It’s time to choose your next brain exercise! (or, an edX review)

I quite like studying, as evidenced by the fact I took a leisurely 6 years to finish a 4 year degree and even went back later to attempt (and fail) my Honours in Psychology. Since graduating and working full-time though, I’ve been put off further study mostly by the cost. When you have a mortgage and everything that goes with that, and you don’t want to study to actually further your career and therefore can’t justify the additional cost, it’s frustrating. I kept seeing mentions of the revolution in higher education and how elite universities were starting to offer courses online. For FREE. It was one of those items on my to do list in life and then one day I decided it was time to really look into it and that’s how I ended up doing a bioethics course through Georgetown University.

This is a revolution, for people just like me – who want to study but want to be able to choose the pace and intensity, and want to do it for pleasure and therefore have limited financial resources to invest. Interestingly now I’ve done a free course I would definitely consider paying for one, now that I know what’s involved.

I chose my course through the EdX platform, which was one of a few that came up when I started looking into it. I found it really easy to use, although some people seemed to have some technical difficulties. I looked for a course that was starting in the next couple of weeks, even though this isn’t necessary as you can start anytime, but I wanted to do it properly. I had a few options that looked interesting and ended up going with an introduction to bioethics.

And I loved it. I have some key points of free time in my days and was sick of filling them with TV and mindless Internet surfing (once the domestic chores were done of course, cough cough). This was a perfect way to do it, because I could either do the bare minimum (watching some short video lectures – less than 10 minutes long – and answering a quiz) or, if I had more time and/or was particularly interested in a certain week’s topic, I could really get into it and do some readings and further research and participate in more online discussions.

I am also someone who struggles to see the world in anything other than shades of grey, which can make it difficult to debate some topics. Because I can almost always see both sides of an argument, and I find it difficult to decide what I think and I end up a fence-sitter on just about everything. Even though this is still true, this course has given me a framework for thinking about some tricky things – I have the right language, ways of thinking about things, that I didn’t have before, and now I have the confidence to work through issues (even if it’s only in my head). Bioethics includes some fascinating and difficult discussions so it was probably good from that personal development point of view as well as general interest.

Topics we covered included: is it ok for two deaf parents to select a deaf embryo? Is it ok to help a person commit suicide, and in what circumstances is it ok? Is it ok that poor people experiencing infertility have to miss out on having children because they can’t afford fertility treatments? Is it ok for a doctor to deny a patient birth control due to their religious beliefs? Is it ok for rich people to travel to poor countries for their medical treatments?

I was very sad when I finished (ACED I should say) the course to realise we were heading into the Northern Hemisphere summer and the main universities in edX were heading into their long break. But that means courses are starting again soon and I’ve got my wish list set up and will soon be choosing between the following:

  • Unlocking immunity to change: a new approach to personal improvement
  • Behavioural medicine: a key to better health
  • Introduction to global health
  • Behavioural economics in action
  • The psychology of criminal justice

I may need to do more than one, looking at this list. This would be a great way to dip your toe into something new that you think you might be interested in, but not ready to throw yourself into a proper course involving real time and money (and people). There are more platforms than just edX (like the Australian Open2Study, which I’ve used for a work-related course as well) so if you’re interested I’d look around and see what takes your fancy and just give it a go. It might be just what you were looking for.

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One thought on “It’s time to choose your next brain exercise! (or, an edX review)

  1. Behavioral economics in action! One of my personal favourites. Now you’ve got me interested in doing some further study for fun and brain excercise. I might just have to wait til I’m out of the newborn fog stage though! Let me know what you end up studying and good luck! (I hope it’s behavioral economics in action – If it is, I’ll bring back a couple of my favourite books on it for you. Oh no, now I sound super nerdy!)

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