What does this have to do with life in the Amazon you might ask? Everything! You see, now we can finally realize the full potential of MOOC offerings. MOOC is short for massive open online course. Think of it as a high tech answer to low tech correspondence classes. The leader is edx.org, a consortium of leading international universities, led by Harvard and MIT. All class offerings are free and include a certificate of mastery based upon satisfactory completion of course requirements. Another, for example: udacity.com and San Jose State University. They have partnered to offer a limited number of MOOCs, for a fee of US$150, which grants you transferable college credits. They achieve this by using proctored tests via webcam and remote monitoring tools. It is a very inexpensive way for a student, even in high school, to earn college credit. Details here: https://www.udacity.com/for-credit-faq. They also offer a free version of all their classes.
Why is this possible? Easy answer, the most hated company in Peru, Movistar (previously known as Telefónica Peru) invested about US$1.1 billion, yes, BILLION dollars in a new fiber optic line to connect rural Peru to broadband. I have written about my experiences with it previously. We now have true broadband across much of the province of Ucayali.
The results so far? On a personal level, I just completed a class offered via edx.org, called ER22x: Justice, with Professor Michael Sandel. I had previously attempted to take a few classes, but I was always limited by my inability to download the course materials (lengthy videos). What used to take hours to download, now takes just minutes. The entire edX experience has been fantastic.
From the course description:
Justice is a critical analysis of classical and contemporary theories of justice, including discussion of present-day applications. Topics include affirmative action, income distribution, same-sex marriage, the role of markets, debates about rights (human rights and property rights), arguments for and against equality, dilemmas of loyalty in public and private life. The course invites students to subject their own views on these controversies to critical examination.
The principal readings for the course are texts by Aristotle, John Locke, Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, and John Rawls. Other assigned readings include writings by contemporary philosophers, court cases, and articles about political controversies that raise philosophical questions.
Required readings from the text are made available, without charge, as the class progresses. Along the way, you are encouraged to participate in debates about the topics presented in lecture and our readings. Given the controversial nature of some of the topics, the discourse was surprisingly civil. The text used in class, Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? (2009) can also be purchased on Amazon. Prof. Sandel did an AMA (ask me anything) session with the most popular questions posted by students, answered via live streaming on YouTube. Viewing a live stream, mid-day, would not have been possible just 6 months ago.
The course ran/runs (I completed it already) from March 15th to July 31st. I had been scheduled to conclude on the 4th of June. The grading for the class was based on five quizzes and a final exam. The quizzes accounted for 25% of your grade, with the remaining 75% based on the final. Going into the class, I knew nothing about the professor but found the subject was very interesting. I had the unique opportunity of taking one of the most popular classes in Harvard history, taught by perhaps the greatest living political philosopher.
Based on my experience in Justice, I am currently enrolled in several other courses that have started or are in the coming days and months. I just completed the first cycle of,
HarvardX: PH278x Human Health and Global Environmental Change. The first section of the class had about 20+ hours of video to download, 12 quizzes and a short writing assignment. Yes, you actually have to write for some of these classes. That would not have been possible in the past, it would have worked out to be about 60 hours of nonstop downloads! The beauty of it is, I finished the first cycle a few weeks early. That allowed me to start the reading material on the second section of the class.
edX is amazing, but not perfect. It has brought learning to some of the most remote places on earth and enabled some to actually attend Harvard based upon their performance and contributions to some of the classes. Yes, it is in English, but some of the courses do offer transcripts of the videos and closed captions are sometimes included in other languages. However, the tests are in English.
I would encourage you to check out edx.org or others like it. You will, in all likelihood, find a subject that resonates with you. Learning is meant to be an enjoyable experience and so far, edx has done that. It is important to keep in mind that these classes can also be audited, you are just taking them to learn and not for a grade.Thanks for visiting! Let us know what we can do to improve our site.