National Novel Writing Month is about a week away; the time of year when thousands of people around the world agree to sit down daily, write 1600 words, towards a goal of 50,000 words by the end of the November.
I’ve attempted NaNoWriMo (much cooler abbreviation) three times in the past five years. The first time, Thanksgiving did me in. I didn’t finish. The second time, I finished on time, and turned the manuscript into my first published novel, Saving Peace. The third time, I didn’t hit 50,000 by December 1st, but I did by the 5th or so. The manuscript turned into my third published novel, The Dohmestics. This is my fourth time out at NaNo and I’m more excited than ever and ready to share.
Sign up to NaNoWriMo with me as your writing coach in the online learning environment known as a MOOC. Completely free! I will post weekly assignments, advice, examples to help us get to our goal of a completed first draft. You’ll also have access to a discussion forum where all other learners will be posting examples, asking questions, and commiserating in our race to 50,000 words. Even if you don’t ‘finish’ or ‘win’, NaNo is fantastic fun because we are all in it together. This is the second MOOC I’ve taught; the first one was a Personal Essay course that had 100 people sign up, 50 people make it to week one, and 20 or so complete an essay.
If you’re not in the university business – either a student or professor, you may be thinking, what’s that? A Mooc, or a Massive Open Online Course, is a free class that thousands – often hundreds of thousands – of students take via the Internet. MOOCs present an opportunity to broaden the educational classroom beyond the physical boundaries of university buildings by making knowledge available to anyone with access to a computer and Internet connection. They represent a hybrid of university support, venture capital, nonprofit organizations, foundations, and private industry. I’m taking two myself, one on Creativity, Innovation and Change and another on Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative .
I launched my own MOOC yesterday on writing the personal essay. While 100 people signed up for the course, 45 or so have entered our online forum. Nothing like a kickoff to separate the doers from the wishers.
As a follower of the blog, I’ll give you access to the MOOC content (password: mooc). Post your answers to the first exercise below in the comments if you’d like me to have a look. And if you want to participate in the next class, sign up for my newsletter. I’m mulling over a short story course for the second iteration.
Someone is bound to ask me why I’m doing this. Not exactly a small time commitment. Well there are two reasons: one is a future educational research project I’m interested in developing. This is a test ground. The second, I’m a writer who loves to help others tell their stories. This project is perfect as it tackles two ideas I love in one venture. For me it’s actually efficient creativity!
There are several other interesting developments which I’ve experienced even in the short week or so that it took to launch the course.
1. Several people opted out of the course when they found out that it had a Google+ forum linked to the discussions. I resisted Gmail for several years because I thought they were offering unparallelled storage because they wanted to harvest our data. Now my work (and even my husband’s) has Gmail based email interfaces. There seems no way around Gmail. I did give people in this category the option of taking the course only through my website
2. Taping video lectures is not as easy as you would think. First you have to watch yourself (something no one should have to do). Distilling a lecture into discrete units takes some of the spontaneity out of my style of delivery, which in the physical classroom is peppered with jokes, admonishments and answers to questions. Watching myself several times, in order to edit the video, meant I noticed how often my face moves while I’m talking. While this may be okay, even engaging in person, on television it has the opposite effect; why is that woman’s face moving so much? What’s that strange scar that only appears when she furrows her forehead? I’m going to work on stilling my face in the coming three lectures. I may become better at poker.
3. The immediacy of posts means that I can respond to a student any time, from anywhere that I get a notification: in the last five days this included airports, hotel rooms, and beds, were all locations from which I replied. An automated quiz means I can see not only who has logged in to take it, but what questions are tricky, and which ones have easy answers. The data metrics are endless; what time people posted, what time they took the quiz, how long it takes between being approved to post and the first post.
I can’t wait to see how this format helps or hinders the writing process. Stay tuned for weeks 2-4.
Have you taken any MOOCs? What do you think about 44,000 people taking a class at once (that’s how many are in the Online Games one).