sociology 101 – week 1

I can hardly believe it’s been 6 years almost to the day (16th of June 2006) that I finished my degree at SOAS. Since then I have completed 6 terms of Mandarin school, but language school requires little critical thinking. Even though once I reached an advanced level I was supposed to be doing newspaper classes and commenting on current affairs, the level of actual research and debate remained kind of elementary.

I’ve thought about doing a variety of Masters degrees over the intervening years since I graduated. I researched MAs in Art History, Curatorship, Geology (that was a shocker actually) and more recently Counselling. But the cost — and to be honest, the commitment — prevented from me ever putting too much serious thought into the matter. Maybe when I am an Australian citizen — but I’ll be in my thirties by then so it’s silly to plan that far ahead.

I saw Coursera.org linked to on Facebook a few weeks ago, and decided to sign up for the Sociology 101 course. It goes for 6 weeks and it’s completely free, and is provided by Princeton University, although of course it has no credit value. I don’t care, I just really like that I can do this course for free, online, from wherever I am in the world. I signed up from Taiwan, did the first session here in France, and will be doing the second session in Spain next week. It’s really interesting and is so very relevant to the work I was doing with David at Engaging Minds. I feel like this is a really helpful step as I continue in my moving towards what I am meant to be doing.

It’s a little challenging — in a good way! — to be reading academic material again. I tend to read a paragraph, realise I haven’t really taken in its meaning, and have to re-read it, sometimes several times. I got the readings done in the end though, and felt suitably accomplished even though they were pretty basic — my academic brain is kind of rusty. But the lectures are really engaging, and I luuuurve the little pop quiz at the end of each segment!

I did find the live seminar painful though. I am so horribly intolerant and listening to other students stammer their opinions out is frustrating. I wish I could have subtitles and turn their voices off! Also the frequent, not-so-subtle promotion of Princeton is a little annoying, but I guess it’s the price to pay for free education? Hopefully it will decrease as the course progresses.

Anyway, I hesitated about writing about it on here, but I think it is a good idea to try and hold myself accountable (even if no1curr but me). And I would definitely recommend the Coursera system to other people for the time being. I really want to sign up for a few of the longer courses but I am waiting to see how I go with Sociology first. I was surprised at the concept of a “free open university” but I suppose if it doesn’t have any accreditation then it’s not that implausible… I will keep you posted.

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