Personal Learning Environment: Choose and Keep Track of Your Online Courses

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Personal Learning Environment: Choose and Keep Track of Your Online Courses

In a recent blog post, Free Online University Courses we presented a list of places where you will find online courses for free. We also wrote about how to determine your learning needs in Create a Learning Plan, the Key to Structuring Learning and Keeping Skills Sharp. The intent of both blog posts was for professionals to keep their skills sharp without having to break the bank. Training budgets are the first to be eliminated when the economy slows down therefore it’s important to take charge of your professional development, and free online courses can assist you. But how can you keep track of your online courses when you are taking multiple courses? The answer is to create a personal learning environment.

According to Educause, “The term personal learning environment (PLE) describes the tools, communities, and services that constitute the individual educational platforms that learners use to direct their own learning and pursue educational goals.”

If you are taking an online course, it’s likely that you want to learn a new skill or sharpen an existing one. If that is the case, you will also be interested in any information that’s related to what you are trying to learn – articles, blog posts and web pages on the subject matter, videos, podcasts, you name it. You not only want to collect content, but you also want to curate that content as well.

If you have been reading The Invisible Mentor blog for a while now, you know that professional development is big for me. I am always looking for a way to take my skills to new levels. I have already gone the formal route with my education and I have both an undergraduate and graduate degrees. However, I have been reading about the value of having a liberal arts degree – you are more change hardy, think outside the box and are more flexible. Since I read so much, and write reviews for this blog, I am always thinking about how to perform in a different and better way.

Using the resources I presented to discover free online courses developed by universities, I created a list of courses for me to take. At this point in my life, I am interested in Arts and Humanities courses, and I already knew the types of courses that I wanted to take. Most of the resources have search functionalities, so I used that, and for those that didn’t, the courses are listed by disciplines so I could easily scan the list and choose. Over the next year, starting in September 2013, the following are the courses that I plan to take to get my non-degreed liberal arts education using free classes online.

Free Classes Online to Take During One Year

Introduction to Visual Thinking
http://webcast.berkeley.edu/playlist#c,s,All,17E8512F6565AC39
10 lectures
I am curious about what it means to think visually.

Great Big Ideas
http://www.openculture.com/2012/11/great_big_ideas.html
12 lectures
I am always interested in learning about big ideas and how to generate them.

History of Architecture
https://itunes.apple.com/us/course/history-of-architecture-i/id570008367
49 lectures
Architecture is about constructing something, what would happen if I was able to take the idea and apply it to another discipline?

SmARThistory
http://smarthistory.khanacademy.org/
Repository for lots of videos
Look at what maps tell us http://smarthistory.khanacademy.org/what-maps-tell-us.html
1 page of information on a website
For the next iteration of the Virtual Literary Tour, I intend to blend literature, with technology, history and geography. I will use Google Earth and Google Maps. Studying what maps can tell us could potentially strengthen my project.

Creative Reading
http://www.openculture.com/william_s_burroughs_class_on_creative_reading_
2 lectures
In any given year, I read over 150 books, I am always looking to improve myself, so how can I read more creatively. What could I learn from the course to improve my book summaries and reviews?

Creative Writing
https://itunes.apple.com/us/course/creative-writing-master-class/id550002605
43 lectures
I am a writer, and the focus of my writing is business. How can I apply creative writing to non-fiction?

The Elements of Drawing
https://itunes.apple.com/itunes-u/the-elements-of-drawing/id442428860?mt=10
9 lectures
In high school I wasn’t very good in art and taking the elements of drawing will allow me to push my limits to see what will occur.

Cultural Anthropology
http://ocw.vu.edu.pk/Videos.aspx?cat=Sociology&course=SOC401
4 lectures
Anthropology is the study of humans, past and present. I want to learn more about people and their motivations, and I think this is a good start.

Reinventing the Fairy Tale
http://ocw.nd.edu/english/reinventing-the-fairy-tale
27 lectures
Fairy Tales often have a hidden message that is a profound life lessons. I have read my fairy tales – Aesop Fables, Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen, Grimm’s Brothers Fairy Tales, and Best-Loved Folktales of the World. I want to deepen my understanding of the deeper meaning of these fairy tales.

While I was attending university, options for length of classes were three times a week for an hour, twice a week for 75 minutes, or once a week for three hours. For many of the professional development courses I have taken, they were every day for a week. In one instance, it was from 8:30 am to 9 pm. I plan to dedicate 3 hours 6 – 9 am twice a week to complete courses. If I have to drop one class it will be elements of drawing. I plan to complete these free online classes by September 2014.

Rationale for Taking These Courses

My courses will be very different from yours. I keep on reading that people who have a liberal arts degree are very change hardy and that they make exceptional leaders. I want to test this hypothesis for myself.

Another Case Study for Courses to Take

Let’s say for argument sake that you work for a multinational that conducts business in several Spanish speaking countries. As with most companies operating today, XYZ is interested in cutting costs, and increasing revenues. In your department, you have an idea of how to increase revenues with a game and an app that will enhance the customer service experience. After conducting your Personal SWOT Analysis and reviewing your learning needs to ensure that you remain relevant to any employer, you decided that you would like to take a Spanish course as well as a few computer science courses. You are upgrading your skills first for yourself, and second for your employer.Spanish Classes Online Options

5 Minute Spanish I
The University of Arkansas offers an introduction to Spanish
https://itunes.apple.com/us/itunes-u/5-minute-spanish-i/id487338699
37 lectures
With language courses if you do not use it you lose it would be great to take the course with another person. You can find more options for free Spanish courses at: http://www.openculture.com/freelanguagelessons.

HTML5 Game Development
https://www.udacity.com/course/cs255
There are 8 video-based classes.

An Introduction to Interactive Programming in Python
https://www.coursera.org/course/interactivepython
This course is nine weeks long

Mobile Web Development
https://www.udacity.com/course/cs256
This course is new so it is still being developed. This is a growing area.

App Development
Codecademy is a great place to learn to code http://www.codecademy.com.
The Creative Blog has a blog post, “How to build an app: 40 great tutorials” which offers you several options to learn how to build apps.

This is just an example of a personal curriculum that you can construct for yourself. If you are doing it for real, you would decide which course you want to take first and schedule it so you actually take it. In Part II we will create a personal learning environment to manage the courses.

Have you ever created a personalized curriculum based on free classes online? How about a personal learning environment? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below. If you enjoyed this post, please share it.

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  1. […] I will be taking over the next 12 months to obtain my non-degreed liberal arts education. In Personal Learning Environment: Choose and Keep Track of Your Online Courses, I presented the nine free online courses that I plan to take over the next year as I work through […]

  2. […] nine courses between September 2013 and September 2014, but I started last week since I had already chosen my courses and established a personal learning environment. The good news is that I am really enjoying the […]

  3. […] a video of Nadine Gordimer (I read and recommend July’s People) speaking as a part of  my creative writing course for my non-degreed liberal arts education, she said, “Information does not replace illumination,” which to me was a nugget of brilliance. […]