When I last wrote about a Coursera MOOC called Creativity, Innovation and Change, I was quite optimistic about it. So were some 125,000 others who enrolled, probably. But for the second time, I have dropped out of a MOOC.
I’m not exactly a novice in the subject matter this time, unlike jazz improv. I have produced concerts in professional halls right from concept to implementation and an international tour for a choir of 40 young people. I helped an organization or two create themselves, helped organizations go through some rather traumatic change processes and wrote grant proposals for them that worked in realizing hundreds of thousands of dollars. As a former teacher, I also developed courses from scratch, taught them and evaluated them. I’ve had one of my portraits chosen for a juried local art show, and had music that I have written performed. When I enrolled in the Coursera course, I was finishing producing a reunion and working on another major project involving vision and change. So when I found that the course wasn’t really addressing things that were new to me, I did one of the things that you can do with any learning project. I ended it.
Is that failure? I’d feel differently if I were an undergraduate and this were a required course. I did pass Anglo Saxon and at one time could even translate it, along with some Latin and Greek – and I passed an undergraduate elective course on Leibnitz and Spinoza, even though I didn’t get it and wasn’t mature enough to be ready for it. Later life learning offers wider options. The main learning in this time frame was instead about how I learn – and often don’t!
Restless to consolidate what I did know about learning, I re-read three books, by Robert Fritz: The Path of Least Resistance, Creating, and Your Life as Art. I have praised his approach elsewhere on this site. (Simply search on “Robert Fritz” in the search button on the top right if you want to read them). I was not disappointed. Fritz bases and applies his learning processes on his experience as a musician, composer, teacher, visual artist, film maker and management trainer and consultant. His process is simple and straightforward. I took the online version of Your Life as Art some years ago, liked it then and still do. What struck me about my own learning is recognizing what he has to say about oscillation. That’s what I have to relearn and alter some practices related to the structure.
Imagine yourself with an elastic attached to your waist and drawing you toward a wall; The wall with its clothes line-like roller is a metaphor for something you have determined that you want. You desire to see your goal completed in a pre-determined time frame of short to medium duration.
Now imagine yourself with another elastic attached to the wall behind you, pulling you back toward your usual state with its immediate needs, desires and impulses. A simple example is your usual response when you are hungry to the smell of a nearby Big Mac.
Now you are pulled both ways. As you draw nearer to the longer term objective, (the goal) the forward pulling elastic relaxes because you seem to be well on the way to reaching the goal. But when this happens, the backward pulling elastic (the impluses/patterns) tightens – and you find yourself saying – “well just this once”.
And after gaining another 10 pounds, the desire to lose the original 20 comes back. Your’re moving back and forth all right – but not anywhere fast. And you can almost feel the tension of being stuck in this structure when you look at the image.
(Just in case you are wondering, the painting in the local art show was a better example of drawing than these.)
I’m like the third drawing on a lot of my personal projects. Because I have something of what someone recently referred to as the “helpful gene”, I love collaborating, and suddenly the personal projects get cast aside – because I can always do them later. There will always be more time – only there isn’t any more.
Fritz’s solutions are straight forward and simple and well worth a visit to his site, purchase of his books and enrollment in his courses. Even though The Path of Least Resistance was revised in a second edition in 1989, it still reads as freshly as ever in our multitasking, over-worked times. I frankly find the learning options here much more useful than the particular Coursera Course that I dropped.
That doesn’t in any way mean that the course might not be immensely useful to the 125,000 minus one students who have signed up. I’m sure they will start their own learning about creativity, innovation and change in their own stage of the journey – as well as some valuable things about themselves.