Do a MOOC!
This year I’ve spent a lot of time hanging out on MOOCs – that’s Massive Open Online Courses, on which thousands of students worldwide can enrol. I think if you’re a higher level learner, or thinking of going to university in an English-speaking country, these can really help your listening skills, plus you’ll learn something interesting along the way. Read on to find out what to do!
The site that I’ve been recommending to students is www.coursera.org, which has hundreds of courses, including ones in Arts, Humanities, Sciences, Social Sciences, Education, Law, and Music! So, there’s something for everyone. It’s completely free, and although you can do quizzes and assignments which lead to a certificate, there’s no pressure to do so. If you don’t like a course you can unenrol in a second. The lessons take the form of video lectures and optional discussion fora, and there are often extra readings and video clips too. One of my students has also recommended https://www.edx.org/ to me, so if you’ve tried it I’d love to know what you think.
One of the Coursera courses which I’ve particularly enjoyed was Dan Ariely’s A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior. Dan is a behavioural economist, which means that he applies knowledge about economics to everyday life. For example, in one lecture he says that when you go out for dinner with a group of friends, instead of splitting the bill, one person should pay for everything! That way, the person who pays gets the ‘feel-good factor’ of doing their friends a favour, and the other people avoid the awkward situation of working out the bill and feeling that they have paid too much. Naturally, the next time the group goes for dinner, someone else pays for the meal, to make things fair. It’s a win-win situation!
Research suggests that reading and listening about a topic that you’re really interested in, or already know something about, can really help to develop your language skills, so I’d encourage you to enrol on a few things that you think sound interesting and give them a go!
Finally, as a teacher I don’t think that any of these courses are any substitute for real-time, face-to-face classroom interactions, but they can certainly enhance your understanding and enjoyment of a topic and really help your listening skills.
enrol (v.) – join a course
fora (pl.n.) – plural of ‘forum’, i.e. a discussion group
favour (n.) – a kind or helpful act that you do for another person
awkward (adj.) – socially uncomfortable
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