You're ignorant August 25, 2007 3:50 AM   Subscribe

I'm bored and ignorant. So are you. Let's learn something. There's a plethora of free open "courseware", books, and audio lectures on the internet. And IRC channels where we could "meet". And surplus of smart people here. Let's set up a "course" and take it together.
posted by orthogonality to MetaFilter-Related at 3:50 AM (123 comments total) 60 users marked this as a favorite

There are also a number of subject matter experts posting here. Perhaps one or more could offer to lead or organize courses.

Ideally, I'd think that something like a shorter, more intensive "summer session" course would work best; that's in part because I learn best when I'm concentrating, rather than spreading the effort over several courses on semester time-frame. I suspect this is something that isn't a good fit for current regular students, who already have a serious study load, and more for those of us already out of school.

My personal preference is "hard science" subjects, not so much social science or liberal arts subjects, but there's no reason not to set up several courses if there's sufficient interest.
posted by orthogonality at 3:55 AM on August 25, 2007

Wow. Congrats on your chutzpah for throwing this post before the MeTa lions like this.

Interesting idea, too. How do you envision this working, exactly?
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 4:29 AM on August 25, 2007

This is a cool idea -- I'm in.
posted by Doofus Magoo at 4:39 AM on August 25, 2007

I like the idea too. I don't know if I've really got the time to commit, but I like the idea.
posted by middleclasstool at 4:44 AM on August 25, 2007

Good luck with this, but I shan't be taking part I'm afraid; I'm substantially cleverer, better read and more well-travelled than you. I wouldn't want you dragging me down to your level.:p
posted by Abiezer at 4:50 AM on August 25, 2007 [2 favorites]

I think we should do a course in php.

winks at middleclasstool
posted by gomichild at 4:58 AM on August 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

goodnewsfortheinsane writes "Interesting idea, too. How do you envision this working, exactly?"

I have a few ideas. How exactly it will work depends on whether subject-matter experts step up to offer to lead classes, or not.

One thing I've found with these sort of things (and with traditional classes) is that you often get students who despite the best intentions, don't keep up because of other claims on their time. I think we could ameliorate that problem by deciding that every "next" class meeting is scheduled when, say, 70% of the students affirm they've completed the reading or homework due for that class. They no one is left behind or (like Abiezer) dragged down.

What I'd like to do is identify who is interested, what subjects interest them, and then have those people interested in a common subject sit down to form a consensus on the prerequisites (if any), scope and goals of their class.
posted by orthogonality at 5:19 AM on August 25, 2007

I'm interested. I've taught myself some basic Python, but that was months ago and since then I've been at a loss for productive ways to apply my skill and become a better programmer. A continuing program of, well, programs and assignments to accomplish would give me a way to apply myself so that I don't stagnate. I'd love to learn some more practical programming, because I hate my job and I'd love to switch career tracks. Being able to ask questions when you get stuck would be nice, too.

Thanks, ortho. I really like this idea.
posted by Eideteker at 5:33 AM on August 25, 2007

Thanks Eideteker.

For clarity, I want to emphasize this is not limited to learning a programming language or other "techie" subjects (not that that's ruled out) but more along the lines of a 100 or 200 level college course.
posted by orthogonality at 5:51 AM on August 25, 2007

I like this idea. I'm not really sure how much time I could commit to it, or how much I'd be able to contribute to group interactions. Could be courseware, or just working through a book together. I'd be interested in:

physics (particles, cosmology, relativity, quantum theory)
math (not too hard please, maybe number theory, statistics, martin gardner stuff)
programming (object oriented design, c++, java, c#, .net, testing and debugging)
art (basic drawing, color theory, photography, perspective)
psychology, personal development
cognitive science and consciousness
creative writing
electronics - Make magazine type stuff

Depressed and anxious mefites might want to join me in watching Tal Ben-Shahar's harvard lectures on positive psychology, currently available here, or in working through his book "Happier" (or other CBT/positive psychology stuff like the Feeling Good Handbook.

I think there's lots of possibilities.
posted by DarkForest at 6:28 AM on August 25, 2007 [3 favorites]

Physics or maths....yes yes. I was just thinking this very morning that I'd like to start doing some daily good old fashioned arithmetic exercises to wake up my brain. I despised maths throughout school and beyond but lately have been intrigued. I like this idea a lot.

