Online and Learning

Without denying the various challenges affecting the non-profit / for-impact sector, it’s good to recognize the strengths, capabilities, and resources that we have access to today that would have been beyond our reach as recently as a few decades ago. In particular, I’m thinking about the explosion of online learning resources, ranging from blogs to webinars to full-fledged courses. Offerings in that last category, usually referred to as MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), are led by instructors from around the world and can include thousands of participants: for example, the Infographics course I enrolled in last winter reached its enrollment cap of 5,000 participants, representing students from 133 countries.

Like any educational method, MOOCs have both strengths and drawbacks, including a “one-size” approach that might not work with your style of learning. However, online learning has two big advantages for the busy non-profit with a small budget: they are usually free, and they can be done on your own timeline. At the very least, a MOOC can provide an overview of a topic as well as help identify knowledge and skill gaps.

If you’re in the for-impact sector, there are three online courses starting in the next week that might be of interest:

  • Principles of Project Management (Instructor: Sue Dawson, Polytechnic West [Australia]). An important topic for anyone in management or supervisory positions, but I think it would be generally useful for anyone in a non-profit setting given how much of our work is project-based. This course started this past week, so if you’re interested it’s best to sign up sooner than later!
  • How to Change the World (Instructor: Michael S. Roth, Wesleyan University). If your ambitions stretch beyond an individual project, check out this six-week offering starting January 20th. Based on discussions from the Social Good Summit, topics include poverty, climate change, disease, and education, with a focus on what we know, why should we care, and what we can do.
  • Introduction to Learning Technologies (Instructor: Heather Ross, University of Saskatchewan). A local offering that’s being called (perhaps slightly tongue-in-cheek, given the season) a TOOC, or a Truly Open Online Course. The focus is on using common online tools and platforms to support teaching and learning, including blogs, podcasts, wikis, Twitter, and more. Although the primary audience is the higher education sector, it looks like a great course that could provide useful insights for changemakers, especially since education and awareness-building activities are crucial for creating broader impact. This course officially starts January 21st, but in line with the “truly open” ethos, all materials are already online. (Full disclosure: My signficant other works in the same office as the course instructor.)

Looking for other options? Lifehacker has a list of interesting courses coming up, as well as sources for finding more options if those listed don’t suit your fancy. Personally, I’ve signed up for the Learning Technologies TOOC with the hope that some of the skills I develop there will be useful in growing Strong Roots’ web and social media presence. I might sign up for one or both of the other options, but I want to make sure I don’t over-commit and I can give the material the attention it deserves.

Are you enrolled in any MOOC’s or other learning opportunities? Share them in the comments below!