Free online courses are helping learners of all types improve their careers and enrich their personal lives. Class Central users visit from all over the world looking for quality courses, and we like to highlight these learners periodically. We caught up Michael, who agreed to be interviewed for this article.
Class Central: Hi, thank you for taking the time to talk with us. We love to hear about how learners are using online classes.
Michael: Thank you for having me. I hope my experiences can help others.
Class Central: What is your formal educational background?
Michael: Well, formally, I graduated from high school. I didn’t go to college because I had some financial difficulties, so I didn’t get to go. But I’ve been very successful in business. That shows that degrees aren’t everything. There’s also street smarts. And intuition. Business is about relationships. And trust.
Class Central: I see. When did you first hear about MOOCs?
Michael: What’s a mukes?
Class Central: Oh, it stands for ‘Massive Open Online Course’
Michael: Why is that called a mukes?
Class Central: Well, let’s call them free online courses…when did you first hear about these online courses?
Michael: I was at the library last year and the librarian Penny told me about them.
Class Central: That’s great to hear, were you at the library looking for resources to learn new things?
Michael: No, I was returning some DVDs.
Class Central: I see. What was the first online course you took?
Michael: I took a class on ‘How to Argue and Influence People’.
Class Central: Oh, do you mean the class ‘Think Again: How to Reason and Argue’?
Michael: No, I think it was ‘How to Argue and the Reason to Influence People’
Class Central: Okay, that sounds like a mix of a course and a book by Dale Carnegie, but…
Michael: I’m the one that took it, I should know what I took…
Class Central: Okay, well why did you choose that course?
Michael: At work I’m the boss and I tell people what to do, but sometimes they want to argue with me. So I wanted a way to use logic to shut them up so they will just do what I say. Also, it was first on the list.
Class Central: Oh, I see. So you took it to enhance your career? Did the course help you in your job?
Michael: Yes, I framed the certificate and put it on my wall in my office. When people argue with me, I just point to it–and end of discussion!
Class Central: Okay, but did you actually learn to argue your points better?
Michael: No, why do you ask?
Class Central: Well, I assume that’s the purpose of taking the course, so that you can think and argue better…
Michael: But I don’t want to argue, I want the opposite–I want to shut down the argument. I don’t want to open a can of worms, I want to open a can of…whoop ass! Argue with my certificate! Hoo-yah! You can’t do it! Cuz paper doesn’t talk…
I don’t want to open a can of worms, I want to open a can of whoop ass!
Class Central: (disoriented pause). Um, okay, interesting. Well, what did you think of the course content?
Michael: It was good. After listening to the lectures, I slept better at night.
Class Central: Because you became more confident in your reasoning abilities?
Michael: No, because I played the lectures in bed to help me fall asleep. When I play them at 75% speed, the teacher sounds like my Uncle Joe from when I was a kid. He had a deep, soothing voice, like the waves in a reflection pond.
I play the lectures at night…to help me fall asleep
Class Central: So did you pay attention to the content? I mean, you had to take quizzes and do assignments, right?
Michael: Well, I tried some of that, but it was broken.
Class Central: What was broken?
Michael: I tried a quiz, and after a few times, it just stopped working…
Class Central: Oh, that’s too bad. How many times did you try it?
Michael: About a hundred.
Class Central: Oh. wow, I see…so, I’m a little confused, if you didn’t take the quizzes or assignments, how did you get your verified certificate?
Michael: It was easy for me. My computer has a special button called PrtSc. I don’t know what it stands for, but I can print anything on my screen.
Class Central: Oh, you printed your screen? Um, what exactly does it say on your certificate?
Michael: Let’s see, it’s right here…’Welcome to Think Again How to Reason and Argue’.
Class Central: (sigh). Oh, okay. And did you pay anything for it?
Class Central: Didn’t think so…okay, anyway, I guess people have different goals when they come to a course, right? Tell me, how did you find time to do the course and try the quiz a hundred times and all that?
