Lecture Log

March 22, 2014 @ 7:54 pm | Filed under: , ,


As long as I’m keeping a record of daily reading, I figured I ought to keep track of the academic lectures I’m taking in as well.

**Update: I’ve added a comment below explaining a bit about how these courses fit into my day. 🙂

***Update #2, 12/29/14*** Ack! I forgot to come back to this after March. This means I’ve forgotten things. Popped in today to add: A Day’s Read (The Great Courses), lecture 1: Kafka’s “The Country Doctor.”


George Eliot: Intellect and Consciousness. Catherine Brown, Oxford.
Darwin and Design, Lecture 1. James Paradis, MIT.
American Novel Since 1945, Lectures 1-13. Amy Hungerford, Yale.
Introduction to Theory of Literature, Lectures 1-3, 5-6. Paul Fry, Yale.

In the past 18 months:

Modern Poetry, assorted lectures (I’m skipping around). Langdon Hammer, Yale.
The Civil War and Reconstruction Era. David Blight, Yale.
History 2D: Science, Magic, and Religion, Lectures 1-4. Courtenay Raia, UCLA.

MOOCs in progress with kids:

Moons, The Open University FutureLearn.
Shakespeare and His World (selected videos), University of Warwick, FutureLearn.
Live!: A History of Art for Artists, Animators and Gamers, California Institute of the Arts, Coursera.

Coursera courses on my own, in progress or last fall:

Scandinavian Film and Television. Multiple instructors, University of Copenhagen. Course in progress. Have watched vids for weeks 1-3 so far. Will probably not get all the way through before the course ends, as these lectures are a bit drier than others I’ve tried, but they’re quite interesting and I’m enjoying them—they just require a bit more focus because the visuals are very important (obviously).

Human Evolution: Past and Future. John Hawks, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Course just ended. Watched about half the videos. Loved how the professor traveled to various digs and fossil sites.

Plagues, Witches, and War: The Worlds of Historical Fiction. Bruce Holsinger, University of Virginia. Watched all videos, read several of the books. Great course!

Climate Literacy: Navigating Climate Change Conversations. Sarah Burch & Sara Harris, University of British Columbia. Did about 75% of the course—videos and readings. Showed several of the video lectures to my teens. I wish everyone I know would take this class. Hope it will be offered again.

Modern & Contemporary American Poetry. Al Filreis, University of Pennsylvania. Watched about half the videos, did corresponding readings. I adore this course and look forward to taking it again—in full this time—in the fall.

A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Lectures 1-4.

The Modern and the Postmodern. Michael Roth, Wesleyan University. Weeks 1-5. The reading load got to be more than I could juggle at that point in time but I very much enjoyed the lectures I watched.

CodeAcademy tutorials:

jQuery (23% completed)
Web Projects (89% completed)
HTML & CSS (completed)


There are so many appealing courses in literature alone (see this big list at Open Culture), not to mention all the classes I’d like to take in anthropology, history, art history, and various sciences. The Tolkien Professor’s Faerie and Fantasy class sounds especially fun! We were discussing these courses on Twitter this evening and a friend mentioned that she’d love to take one of these, but would be unlikely to finish. I seldom complete an entire course, as my Coursera record above demonstrates. But that doesn’t concern me; I consider each lecture I listen to a gain. I ran out of time to listen to all the Human Evolution lectures, but I learned a vast amount from the ones I did manage to watch. Ditto all the above. I’m exactly halfway through Amy Hungerford’s series on the modern American novel, and while I certainly hope to listen to the rest of the lectures, even if I don’t get back to them I’ve already gained a tremendous amount in terms of new knowledge and food for thought. This is unschooling for adults, and it’s exhilarating—learning as process, not product (that same philosophy that informs our homeschooling life). 

    Related Posts


3 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. selvi says:

    I was surprised to see this long list, but then realized that maybe I shouldn’t be. It is quite inspiring that someone with as much going on in her life as you would prioritize her own learning for its own sake. Of course it does seems very much consistent with homeschooling your children.

  2. Melissa Wiley says:

    I admit I was surprised, too, when I saw them all together! And I forgot to add some CodeAcademy tutorials I did last month, so I’ve put those in now. But it’s important to remember that these are spread out over the past year or so…perhaps 18 months? I’m trying to remember when I started the Modern Poetry series at Open Yale Courses. Oh!! I forgot I watched a whole set of Civil War lectures too! those were SO GOOD—I’ll add them above. So, yes, definitely an 18-month span here. (Update: I’ve clarified the time frame above.) 🙂

    They fit into my day in bits and bobs. I used to start my work (writing) time with a bit of websurfing/reading/social media, but lately I’ve found I settle down to work much more efficiently if I start off with a lecture (or half of one) instead. It serves the same transitional purpose as surfing but is easier to break away from when it’s time to work.

    The HTML and CSS tutorials came about last month when I was in ultra-crunch time with my novel, working very long days. After a hard push of writing the temptation to click over to Facebook becomes hard to resist—but I know it’ll be too big a jolt and will cost me time in the end. So I started rewarding myself between chapters with a lesson at CodeAcademy. I’ve learned a lot of HTML and CSS on my own over the years, hodgepodge, but I have stupid gaps in my knowledge and decided to start from the beginning to shore up the holes.

    (This is the same problem I have with German, actually. Oh, and I guess I could add my Memrise progress to my list—I haven’t been there in months but I was working pretty steadily at it last year. I got to spend a summer in Germany during high school. My parents arranged for a German tutor for four weeks before I left, and I picked up quite a lot while living there for almost two months—enough that my high school put me in 2nd year German the following year. I did very well at grammar and comprehension but I had some rather large vocabulary gaps—especially noun genders. My classmates had spent a year drilling basic nouns, whereas I’d picked things up from context. To this day my German reading comprehension far outstrips my ability to put a basic sentence together.)

    The Open Yale Courses are video lectures but work well as audio only. Also, the transcripts are provided, and sometimes if I’ve heard half a lecture, I might finish it by reading instead. Much faster! I like to listen to them while I’m cleaning, or, say, like last night when Scott was watching a TV show with the older girls. (Jane is home for spring break, hooray!) The boys were in bed already, but Rilla stays up a bit later. She brought her drawing supplies into my room and busied herself beside me while I listened to the George Eliot lecture above. And while I was listening I put this list together. That’s the way these courses fit into the corners of my day.

    With the Coursera classes, I don’t do the quizzes or assignments. I seldom read the discussion boards (though I know I’m missing out on some high caliber conversation there) and never participate in the discussions myself. I may or may not do the assigned reading. In the case of some of them, I don’t even watch all the videos. The lectures there are divided into smaller chunks, say 10-20 minutes. A 10-minute video is easy to fit in! Since my aim with these courses is simply to learn *something*, to come away with knowledge I lacked before—or even, in the cases of many of the lit lectures, simply to refresh my memory of knowledge acquired decades ago!—I don’t trouble myself about the work-product. It’s all mental food.

  3. selvi says:

    I love it. I tend to tell myself “no, I can’t, I don’t have time for it”. But it is really inspiring what small moments can add up to if we are deliberate about them. I really like the freedom you get by just having it as your aim to learn SOMETHING. And why not? That’s often all we get out of doing things by the book anyway. Using the courses as your transition time is great idea. I think I might have to try it.