I'd also be very interested in medieval history, mythology, horticulture or botany, as I mentioned in this great little MetaChat thread.
posted by iconomy at 6:38 AM on August 25, 2007

Count me among the ignorant. I'm in, but only if we're doing convergent evolution in myrmecophagic mammals. Look, I already started(self linkage!) and I promise to drop out before the end of the term.
posted by shoesfullofdust at 6:48 AM on August 25, 2007

Thanks for the clarification, ortho. I'd vote for cosmology, myself.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 6:53 AM on August 25, 2007

I'm interested. I would go for any psychology, mythology, comparative religion, learn Italian or Spanish. Perl/Python/PHP would be cool.
posted by RussHy at 7:05 AM on August 25, 2007

I'd be up for a language! I'm not sure how it would work though. I question the 70% ready scheduling. If lots of people slack, we may never get to the next lesson. I think deadlines motivate people to do the work, at least it motivates me in my book club.
posted by bluefly at 7:08 AM on August 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

There's always the opportunity to study something somewhat related to MeFi itself such as cyberculture, social media, or social deviance.
posted by pb (staff) at 7:13 AM on August 25, 2007

Creative writing and programming languages sounds cheesy and cliche. For languages, you need someone who actually knows the language.

For porn, all you is a bit of courage, which can be found at any liqour store.

For biology, you just need a shovel and a couple of lookouts.

You could also break it done on geographically and dive into the politics or history of the country of your choice.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:20 AM on August 25, 2007

I need to learn Spanish and I know nothing. My girlfriend's Spanish but I can't practice on her until I know more than nothing. I also need to learn French, and I already have a decent reading knowledge, just my hearing, writing and speaking abilities are nothing. So I'm game for remedial Spanish or mediocre French.
posted by creasy boy at 7:23 AM on August 25, 2007

I would play! I realized the other day that the problem I was thinking about could have been swiftly and decidedly figured out with the application of an easy integral, and that I had forgotten how to integrate.
posted by janell at 7:27 AM on August 25, 2007

I'd love to find a group that would like to minutely dissect Douglas Hofstadter's book "I Am A Strange Loop" or perhaps "Godel, Escher, Bach" over a few months.
posted by DarkForest at 7:39 AM on August 25, 2007 [7 favorites]

posted by Astro Zombie at 7:41 AM on August 25, 2007

DarkForest, this isn't an endorsement of the site but the folks at Philosophy Forums are in the habit of doing exactly such things.
posted by Gyan at 7:55 AM on August 25, 2007

Thanks, Gyan, that does look interesting.
posted by DarkForest at 8:20 AM on August 25, 2007

I'm in! Cosmology or cosmetology. Or perhaps a combination of the two. Or anything off of DarkForest's list.
posted by Floydd at 8:30 AM on August 25, 2007

As a graduate student in computational science, I'm probably qualified to lead a low-level class in Numerical Methods, Scientific Programming, Object-Oriented Programming, Calculus, Linear Algebra, or something along those lines.

Though I don't know how interesting any of those topics are to anyone besides me.

And I'd rather see somebody with a bit more experience step up.
posted by onalark at 8:39 AM on August 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

I like the idea, too.
I would be interested in some kind of literature class--I avoided taking any in college because I hated overanalyzing things, but in my older age I have become more interested in overanalysis.
posted by exceptinsects at 8:49 AM on August 25, 2007

For clarity, I want to emphasize this is not limited to learning a programming language or other "techie" subjects (not that that's ruled out) but more along the lines of a 100 or 200 level college course.

I'm certainly biased, as I'm a web developer, but one advantage of web-centric topics (even something not particularly techie, e.g. sociology of online communities) over many other subjects is the ready access to practical applications. In an Italian course, everyone may or may not have an opportunity to actually speak Italian. But everyone here definitely has access to the web.
posted by scottreynen at 9:25 AM on August 25, 2007

For those of you who don't want to play along but still want to learn, definitely check out some of Berkeley podcasts. I particularly like this one on geography, a subject I was always bad at.


I think we could ameliorate that problem by deciding that every "next" class meeting is scheduled when, say, 70% of the students affirm they've completed the reading or homework due for that class. They no one is left behind or (like Abiezer) dragged down.

The danger with this is anyone could get dragged down, and all it takes is a few people and then momentum can drop. As bad and evil as it sounds, some kind of "name and shame" program might work to motivate people to do their readings and get involved with the lessons. I know I always need a kick in the pants to do everything.

Though I don't know how interesting any of those topics are to anyone besides me.

