Trevis Rothwell's weblog

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Learning Creative Learning finale

02 May 2013

The MIT Media Lab course on Learning Creative Learning for Spring 2013 has come to an end. While the course boasted twenty or so in-person students who received academic credit, I was one of over 10,000 online students who signed up just for fun. Statistics show that less than 10% of students registered in such online classes actually participate meaningfully, with recent anecdotes suggesting that the number may be closer to 4%. I would estimate that around 150 people (1-2%) appeared to be engaged with Learning Creative Learning.

I’ve written elsewhere about some specific things that we explored in this course, but the major takeaway for me was simply reinforcement of the value of creative learning: don’t just read a book or listen to a lecture, but do something with what you are learning. Reading the popular news over the past couple of years, a lot of people seem thrilled with the free online classes offered by such great institutions as Harvard or Stanford. Big name lectures broadcast on the web is indeed interesting, but if we think we are amazing students just because we listen to amazing lectures, we are fooling ourselves. Write about what you are studying. Build something with the knowledge you’ve gained. Contribute. Create.

The final LCL session was an opportunity for students to offer ideas to the teaching staff on ways to improve the course. The biggest problem cited over and over was that, while there was plenty of interaction amongst the class participants overall, dividing the class into small groups for deeper discussion really didn’t work. If you have a small group of ten people, and only 10% of them participate in the discussion, then you don’t get a very lively discussion!

Despite such shortcomings, many aspects of the course were great. Interesting lectures and guest speakers, plenty (but not too much) good reading, and much emphasis on doing something rather than just consuming facts. I look forward to seeing how this course and related efforts develop in the future.