Michael: Well I make time during my busy schedule at work, either in the mornings or afternoons. I have a good support network at work. When I have a problem logging on, they support me.
Class Central: That’s great to hear. What other courses did you take besides this one?
Michael: Well, I signed up for ‘Science and Happiness’, ‘Filmmaking’, and ‘How to Become Rich in Six Months’.
Class Central: Um, somehow I don’t think the last one is a university-based online course…but tell me, why did you choose these courses?
Michael: Well, I picked ‘Science and Happiness’ because I want to be a scientist and happy with my girlfriend Holly. I picked ‘Filmmaking’ because I wrote a script and want to star in and direct my own movie. And I also want to be rich. I want to be a rich, happy scientist director who stars in his own movies. Like Clint Eastwood. But not as old. So I guess like Ben Affleck, you could say.
I want to be a rich, happy scientist director who stars in his own movies
Class Central: Well, it’s good to have goals, and to be able to articulate them so, uh, clearly. So did you take those classes?
Michael: I’m taking Science and Happiness right now.
Class Central: I think its ‘Science of Happiness’, right?
Michael: Maybe. Well the big secret is that science says you can’t be happy. You see, people think things will make them happy, but then science proves that those things don’t really make you happy. So your happiness is fake, according to science. And so the only real way to be happy is to be a scientist. Then there’s no conflict.
The only real way to be happy is to be a scientist
Class Central: Okay, interesting. Well, maybe you’ll learn more about this as you go through the course. How much of the course have you gone through so far?
Michael: Just the first video clip from the first module. I go at my own pace.
Class Central: Oh, that’s right, it’s a self-paced course. So how long are you planning to take to go through it?
Michael: Probably about thirty to forty years, so I’m pacing myself. One video clip a year, on my birthday.
Class Central: What?? Thirty or forty years? Why so long?
Michael: I want to be happy for the rest of my life. I’m not just thinking about the short term here.
Class Central: I see…I guess that makes sense, in a way. Well, are you at least looking at the discussion board?
Michael: What’s a discussion board?
Class Central: Um, never mind… What about the other courses, the film one, and the, the–getting rich one?
Michael: I’ll take those after I finish the happiness one. Happiness is my first priority. Then come other things in life.
Class Central: Of course. So Michael, let me take a step back and–
Michael: I hope you’re not on a ledge! (guffaw)
Class Central: (chuckle) Yes, well let me re-orient us here–
Michael: (shrieks) That’s what she said!
Class Central: Okay, slightly inappropriate, but… I can see you’re starting to get silly Michael. I’ll just ask you a couple more questions that we ask all of the learners we talk to.
Michael: (suppressed snortle) Okay, okay, go ahead.
Class Central: Have online courses enabled you to get an education you otherwise wouldn’t have access to?
Michael: Um, I’d say…no. There’s a community college here, but I’m too lazy to go there. I tried once, but it shares the parking lot with the mall, and I got distracted wandering around, there’s a new magic store where–
There’s a community college…but I’m to lazy to go
Class Central: Okay, okay, that’s fine. Um, my last question for you. How have online courses improved your life?
Michael: Well, let’s see. I sleep better at night. It’s harder for HR to fire me for incompetence because I have more qualifications. My resume goes to three pages now. I can tell my employees I’m smarter than them because I have more degrees. I’m better at clicking YouTube buttons. I also run…
Class Central: Okay, okay Michael, that’s enough of an answer, thanks.
Michael: Well this has changed my life! I think everyone should be forced to take online courses–at gunpoint, if necessary, for their own good and for society, so we can all be educated and freedom-loving citizens. They are Michael Scott-approved! You can quote me on that…
Everyone should be forced to take online courses–at gunpoint if necessary
Class Central: Actually, this is an interview, so the idea is that I’m quoting everything you’re saying. But thank you so much for ending–er doing this interview. Your comments are invaluable.
Michael: Well I’m disappointed you don’t think they are valuable…
Class Central: No, they are! I misspoke, I’m sorry. Thanks so much Michael…!
Michael: You’re welcome!