I’m Making My Own MOOC

If you haven’t read Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning,” you should. Even if you are a woman, thoughts shared by Frankl in “Man’s Search for Meaning” will still apply. If you have never heard of Viktor Frankl, it’s OK. I hadn’t heard of him, either. Viktor Frankl was an Austrian Jew, a Ph.D neuroscientist, and a survivor of Auschwitz, an infamous Nazi concentration camp. He is credited with a branch of psychoanalysis called “logotherapy.” In my simple words, logotherapy is about finding meaning in everything you do. By finding meaning, people find reasons to survive, to live, to achieve, and overcome. Everyone needs meaning in their life to rise out of bed each and every day, some more than others. A key to success is finding the meaning, developing that meaning, and sharing that meaning.

I live in a small town in western Kentucky, working at a small regional university of about 10,000 students. I struggle with trying to find ways of reaching more and more people. Why should I struggle? Why do I want to reach more and more people? I have this notion, perhaps wrong I willing to admit, people need more education than they currently have.

I bear my notion for a few reasons. I go through each day with the realization I do not know enough. I don’t know enough physics, chemistry, or biology. I don’t know enough about foreign policy or economics. I don’t know how people in Estonia live, and I don’t know what its like to wake up in a shantytown on the outskirts of Mumbai. I’m pretty sure most people in the United States can identify with my ignorance.

On my Thanksgiving drive to visit family in Kansas City, Missouri, I listened to 7 hours of the Naked Astronomy podcast. On my return trip, I listened to 5 hours of the EconTalk podcast. When I sit in my office, working, I listen to NPR & Diane Rehm in the morning and Neal Conan in the afternoon. In between their shows, I listen to podcasts. Apple’s iTunes University is a great place to pick up some good academic lectures for free. I’ve taken six courses on astronomy, a couple on quantum physics (by Leonard Susskind), and am working through a couple economics courses.

To follow in the footsteps of some prestigious educators, I am working towards my own massively open online courses. My first course is my World Geography course. I have been teaching World Geography for 15 years or so, and have some thoughts and feelings about geography. My second course is Weather and Climate. I have 125+ videos on YouTube [Channel: ConstantGeographer] to help guide people through both some geography concepts and through some weather and climate concepts.

The awesome result is the feedback I’ve received. I post my videos through Blackboard for my own students, but I also make all of my videos public. I haven’t received many comments, but I have received a few promising notes left behind by thankful students at other university. I have also received help from people in countries I cover who point out errors or who offer ways of improving my content. Now, I have a two-way conversation with people from around the world who can help me improve my material, and U.S. students are the beneficiaries of my improved material. And, I have a lot of improving to do, I admit.

The one complaint I get is my voice; I talk so and somewhat monotone. I have a good reason for speaking this way. I am not speaking merely for a U.S. audience, I am speaking for a global audience. I don’t enunciate well and am working on improving my speech. However, I have to consider the vast majority of my audience might not be U.S. students. I might have students throughout Africa, Asia, or South America. I need to be able to speak clearly enough for any person to understand me, not simply a U.S. student.

I invite anyone and everyone to view my YouTube videos and post comments, suggestions, recommendations, and corrections. I make no promises about their “entertainment” quality. Being the geographer version of Jon Stewart I’m not. And, as I said earlier, I do have a lot of updating to do. My goal is to turn each of these courses into a full and robust online learning experience for anyone to engage, in hopes I can make some small difference in the appreciation of learning and the pursuit of knowledge and education to people everywhere.

And, for those following my posts, like homeschoolingpenny, ninanerdface, dranthonysblog, fernando ortiz jr, elketeaches, and MeLectable, you have my gratitude 🙂


2 thoughts on “I’m Making My Own MOOC

    • Thank you for the interest! To answer all of your questions with a vague and overly simple answer: I don’t know. But, I know it can be done, following the model of http://mruniversity.com/. I am planning on authoring directly to iTunes, and perhaps run a parallel instance through WordPress. WordPress has some neat tools which can assist in developing a learning environment. As for credit or credential, again, a very good question which is at the forefront of my mind. Having taken a few MOOC courses myself, I don’t have anything much to show for it, other than some interesting conversation fodder. A “credentialed” MOOC is a notion being discussed at all levels of online education. Khan Academy, EdX, Coursera and others are working on figuring out how credentialing might be done. Right now, only Stanford has a credit-type MOOC available. A couple more high-profile schools, Harvard, Yale, and MIT, probably are working towards a for-credit MOOC, and perhaps of this reply, may have one ready to release for Summer 2013. A “World Geography” MOOC is a goal of mine, but I haven’t established a good development time-table.


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