How to Learn with World Renown Institutions for Free

This is the first of two posts this month on exploring the anatomy of the Upper Limb, and, more generally, the great resource known as Massive Open Online Courses.

When February 1st rolled around, I was looking forward to my exploration of the painting world with the legendary Bob Ross. However, I quickly discovered “jumping right in” without a little bit of planning was not the best approach in this instance.

The goal was to follow Bob’s lead in painting a winter scene using just three colors and three tools. I headed to the art store on the final day of January and made what I thought were the necessary purchases to begin this project.

Long story short, it turns out there were some key secrets Bob hadn’t revealed in this particular episode (how to apply liquid white and how to clean the brushes in the middle of painting—water isn't the answer), which I should have looked into before setting up shop.

With some money thrown away, and the correct tools on their way in the next couple of weeks, I needed to press pause until March and scramble to figure out what I was going to commit to in February.

I thought it’d be good to stick with the theme of learning something new and introduce information that can help everyone out. The general topic I’ve chosen is Anatomy, particularly the upper limb, and the medium through which I’m learning this content is called a Massive Open Online Course, or MOOC (/muːk/) for short.

The Upper Limb runs from your shoulder to the tips of the fingers. Apparently, your "arm" only runs from your shoulder to your elbow, hence the existence of the "forearm," which runs from the elbow to the wrist.

The Upper Limb runs from your shoulder to the tips of the fingers. Apparently, your "arm" only runs from your shoulder to your elbow, hence the existence of the "forearm," which runs from the elbow to the wrist.

MOOCs are a relatively new way to acquire general and university level knowledge from some of the most reputable institutions in the world. With professors from Harvard, Berkeley, MIT, and Oxford, just to name a few, and business elites from IBM, Microsoft, and Google, you can receive a genuine education on a cornucopia of topics for next to no cost.

The courses come with certificates of completion that hold legitimate proof of knowledge when seeking job opportunities in the future. Many are self-paced and free, and for folks like me who just want to learn something new, we can skip the certificate (which comes at a small fee) and simply learn the information for free.

Many of the courses do go "live" at various points, where the information can be discussed with virtual classmates as well as the professor running the course, but when the class closes, the coursework is archived with the information remaining accessible.

For the course I’m taking this month, Going Out on a Limb: Anatomy of the Upper Limb, it is broken into six weeks of lecture from “Penn’s award winning Anatomy Professor, Dr. James S. White.” I’m taking the course through edX, one of many sites offering MOOCs. I'll be squeezing the suggested, six week pace into 25 days, which I'm assuming accounts for learners who are taking multiple courses at once.

As I move along the content, I will connect it with my flexibility work and Fitness in Five to make it relevant to my personal experience. Not to divert too far from the focal point of this post, but anything we learn should be connected to our interests and passions. Otherwise, it’s just information being forced down our throats, and most of us are all too familiar with how that feels.

So, if learning about the goings on in your body isn't of interest, why not check out a course that puts a sparkle in your eye and take on a challenge of your own liking. Let the community know what you've decided to take on this month and we can accelerate our learning together!

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