WRITING CHRONICLES #04: My introduction to the world of free online courses (05 min read)



Image: Wikimedia


One moment, please… I’m online with MOOC

So I have been taking a fiction writing course online. Seems a bit after the fact, yeah… But once I finished writing my novel, I realized I need to learn to be organized in my novel-writing. So, MOOC. 

A little backstory because…

Years ago, I took my GRE and TOEFL and scored well enough to be eligible for funding from most universities for joining their creative writing/publishing programs. I was all prepped to do my master’s in the USA and even had my choices narrowed: PACE, first; Emerson, second. It came down to nothing because each institution required me to show financial affidavit with the initial application (given my would-be international student status) and I didn’t have the bank balance to impress. My dad had, though, but that’s a story I’d rather not get into. And I moved on to pursuing careers more favored by… people… where income is certain. It’s been one of my greatest hang-ups that I could not pursue creative writing with a class full of cohorts to engage and professors and authors to impress. But now there’s MOOC!

The course I’m taking

Massive Open Online Courses. Truth be told, I didn’t know such a wide world of websites full of free courses existed – to think the number has been growing since 2008! My current module is powered by FutureLearn and is called “Start Writing Fiction” with materials provided by The Open University. I imagined it would be a classroom-style environment with webinars where we can directly ask the lecturers questions. It turned out to be a curriculum broken down into 08 weeks but where all the materials are already uploaded and accessible so students can moderate their paces according to own need and time. This makes sense since it’s free and I imagine professors dedicate their time more profitably elsewhere. As the weeks progress, the various components of novels (characterization, plotting, setting, use of language, etc.) are brought into focus through video clips, recorded discussions of authors, excerpts from classics, quizzes and other notes and pointers. These sections are usually accompanied by instructions on short writing assignments that students are advised to post on the discussion forums for peer reviews, which are moderated by mentors.

The experience

Although the average course requirement is 03 hours per week, I have been spending a lot more time on the page and forum, so that can hint on how I’m enjoying it. I just finished Week 02 and can already feel my descriptive style improving. And this week, someone actually commented on one of my posts that I wrote with “economy”! This is a first because I can be so convoluted sometimes and it has been my ambition to write with economy. They say writers are all about what they observe and I have also been prompted into being more sensitive to my surroundings and really incorporate all of the senses into the writing. We’ve been assigned to write a short story and I’ll post it on the blog once I’m done because I’d love all of your inputs too.

Not all of the teachings fit where I am currently as a writer but I have been able to take something away from every one of them so that’s something. Although I would have appreciated a bit more input from the mentors, I have been garnering very insightful learnings from other writers taking the course. And at the end of the day, it is a breath of fresh air to simply interact with fellow fiction writers who understand the struggle and are undergoing the same dilemmas I am. Misery, even the very satisfyingly creative ones, loves company.

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