I'm taking a MOOC. I just love the word - it has that bovine, juvenile sound to it. A MOOC is a massive open online course. A hallmark of a MOOC is that there is no limit to the number of people taking the class or where they are from. There are hundreds of MOOCs offered from universities around the world and many are free.
The one I'm taking is through the University of Iowa's prestigious writing program. It's called, How Writers Write Fiction 2016: Storied Women.
The course is structured like a traditional college class (I've taken a few over the years) where there is a lecture, required reading, supplemental reading, and an assignment. In addition to video lectures, the organizers have tasked a large instructor group to moderate discussions, answer questions, and keep students interacting. The stories I have written are not being graded. However, they are being reviewed and commented on by other students. This can be tricky as with all criticism, whether in it's quality or its tone. I've also stacked the deck with a few of my writing peeps so I know that I'll get honest feedback.
I've connected with writers from across the world. And I've met people writing in my own town and who have graduated from George Mason University. These new voices and perspectives are welcome and enrich my writing world. When you are exposed to ideas and writing outside your regular interests you grow as a writer.
The stories I have written, which I will eventually post on the blog, are different from my usual ideas. That is one of the greatest benefits of taking a class, it requires you to look outside your door and muck about in the world. It's not always comfortable but it is always challenging.
But why would a university go through the trouble of offering free content? Simple, they gain a tremendous amount of value. Instructors can evaluate material and promote their programs. The feedback helps develop and refine courses. This will eventually turn into revenue. My experience has been positive and while this class was free, I can see paying for a future one.
So check out a MOOC, connect with the world.