I’m in the final week of Understanding Media by Understanding Google. It has been a fantastic course, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about tech, media or Google.
As a recent transplant to the Bay Area, the course has given me a well-timed overview of Google’s evolution and recent tech history. We have looked at Google’s disruption of search, books, advertising, video, and mobile (including an interesting discussion on wearable tech). This week we’ll look at privacy, an issue I’ve really been looking forward to since doing the background research for this article.
Professor Youngman is a likeable and effective online teacher (check out his website for his thoughtful analyses on various aspects of the course). We’ve been provided links for most of the 85 assigned background readings. The Professor’s team has obviously put in a lot of effort to produce the excellent lectures and additional resources—such as Google Hangouts with the authors of the course textbooks. The discussion forums have been buzzing, if slightly overwhelming.
There have been many articles discussing the merits or otherwise of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Do they work? Will they replace traditional universities? Do they cost universities too much?
My view is that MOOCs should be judged with a bit of common sense. No, they do not replace a traditional qualification in most cases. Yes, they are a genuine learning tool for many people who, for various reasons (such as already having qualifications), want to keep learning but don’t want to study a full degree. No, they are not as social as a traditional degree (although there has been plenty of online socialisation on the forums for this course). Yes, it is hard to stay motivated when you haven’t got any skin in the game. And yes, they are also a great advertisement for the Professor, Northwestern University, Google, and the authors of the course textbooks.
The biggest lesson I have taken away from this course is that if you aren’t paying for something online, it’s likely that you are the product. In this case, the learning benefits I have received have been so great that any data I’ve handed over, or advertising I’ve consumed, seems a fair price to pay.
Photo credit: owenyoungman.com