This is a geek site. A lot of people would be interested. I would.

I'm into the programming angle but please, let's not choose a "popular" language like Python, Perl, Java, etc. I vote we do either an ML or Lisp dialect. If we choose Scheme we even have a textbook written for us already, complete with exercises. Basically, my feeling is that these courses should be focused on improving our ability to think about subjects, not just to build marketable skills or something. I'd much rather leave a course finally understanding syntactic sugar rather than finally knowing how to create YABlog in Python.

I would also be extremely interested in a course covering history. Any history geeks out there, this is your moment to shine. You have so much knowledge packed away in your noggins that few others care about. Well, I care, I care.

I don't know all that much that I can teach, myself, but I'd love to give it a shot. If there are any mathphobes out there I'm pretty good at making that subject approachable and pleasant so I'd be happy to lead something in that I guess.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:30 AM on August 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Elementary Trotskyism might work well here.
posted by davy at 9:32 AM on August 25, 2007

Sounds great, but can I audit the class? Work and commuting often leave me too pooped to do anything in the evenings, and weekends are for doing all the stuff I didn't get to during the week.

How exactly is this going to work, anyway?
posted by Quietgal at 9:48 AM on August 25, 2007

This is an awesome idea. All the suggested topics sound really interesting to me. I'd also like to learn some chemistry (the non-recreational kind).
posted by solipsophistocracy at 9:58 AM on August 25, 2007

Matt, I don't suppose you'd consider setting up, would you?

Basically the upshot would be that posts could only be made by the "facilitator" of a course. Other than that it would be a cut and paste of

Failing that, we'll need to figure out some kind of lovely meetup venue. I mean, IRC is great and all but I just don't feel it lends itself to this kind of forum, especially since I suspect some people (like yours truly, GMT-2) would be synced up with someone wanting to meet up after work PDT.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:03 AM on August 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Sounds like a good idea. I'm a Ph.D. student in a program that is both classroom- and online-based. I'm happy to help figure out the logistics for doing this, once we have pupils and instructors figured out.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 10:05 AM on August 25, 2007

...Basecamp might be better. It keeps a nice log of everything that happened and even keeps a copy of files uploaded on the side, autohighlights links and has a neato feature for cut-n-pasted text that would make it easier for doing things like pasting in articles, code, etc.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:06 AM on August 25, 2007

As a denizen of the Deep South, I believe boredom and ignorance are a birthright and an essential thread in the beautiful tapestry that is my cultural heritage. Still, this is a cool idea.

I actually would like to learn Python. Not to use it for anything, particularly, just as a mental exercise. Of course, if I got really good at it, maybe I could hack Eve Online and give everyone in my corp titan-class ships with doomsday weapons. Then MAYBE we'd be less lame at PvP.

I'll watch this thread closely.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:28 AM on August 25, 2007

Yes, I like this idea very much, especially the programming angle. Or Library Science?
posted by Rock Steady at 10:28 AM on August 25, 2007

I think its an excellent idea. I vote for cosmology because its completely outside my areas of expertise and thus sounds like it'd be fun.

I've been vaguely meaning to learn perl or python for a while, but never got off my ass, so either of those could be fun too.
posted by sotonohito at 10:37 AM on August 25, 2007

Make it a Project when you set it up.
posted by nanojath at 10:38 AM on August 25, 2007

Another idea (that I like less than the original) is MetaMentors. Or maybe a MetaMindswap. One-on-one tutoring from an expert in a field you're curious in. And even better if they're a neophyte in your chosen field, and eager to learn. The idea came to me thinking about the "attendance" problem. If there's too much diffusion of responsibility in a larger group, this is an alternative.
posted by Eideteker at 10:44 AM on August 25, 2007 [2 favorites]

Metafilter lecture series? It could be amazing ...
posted by geoff. at 11:22 AM on August 25, 2007

I'd be in for something like this, think a web centric course would be the best idea, would be easier to actually 'mark' the output and for everyone to actually be able to see their progress.
posted by lloyder at 11:24 AM on August 25, 2007

Well, as a history major I'd like to see some history classes open up at MeFiU. Interesting classes, though, like A History of Pirates from Prehistory to the Modern Day 101.

Or maybe an in-depth, specialized course like Major Themes and Ideas of the Enlightenment 304. Architecture of Medieval Castles 402? Sex Throughout History 403?

Also, for the online format, I might suggest WebCT.

