What’s a MOOC?!

A MOOC is a Massive Online Open Course. The basic idea is that various institutes of learning will allow people to essentially audit courses for free, or even to pay a fee to gain various types of credit, from certificates, which have limited use, to actual college credit. Details vary according to who is offering the course, but the learner is the one who decides if they wish to learn simply for curiosity and the love of learning (most common) or if they want to earn some sort of certificate or some other validation of the time spent learning (less common).

There are several websites that specialize in hooking people up with such courses, with just a few being coursera.org, udemy.com and edx.org. You can find out so much about these courses and how they work at various sites around the web, but Forbes posted a good summary recently about the future of MOOCs. Additionally, you may find the following illustration helpful in understanding how an MOOC works:

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Basically this illustration asks several questions pointing out that the concept remains in the evolutionary stages despite being a web presence for quite some time. So, when you go to various outlets to experience an MOOC you won’t necessarily find the same experience as any other site. Some learners find this exciting, some frustrating. The MOOC doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon, so, let’s look at how one in particular works.

I signed up for a course on coursera.org:

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As I became a registered, free user I was given limited access to class materials: I can follow along, complete readings and assignments but cannot take tests or quizzes or receive any sort of grade. To gain these features I would need to pay a fee to participate officially in Berklee College of Music courses. The fact that I have that option demonstrates one of the advantages of an MOOC–choice.

So, here’s just one example of what I can get for free: a video lecture from the teacher:

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As I progress through the course I will share the progress and, when the course is complete, I will give my opinion on how helpful (or not) I felt the course was.

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Navigating the Thrills and Spills of Insurance

With all of the recent natural disasters you may have taken stock of your own home and thought about what you might do to replace items you might lose in such a scenario. Here is a helpful link from the site United Policy Holders that helps explain how you might go about dealing with such issues.

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United Policy Holders is a non-profit [501 (c)(3)] dedicated to helping consumers successfully navigate various types of insurance to make sure each gets the best deal and fair shake when it comes time to both buying and using insurance. Think of them as a sort of Consumer Reports of insurance.

In fact, here is their mission statement posted on the home page:

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Just to the right of the mission statement is a short list of broad topic areas covered on the site:

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Today let’s focus on what can be done in the event you have to make a claim on your property due to some sort of disaster. They have a detailed, step by step tutorial on how to successfully make claims to replace much of, if not all of, your damaged property here:

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They even offer tools to help inventory your household items in advance to avoid having to complete the arduous task after a disaster has struck. There is even an app to assist in the process, if you get into that sort of thing:
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Another helpful feature I found was an example of an actual letter sent to an insurance company requesting an extension on the time allowed to complete a claim:

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This site offers a wealth of information from which anyone may benefit because nearly all of us have insurance of one type or another. This site aims to help us identify how to proactively take advantage of all our insurance carriers promise and to avoid being taken advantage of by what can be a bloated, dense bureaucracy.

Learning Express Library Can Help Patrons Who Cry “Computer Illiterate”

The Learning Express Library has proven helpful to many of our patrons seeking various testing materials for tests such as the HiSET or nursing areas like the HESI or NCLEX. However, did you know that Learning Express has so much more? One tutorial area that could help many of our computer challenged patrons is the Computer Skills Center :

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I selected the “Getting to Know Your Computer” link on the left (red circle) and “Computer Basics 2” on the right (blue rectangle):

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This brought me to a video tutorial:

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On the tutorial you are in total control: the video has a transcript that you can follow along with, download or even print:

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…and you can toggle between chapters as well:

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There are many other computer tutorials in Learning Express, ranging from basic topics detailed in this post, to more complex issues, such as the intricacies of learning how to navigate the internet, to even specific programs, such as Microsoft Word and Adobe products:

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For the willing patron these tutorials can lead to increased productivity and less frustration on the computer.

Sorting Fact From Obfuscation

In these unprecedented times in U.S. politics it can be difficult to discern the truth from the spin. The site http://www.factcheck.org/ has taken up the mission of helping anyone who desires to do so. Their mission page states:

“We are a nonpartisan, nonprofit ‘consumer advocate’ for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. We monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases. Our goal is to apply the best practices of both journalism and scholarship, and to increase public knowledge and understanding.

FactCheck.org is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. The APPC was established by publisher and philanthropist Walter Annenberg to create a community of scholars within the University of Pennsylvania that would address public policy issues at the local, state and federal levels.”

A quick perusal of articles prominent on the site the day I visited (4/28/17 for the curious) covered such topics as the insecticide chlorpyrifos, Trump’s spin on his first 100 days, Trump’s mischaracterization of President Obama’s purported role in forming the gang MS-13, White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s Hitler gaffe and the 2017 Webby award this site has won.

