve taken the class. There’s also more contact with the class administrators if you pay. You’re also limited to what EdX and Coursera have to offer, but some of the classes are really high quality from universities like MIT, Harvard, and Dartmouth.
I like that some of them you can study at your own pace. Others classes have strict assignment deadlines that have to be met. You can take quizzes and do the readings. Some of the homework is really interactive–I have to design my own earth for one of my environmental classes.
Besides MOOCs, another option is Apple’s iTunes University, which also offers a lot of courses from world-renowned universities. This is all free–but you do need an Apple device to access them and we all know that these gadgets are not always cheap.
There are many reasons why anyone would want to take these courses. Some want to get certifications for their jobs. Others want to learn a new skill or just to improve something that they’re already learning. Personally, I originally wanted to take a course taught by a very famous professor in the field of International Relations: Dr. Jeffrey Sachs. I took his course on Sustainability and I’ve been hooked ever since. Now, I am just learning for learning’s sake.
Taking these courses has unleashed the nerdiness in me. I try to do the classes when I can. I love that my schedule gives me the freedom to do.