So what exactly would it take for MeFi to become an accredited University, anyway?
posted by Avenger at 11:25 AM on August 25, 2007 [2 favorites]

How about economics?
posted by By The Grace of God at 11:26 AM on August 25, 2007

I'm definitely interested. Specifically, learning to program (pref. Ruby, as that's what I've been tinkering in, but I'm sure Python would be awesome as well). Basic maths would be amazing, but I doubt anyone else is as basic as I am in that respect.

For anyone looking for various mainstream lectures etc., I've been listening to some stuff from iTunes U (mainly history so far), and it's good. I think the thing which would make this successful would be the interaction though, so looking forward to what people come up with.
posted by djgh at 11:45 AM on August 25, 2007

Fantastic idea. A couple of quick thoughts off the top of my head:
Anything math or science related is going to have challenges with communication - without some sort of video or whiteboard facility, it's going to get ugly. (i.e, posting the quadratic equation in a metafilter thread is impractical). I suppose someone could .pdf all the lessons and host them or put them in Basecamp, but discussion could get difficult in real time.

I'd really like to learn Mandarin, but without some sort of audio communication method, that won't work either. Swapping .mp3s around seems clumsy.
posted by ctmf at 11:49 AM on August 25, 2007

djgh: I would be down for a refresher in some basic math as well, and will be happy to sit in the back of the class with you and cheat off your exam papers.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:54 AM on August 25, 2007

I like this idea. Not so interested in programming, but the other topics intrigue me.
posted by sugarfish at 11:59 AM on August 25, 2007

djgh As long as you avoid monstrosities like BASIC, it really doesn't matter which language you first learn to program in. The concepts behind programming are the same from language to language [1]. Once you know programming in general learning additional languages isn't really all that tough. Most programmers I know are conversant in at least six or eight languages.

The concepts behind programming can often be difficult to wrap your head around, but once you've got them each language is just a different way to express those same concepts.

[1] Exception: object oriented concepts don't work too well in non-object oriented languages.
posted by sotonohito at 12:28 PM on August 25, 2007

Wow, what a great day to come back to Metafilter. It's a great idea. Personally, I'd love to do the "Foundations of Mathematics" course that I never got around to in college.

This does sound like an idea for a whole website. I'd be happy to lead or be a part of anything related to moral philosophy or ethics.
posted by ontic at 12:31 PM on August 25, 2007

derail: Since somebody here had mentioned it, I decided to check out the iUniversity podcast store on iTunes.
Texas A&M University has 46 agriculture lectures posted, 36 engineering lectures posted, 1 liberal arts lecture posted...
...and 120 lectures posted from the Integrative Center for Homeland Security. Texas A&M: Teaching the subjects that really matter!

posted by Avenger at 12:43 PM on August 25, 2007

I'm not knowledgeable enough to teach it but if you're going to do just one hard science course I would recommend a physiology course.

It applies to everyone, everyday and it's just damn interesting stuff.
posted by 517 at 12:43 PM on August 25, 2007

Though we're not hosting it, my school's in the process of getting teachers on board for Moodle, which I have some experience in creating courses with. Be interesting to see how the school's courses and this project come along.

Seeing as I'm back in school for IT stuff, I'd be interested in non computer-related classes. I graduated in biochemistry & molecular biology so unless it's really in-depth, it'd be interesting to learn about something I've never studied. Diversify, or something like that.
Now that I think about it, a music class would be awesome. Not learning to play, but where we learn about the roots of music and how certain artists borrow music from other artists and genres.

but discussion could get difficult in real time.

Webcam with video conferencing? Idealy, I think the presenter would have some notes or a decent outline already posted online for the participants to follow. It would make things a lot easier on both ends to keep track of what's happening.
If not a webcam, I wonder how well (or bad) Vent would work.
posted by jmd82 at 12:44 PM on August 25, 2007

I'd love to find a group that would like to minutely dissect Douglas Hofstadter's book "I Am A Strange Loop" or perhaps "Godel, Escher, Bach" over a few months.

Ooh, yes please. I keep trying to work my way through GEB, but I get swamped with all the ideas and then I need to go away and think about them, and by the time I come back, it's too hard to get back into it and I start the section over again. Discussion would be so amazing.

