Sunday, November 04, 2012

Never too late....

It's never too late to take physics 101.  In high school, I took the mandatory science but I was on what we called the literary track (this was the French high school system).  In college, I had to take a full year of science and it had to include a lab component.  I did what non-science majors did and I took environmental science.  It was science I could relate to.

Years later, here I am working with engineers and scientists.  For the past four years, I am wondered if the fact that I was neither an engineer nor a scientist would hinder my ability to work effectively with engineers and scientists.  I don't have an answer either way but more recent conversations with my daughters around their college plans and career aspirations unearthed a new train of thoughts.  It is never too late to learn.  Of course I have no interest in going back to school for a degree in science or engineering.  Yet I crave a basic understanding of things in all fields.  And so, I have a Pavlovian response when I encounter new learning opportunities.  The latest one is Coursera, an online learning platform with course content developed by great university professors.

In early 2013, I will take "How Things Work", the equivalent of Physics 101 for non-scientists, taught by UVA professor Louis A. Bloomfield.  An additional cool factor is that my daughter will be taking the course in its face-to-face version at UVA.

I'm not doing this just to learn basic physics.  I'm also interested in the experience of such courses and therefore I will turn this into a little meta-learning experiment.  It's amazing that such great content is made available to all in such a fashion.  Yet, in the absence of a real need for me to complete the course, will my basic interest in learning something new be sufficient to motivate me to complete the course?  How much will I really learn?  Will I get tired of it and distracted by some other, more interesting learning opportunity? Will the fact that I am doing this as part of a broader learning experiment motivate me to complete the course?

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