I am having a go at paying for a Massive Online Learning Course, a MOOC. MOOCs, which is just a great word to say out loud, are on-line classes available for free to take, but with a fee if you want to earn a certificate that looks cool on a resume. The classes attract students from around world.

I’ve taken classes before, mostly just to learn something new. In those cases there wasn’t anything at stake. I watched the videos, read the suggested articles, participated in the on-line discussion forums, and took the test to prove to myself I was getting informed. This is a typical format for on-line courses. I took a course on Global Health (because, why not) a couple of years ago. It was free and had a short commitment, 4 or 5 weeks, a couple hours each week. That particular MOOC had very dynamic discussion forums, including providers and policy makers from around the world. That kind of access is one of the draws of a MOOC.

The course I’m taking now is Accounting: Principles of Financial Accounting. I’m paying for it so I get a certificate that I can attach to my resume. There are 5 courses under this title, but I’m just taking the first one which focuses on how to build and read a basic balance sheet. And that will be all the Accounting knowledge I’m willing to put in this brain of mine at this time.

Since I whipped out my credit card for enrollment, I feel like I have an obligation to get my money’s worth. Turns out, I have residual highschool fears of accounting. Those fears came raging back right about 5 minutes in, at the very first formula: A = L + OE [Allow me to show off: Assets = Liabilities + Owner Equity…Thank you].While accounting still makes me cringe, I’m now alone with my feelings because I’m alone in my physical space. Now, I can weep silently without embarrassment.

Also, I don’t have the distractions of having a crush on the smart boy in the corner (I’ve been derailed there before) because if there’s any boy in the corner I’ll be calling the police. The privacy means that once I’m done over-reacting, I can get right back down to the principles of accounting.

The beauty of taking a course outside my box, is that I can do it relatively at my own pace (though, there are hard due dates to gain a certificate). I can watch the videos over and over and read the material wherever and whenever I want. The way I gather knowledge has changed since my last brick and mortar school experience. Computer screens have killed my attention span, but also given me a new way to collect and organize the course data in ways that works specifically for me.

To gain the certificate, I have to watch the videos, read the material and take one quiz a week for four weeks and score 80% or higher. When I pulled up the first test, I was a bit nervous. I failed. Luckily, you get three chances to pass. In reviewing before the retake, all my “math” work was right, just needed to focus. I took a deep breath, retook, and got 100%.

Studies on MOOC’s suggest only a small number of people who start a course, finish it. Some of these course are proceed at your own pace, with no time-lines for completion. Starting something is easy, seeing it through and finishing it does take effort. There’s money at stake for me. That’s not exactly what they’re teaching me in this accounting course, but some financial (and life) lessons I already know.

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