You learn something new every day.

This is a favourite adage of mine. I often say it in response to some new, fascinating piece of knowledge or experience that has come my way. There’s so much in this world to learn and do and I believe in making the most of that.

Enter Coursera, to help me in my quest. Coursera offers a wide range of massive open online courses (MOOCs) from universities around the globe. At the moment I’m midway through two courses with Coursera: “Fantasy and Science Fiction: The human mind, our modern world” and “Introduction to Art: Concepts and Techniques”.

Information is shared through text, videos and forum discussions. Assignments are collected through online forms and marked by fellow participants in the class. This latter has its upsides and its downsides. Peer assessment allows these courses to scale – they can be offered, free of charge, to a huge number of people at once. However, the criticism is not always constructive or even present – I’ve found that my peers in the Art course tend to mark rather generously and criticise with reluctance.

These courses can be whatever you want them to be: as participatory as you’d like, depending on how much you use the forums; as challenging as you’d like, depending on how much you give to the assignments.

What I find most challenging is making time for the learning activities of two courses in addition to a full-time job, a life and writing fiction. But it’s very worth it.

Check Coursera out. There are courses on every subject in many languages. There’s always more to learn.

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