Summer has been a quiet time. For me, my focus has remained on my mandolin practice with the addition of a Songwriting MOOC. A MOOC? A Massive Open Online Course. This course is offered periodically through Coursera in conjunction with a professor from the Berklee College of Music. The course is completely free over the Internet. There are reportedly tens-of-thousands enrolled worldwide with students over eighty-years-old participating. The lectures are pre-recorded. Every week for six weeks, new lessons, quizzes, and a writing assignment are released on Friday. The quizzes are automatically graded; the writing submissions are peer-reviewed by at least five fellow students. In the end, a grade is assigned.
The course is useful and fun for me, bringing me all of the way back to my high school days and earlier, analyzing and writing poetry and prose. In truth though, I'm enjoying it even more as a Zen exercise.
Ultimately, the only thing the course offers is what the student takes from it -- that and perhaps a certificate suitable for framing. There's really no notion of "passing" or "failing." There is no "permanent record;" the student registers online with any email address and can drop and take the class as many times has he or she likes. Still, just entering week three, there is already drama in the class forums. There are heartfelt class resignation notices, complaints about peer grading, complaints the video professor and fellow students don't understand, questions about whether to sacrifice personal style to bend to the will of the course, and even the infusions of eternal optimism… People pursue the points. People pursue the validation from their peers. People enjoy the social aspects. Others are networking, maybe falling just shy of advertising their work.
So, the interpersonal and personal struggles aside, there is also the technical aspect: Given the proscribed form, highlighting the important aspects of the lesson, express yourself.
There's more, of course. Stay tuned.