The City Centre, The Hague, The Netherlands
Gumption and enthusiasm has me attending the Fourth Annual Global Coursera Partner Conference at The World Forum, The Hague, The Netherlands … The World, I feel like adding.
Four years ago I will have been in my final modules of the Master of Arts: Open and Distance Education and wowing Daphne Koller’s TED lecture on the future of learning. She went on to co-found Coursera.
Well, I’ve sat behind her in conference, brushed passed her in various meetings, breakouts and hallways and all in all behaved like a shy fan. I’ll introduce myself to her: everyone does, I’ve met so many of her team. I’d be wrong to compare it to being at ‘Court’ and trying to gravitate towards the ‘centre of power’ – there’s no snobbery at all, just a preponderance of Americans with laid-back California shuffling up against the perceived formalities of Europe.
I’m here, in The Hague, (first time to The Netherlands) because of an online discussion at the conclusion of the Coursera MOOC ‘Learning How to Learn’ a few days ago. Dr Barbara Oakley invited her online students to come to the Marriot Hotel on Sunday night for a ‘meet up’.
I realise now that this was a ‘reach out’ to some of the 14,000, or was it 140,000 students who did this short online course in January this year. I made it 30 minutes late to the meet-up having flown in on the EasyJet flight from Gatwick. It was like fans at a book signing (books were signed).
Registered to attend the 4th annual Coursera Partner Conference.
I had convinced the organisers that I was responsible, genuine, interested and willing to contribute, and come out for three days.
And yes, I met Barbara Oakley, the course chair, author and presenter of ‘Learning How to Learn’. She spotted me looking sheepish and us Brits are (and do), came over, must have recognised me from a profile photo (the one above that I use everywhere) and made me feel welcome, acknowledging a short email exchange we’d had that morning that had given me the green light with the organisers.
Two hours of ‘networking’ with Barb’s other students who had come in from within 50 miles of the Marriot Hotel, The Hague and my first moments of the conference are done.
Yesterday the 4th Coursera Partner Conference started at 6.00am.
I was out of the hotel door at 7.00am and making small talk with other delegates ten minutes later. The very first person I met, from California, turned out to have ‘gotten’ into the Coursera Conference under the same pretext as me: a ‘student’ of online learning, a ‘student’ of ‘Learning How to Learn’ not an official ‘partner’ … and soon keen to hear all about the MAODE, which I ‘sold’ to her.
Just over 12 hours later I was trying to leave the conference, after keynotes, breakouts, workshops, poster pitches, creative brainstorming, and friendly banter and networking at every coffee and meal break. I say ‘trying’ because I realised that as I left the World Forum (a vast, to my eyes ‘Commonwealth’ like UN edifice) that I was taking a mental break from it all by ‘looking for a picture’ and photographing some colourful chairs in the entrance lobby.
I say ‘trying’ as a delegate, one of the 550 or the 600 I had not yet met, offered to take my picture thinking I was itching to do a selfie and we soon got talking about the conference, and because she is Dutch, the wonders of The Netherlands and The Hague. She thought I’d have been better off staying in a hotel in the city Centre, a 10 mins tram ride up the road. She recommended which museums I could fit into my 1/2 day I have given myself on Wednesday.
Ironically, I was taking photographs as part of another Coursera course I am doing” ‘Photography: Basics and Beyond’, a hobbyist one.
I got back to the hotel and even found the energy to do 30 mins of that: I know from experience never to get behind with studying – a little bit everyday is the only answer.
Writing up a day that packed in a week’s worth of experience
I’d like to think I have a couple of weeks of thinking and writing to sort through it all. I realise now I ought to have recorded the ’30 second pitches’ of all the ‘Posters’ I stood beside (these are infographic summaries printed onto A1 sheets of academic papers – in this case on studies into e-learning, and of Coursera MOOCs in particular).
The content I share from the 4th Coursera Partner Conference will be written with the respect it deserves. Some information is under a press embargo for another week. I met people who use competitive platforms, such as EdEx and Udacity, so a degree of ‘openness’ is apparent. I haven’t met anyone yet who uses The OU offshoot ‘FutureLearn’ as a platform.
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