The site is easy to navigate and there are a few helpful ways to find specific information: you can peruse an archive by topic, search for a desired article or simply browse through the pages. There are additional links to similar and sister sites, ways to ask your own questions and links to other resources offered by the organization, such as ways to browse and view media appearances by their writers.

Helpful Medical Links That Go Deeper

Need medical information that goes deeper than or covers areas other than those covered by WebMD.com and the like?  Here are some more specialized sites for your consideration.

Should Your Child See a Doctor?

If you’re worried about your child’s health, this site will likely help you make a decision as to what to do next.  From the site:  “These guidelines (topics) are intended to help you determine how sick your child is and if you need to call your child’s doctor. Their second purpose is to help you treat your child at home when it is safe to do so.” (Emphasis mine)

Medline Plus

You may already be familiar with Medline Plus, as it is similar to WebMd and other health portals.  The distinction with this site is it is directly funded and informed by the federal government.  From the site: “Health professionals and consumers alike can depend on it for information that is authoritative and up-to-date. MedlinePlus has extensive information from the National Institutes of Health and other trusted sources on over 975 diseases and conditions. There are directories, a medical encyclopedia and a medical dictionary, health information in Spanish, extensive information on prescription and nonprescription drugs, health information from the media, and links to thousands of clinical trials. MedlinePlus is updated daily and can be bookmarked at the URL: https://medlineplus.gov/. There is no advertising on this site, nor does MedlinePlus endorse any company or product.”

The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of John Hopkins Medical Center publishes a media center with videos and podcasts.  From the site: “Your video channel for cancer learning is a click away. Tune to the Kimmel Cancer Center’s YouTube channel to learn about the latest discoveries in cancer and education on cancer topics, including clinical trials, caregiving, finances, and social security. New videos are added periodically, so subscribe to the channel for instant updates.”

Foodborne Illness

Did you know that each year 1 in 6 of us will get sick due to contamination in something we eat or drink? Knowing how to avoid and/or treat these illnesses is important. The CDC is here to help. The CDC is a vast federal organization with a vast website, so it may be daunting for some.  The site on Foodborne Illness is full of helpful information and easy to use. From the site: “Foodborne illness (sometimes called ‘foodborne disease,’ ‘foodborne infection’, or ‘food poisoning’) is a common, costly—yet preventable—public health problem. Each year, 1 in 6 Americans gets sick by consuming contaminated foods or beverages. Many different disease-causing microbes, or pathogens, can contaminate foods, so there are many different foodborne infections. In addition, poisonous chemicals, or other harmful substances can cause foodborne diseases if they are present in food.”

Anatomy Atlases

The Anatomy Atlases are no joke.  Created by Dr. Ronald A. Bergman, Ph.D., who has taught anatomy at eminent universities for decades, it is a comprehensive and detailed anatomy atlas for use by doctors, students and various medical professionals, that can also be perused and used by laypeople. It lists as its mission: “To educate patients, healthcare providers, and students in a free and anonymous manner; For the purpose of improving patients’ care, outcome, and lives; Using current, authoritative, trustworthy health information; While serving as a platform for research into the challenges facing world-wide information distribution.”

Further, its goals are to “Curate a comprehensive digital library of anatomy information for patients and providers, Maximize the impact of this digital library by enhancing awareness among potential users at local, national, and international levels, Ensure an optimal educational experience through simplicity and clarity in design, and Lead the way to a better understanding of digital libraries through a process of on-going evaluation.”

Despite its free status this may be the most helpful, informative site out there concerning Anatomy.

Manualslib – The Ultimate Manuals Library

http://www.manualslib.com/

This site contains lots of free users guides uploaded by people who held on to the instruction booklet for their refrigerator, computer, dishwasher, remote control, etc. Over 700,000 pdf’s are on the site. Just use the search box to type in what manual you are looking for. From the site, “Search results include manual name, description, size and number of pages.” You can view the manual or download it to your computer by an add on. All manuals are only available in PDF.

You can also share the pages of the manual on social media, if you like. Just click, “share this page”.

Likewise, you can even upload a manual to a product that you don’t see on the page. Instructions are available on the home page.

Tennessee Divorce Forms

http://www.tncourts.gov/programs/self-help-center/forms

This website, sponsored by the Administrative Office of the Courts for the state of Tennessee, provides Tennessee divorce forms for married couples without minor children. The state also has other stipulations under the link called “Instructions to Divorce Forms”. These forms are legally sufficient for use in Tennessee courts only. The forms include Request for Divorce,  Divorce Agreement, Final Decree of Divorce, Restraining Order for Divorcing Spouses, and others. The forms are available in regular PDF format and also in fillable PDF format. For the fillable PDF format, litigants can fill in the forms online and then print them off.