I was so worried this would get shot down! YAY NERDS!
posted by heatherann at 1:02 PM on August 25, 2007

Count me in. With regard to topics, I'd be interested in some sort of writing curriculum. Nonfiction and writing for business. Also, Tom Chiarella writes a monthly column for Esquire about influence. He experiments each month in different ways of influencing people, for example he tried to see what he could buy from people for $1000 cash, on the spot. Their wallet, their laptop, etc. I'm not sure how this would directly translate into a course but I find that sort of general life hacking interesting.
posted by MarvinTheCat at 1:02 PM on August 25, 2007

Oh, and something science-heavy that related to nutrition would be interesting also.
posted by MarvinTheCat at 1:04 PM on August 25, 2007

This sounds like a lot of fun. For programming languages, I think, we should learn the on-standard ones. I'd love a strutted structured place to learn Lisp, Scheme, Haskell, Erlang, or Smalltalk. One of those 'weird' languages...
posted by bkudria at 1:16 PM on August 25, 2007

There's no way I'm going to have time for this soon, but I think it is a great idea.
posted by grouse at 1:23 PM on August 25, 2007

'd love to find a group that would like to minutely dissect Douglas Hofstadter's book "I Am A Strange Loop" or perhaps "Godel, Escher, Bach" over a few months.

A good friend of mine just set up a blog to discuss Goedel, Escher, Bach here:

He'll be happy to add anyone as an author that is interested. Our goal is to do two chapters a week, but we've been lazy getting started. If you're interested, email's in profile.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 1:25 PM on August 25, 2007

I'd be willing to lead some physics intros--at some point. I have to move and get married and get a new job this fall...

And I'd definitely be interested learning other subjects mentioned here.
posted by stevis23 at 1:54 PM on August 25, 2007

I like the idea. I'd be down for any foreign language (spanish, mandarin or Hindi, especially), but any programming language would work, too. I wouldn't mind an erlang course.
posted by empath at 1:59 PM on August 25, 2007

posted by hototogisu at 2:12 PM on August 25, 2007

If there's interest in library science/classification theory I'd be happy to share some of the teaching load. I don't have the knowledge/motivation to shoulder the entire load but I know there's enough knowlegable people on metafilter (hildago, I'm looking at you!) to make it work.

Plus, library science tends to have enough relevance to the Web that the web-ish metafiltroons could get a lot of value from it.
posted by stet at 3:23 PM on August 25, 2007

Also, DO WANT!
posted by stet at 3:23 PM on August 25, 2007

i'm in as an auditor too--it's a great idea.

how about philosophy/anthropology/sociology/psychology/etc-- something related to here?
posted by amberglow at 3:32 PM on August 25, 2007

Well, as a history major I'd like to see some history classes open up at MeFiU. Interesting classes, though, like A History of Pirates from Prehistory to the Modern Day 101.

Or maybe an in-depth, specialized course like Major Themes and Ideas of the Enlightenment 304. Architecture of Medieval Castles 402? Sex Throughout History 403?

These are wonderful ideas too : >
posted by amberglow at 3:33 PM on August 25, 2007

Sex Throughout History 403?

What, access denied?
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 3:54 PM on August 25, 2007

Existentialism 404 should also be on the class roster.
posted by djgh at 4:00 PM on August 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

I LOVE this idea. I don't know whether or not I'd be able to take part, though. It depends how much other stuff is going on in my life.

I have another (related) idea, though. There are so many experts here: how about a serious of seminars? There could be two forms, one in which people sign up to lead a seminar; one in which people sign up to take a seminar. Seminars would maybe last an hour -- and they could be on any topic.

Leaders could use Adobe Acrobat Connect (is the a good opensource alternative?) to give their talk. This app allows you to broadcast to people live, show slides and even show your desktop. And there's a chatroom built in, so people can ask questiosn. I just took a seminar using this, and it was a really smooth experience.

It would be great if these seminars were archived so that people who were busy at the time could still watch them.

I see two fairly big problems:

1) Acrobat Connect isn't free.

2) Bandwidth isn't free either.

Maybe there's a creative way to get around these problems. I don't know. I do know I'd attend/watch/give these seminars. Off the top of my head, I could deliver talks on Shakespeare, writing, acting, directing, Photoshop, After Effects, Flash, Actionscript and Design Patterns.
posted by grumblebee at 4:22 PM on August 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

US Drug Policy in the 20th Century 420
posted by Avenger at 4:29 PM on August 25, 2007

If there were a area, there could be a page for each subject and the experts in each area could list off resources as well as archive seminars, chats, discussions there so other people could browse them.

