Right Away: MOOCing advocates among us

05 Nadiyka Gerbish_largeby Nadiyka Gerbish

Every now and then we all have some wonderful insights. Or receive short letters that bring us some revolutionary news (that is how I discovered iversity). But as time passes, we tend to forget those small, but hugely important things. And all we need then is just an ordinary, everyday miracle of inspiration met around the corner. Just a magic kick in the pants, as one of my friends puts it.

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Photo by Nadiyka Gerbish

Yesterday I went to my favorite café to have my daily dose of hot cocoa. Actually, the truth is, I go there for my daily dose of inspiration. It’s a small, cozy, a bit disheveled, and quite artistic café with beautiful photographs and some absurd paintings on the walls, and the huge wooden bookshelves with lots and lots of books. All kinds of students and all kinds of artists usually spend their time there, have some snacks and their own doses of whatever in the café. There are some other kinds of visitors as well – usually around lunch time. They do not look like people who come there to catch their Muse or something. I guess they aren’t watercolor absurdity fans as well. But the snacks are cheap there, and the coffee is strong.

So yesterday, when I came to the café, there was that girl. She was slim, and beautiful, and stylish, and fresh. And she looked really happy and passionate. There were headphones in her ears, and her latte stood on the table untouched. The girl’s gaze was set on her laptop screen; she was jotting down some notes into her tiny yellow moleskine; sometimes she frowned, and sometimes she smiled. She was so engaged in the process, that suddenly I felt an invincible desire to know what was going on there.

I didn’t mean to peer, I promise, but somehow I did. There was some inspired, clever-looking speaker on the screen. I could bet the girl was watching a MOOC! When the session was finished, she happily took the headphones out, minimized the speaker, and went to her Facebook page. She peeped into her moleskine – and her fingers typed a short post. I could not see the words, but I was sure her post had something to do with the MOOC she had watched.

“Hey, what course are you taking?” I smiled and asked the girl.

She looked at me and smiled back. She seemed really glad I had asked her that question. She answered – and her answer carried the air of a genuine passion. Obviously, she liked to talk about the subject she was interested in so much.

So we sat there, sipping our cold drinks (though they were supposed to be hot) and chatting. We spoke about her subject for a while, and then we started sharing our thoughts about MOOCing, about online education, about education in general.

There were two guys at the next table who stopped their conversation and were listening to ours, looking rather sarcastic. I could tell they were neither students, nor artists. And, yeah, it was the lunchtime.

“Girl, wanna study? Go to school, not to the wi-fi café!” one of them half-said, half-barked at last.

She could have ignored him, or, at least, she could have told him to mind his own business. But she acted as an ambassador of education instead.

“Let me tell you one beautiful romantic story,” the girl answered politely. “I met my husband on the Internet. On Facebook, actually. It was about four years ago, and y’know what? I still think he is the best man on earth. And what is even more important, because of that Facebook chat I have the most precious 16-month old son. Right now he is enjoying a walk with his Daddy in the park while I have this wonderful time studying what I love. You want to study? So you can! And yes, I mean YOU. And yes, I mean, YOU CAN. Want me to show you how?”

The men let out some crooked smiles, and said they had to hurry back to work. The girl smiled at me and winked. I smiled back and reached for my phone. Oh boy, I definitely had to start MOOCing right away.