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Bits and bobs about my life in my lovely home, Thatchwick Cottage, Pretoria, South Africa.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

On the other side of the chalkboard or, me and my MOOC

Last night I found myself on the other side of the chalkboard – a student listening attentively to the wisdom of the teacher. I read the course instructions, once, no, twice and then all over again. I struggled to open the correct links and felt the frustration of a distance education student who cannot just put up her hand and say, “Excuse me, Professor, but can you help over here?” I felt the panic of the new student who is overwhelmed with deadlines. The tables were turned; the teacher became a student again.

What happened?

I have enrolled for a MOOC – a Massive Open Online Course – presented without charge. This MOOC is offered by the ‘Writing University’, the University of Iowa considered the top university specialising in creative writing in the US. What a privilege and one of the mind-boggling benefits of living in the technological age! Here I am in Africa transported to the classroom of a university thousands of miles away. Of course, this should not surprise me – I have been teaching at a distance university for nearly 30 years. But my tuition only stretches to email and in-text comments on my students’work.

I viewed my first YouTube lecture presented by two established novelists from different cultural contexts and with what first appeared to be juxtaposed views on the writing process. But in the end, they converged on so many points – writing needs time and discipline, requires no formal qualification just the compelling desire to express oneself, its outcome, the joy of creation.

Grace Notes: Grace turned a week old on Thursday. She has exceeded her birth weight, weighing in at 2,6kg. She opens her eyes and stares wonderingly at my face, then falls asleep again. All is well.

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