I haven’t written about MOOCs in a while, and feel slightly guilty. The reason for not writing is that I’m not participating, or even auditing any MOOCs at the moment. I’m just not in the mood. There are so many interesting courses, and one of my problems certainly is, that instead of focussing on one thing, I have to have them all, hopping around, and then not doing anything. That’s how I function, sorry about that. Jack of all trades and master of nothing, that’s about it.
I’ve been thinking about adding a ‘Meandering Monday’ to my posting schedule, in order to be more flexible. Maybe later, maybe not, I’m not sure yet. Despite all the whining, there is a bit I can share:
I’ve been waiting for the MOOC “Plagues, Witches, and War: The Worlds of Historical Fiction” to run again for a while, with the intent to make it one of the few where I really do all the work and go for it. I’m not writing historical fiction (not because I don’ t have any ideas, but because of the amount of research it would take… maybe after I’m retired…) but having an idea about the genre would be useful and interesting, I thought. Imagine my excitement when I saw that coursera now offers the course as a ‘on demand’ course where you can work at your own pace and are not obliged to work with deadlines. I think it’s interesting to look into it. I’ve seen that there is a lot of reading required, reading I just don’t want to do just now, so I’ll put the course on hold a bit longer. But if any of you are interested, take a look.
Another reason why I don’t feel like taking courses right now is that I want to write regularly again, and read more. I’ve resumed reading A Song of Ice and Fire which I started a while ago, and then didn’t continue because I lost track and didn’t have enough time. I really, really want to get on with it, I like it very much, I also like the Game of Thrones TV series. The books are so full of ideas… it’s humbling, but also inspiring. I miss reading through the night, at every moment I can spare. I haven’t done that in far too long, there’s always something else to do. That has to change.
Another interesting thing those interested in courses and learning might want to know about is: Zooniverse.
Have you heard of Zooniverse? It’s a wondrous place for people who are interested in science, and who want to help scientists sort through their data. From the About page:
Real Science Online
The Zooniverse and the suite of projects it contains is produced, maintained and developed by the Citizen Science Alliance. The member institutions of the CSA work with many academic and other partners around the world to produce projects that use the efforts and ability of volunteers to help scientists and researchers deal with the flood of data that confronts them.
In this digital day and age, scientists are flooded with data. Visual, acoustical and numerical data. Too many data that one person, or a small group of people could view and evaluate alone. Computer programs can only do so much, and often the capabilities of abstraction of a human brain are needed, and work better, or compliment that of computers. And so the idea of the Zooniverse was born and became a huge success. Whether you want to look through historical records, look at the sea floor, try to find exotic particles in the Hadron Collider, count craters on the moon, or explore soldiers’ diaries from the first world war: it’s all there, and much more. There are over a million participants, and sometimes you are called for quick action, because a natural event only happens at a given time, and for a short period of time. Sometimes the project stops when enough data are evaluated. Sometimes the projects are ongoing for a long time.
There is no need to feel inadequate either. All the images I evaluate, for instance, will be seen, and evaluated by other people, too. So, if there is something unusual going on, there will be more than one alert, or, if you’re not evaluating right, it will be corrected by that of others. It’s also good to see how meticulous, and sometimes tedious, science works.
When you discover something, you’ll be famous, as happened here: http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2009MNRAS.399..129L — and all the participants in those successful projects will be acknowledged. So, if you want to give scientists a hand, hop over to the Zooniverse, become a member, and have fun.