It would also work for stuff that is more discussion-based than teaching-based: I'd love to see course panels on subjects like parenting, breastfeeding, sex, relationships - sort of an extension of AskMeFi, where you could get multiple perspectives on issues from the self-appointed "experts" all at once. I find myself answering questions in the same subjects over and over, it would be pretty useful if you could get together the people that do that and have them discuss their way publicly through the basics of one subject and be open for questions from the people observing.
posted by Melinika at 4:39 PM on August 25, 2007

Thanks for posting this idea, ortho. I've been trying to learn philosophy on my own lately, and I know I would get more out of it if I had some sort of tutor or mentor. The suggestions in this thread are exactly what I'm looking for. I'm also very interested in learning any math and science I can. If there's anything I can do to get this rolling, please let me know.
posted by lagreen at 5:04 PM on August 25, 2007

On to the big questions:

University of MetaFilter or MetaFilter University? Actually, MeFi State has a nice ring to it too.
posted by ontic at 5:26 PM on August 25, 2007

ortho, this is the best idea I've seen in a very long time. I'm tired of my boredom and ignorance being an excuse to do nothing about my boredom and ignorance... if you get me.

I think the concept is something more along the lines of MeFi Community College. sans the basketweaving and decoupage courses, maybe.

perhaps start small just to get it off the ground - maybe do a set of expert subject matter lectures that tie into the podcast series? Mostly because it's the attendance and multimedia aspects (whiteboarding / videoconferencing) that could get challenging.

and OH HELLZ YEA MATH!! I hated math with a passion in high school, turns out mainly due to shitty teachers. it's a major reason I never followed through with college. If there was someone out there that could teach basic maths concepts so that idiots like me can understand them.... well I just can't even explain how great that would be.

I have vast fascination for a number of subjects: chemistry, physiology, history, technical writing, programming languages, you name it. But understanding basic maths would be the single biggest thing that would make me feel less stupid on a daily basis.

and if someone could put together A Sociological History of Piracy From Ancient Times Through Modern-Day Black Markets type course? You so would be my hero forever!
posted by lonefrontranger at 5:45 PM on August 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

I already 'take' two or three courses a month from the comfort of my own bicycle (where I do most of my listening).

Making time for more learning is always a good thing, though, especially if I can do it from the office and look like I'm doing something 'productive'.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:53 PM on August 25, 2007

So I'm wondering how this process might actually work. I'm picturing something a bit like this...

Let's say I decide that I want to study cosmology. Maybe I post a thread to that says "I want to study Intro Cosmology, who's with me?" Anyone interested could post to the thread saying they wanted to join and everyone could suggest courseware or other materials. Within that thread, the courseware and materials, and schedule for readings and for IRC or other kinds of meetings could be worked out. The page at might be full of similar threads for various subjects.

Then this cosmology group could petition for the creation of This site then would be the place where cosmology group members would post their question and discussion threads for the group, similar to the mefi and askme front pages. The people signed up for the cosmology group will probably have a lot of different levels expertise, so if one person had a question or problem, another person might be able to solve it. There might even be an expert level person who would be a defacto leader of the group. People in the group might want to give presentations, etc., but I don't really see that as absolutely necessary if the relevant courseware is available (I'd be all for it if people wanted to do it though). Hopefully a lot of questions or good discussion would be generated by the course materials. Otherwise, there might not be much point to having a group. Naturally, the groups would probably require some level of moderation.

Once the original group of people finished their intro cosmology course, would still stick around for anyone else who might be interested in the subject in the future.

Just a thought.
posted by DarkForest at 7:31 PM on August 25, 2007

Just wanted to chime in and say that this idea is freakin great.
posted by lazaruslong at 8:09 PM on August 25, 2007

Also, since you wanted to know what people are interested in:

Courses I would like to take:

Basic programming in python / CSS / php / sql etc.
Art history.
Mechanics of a car engine.
Basic plumbing.
Fundamentals of daily cooking.
Introduction to Small - Garden Vegetable farming.
Advanced Music Theory.

Courses I would feel comfortable "leading" and setting up course-ware for:

Basic Intermediate Music Theory
Fundamentals of Audio Engineering
Basic - Intermediate ProTools
Sequencing / Sampling
Big Board Console Theory, SSL9000 and Neve 88R
The Science of Microphones
Advanced Acoustics, or "How to build a studio and control room that doesn't sound like shit".

Please email me if you need any help!
posted by lazaruslong at 8:16 PM on August 25, 2007

ProTools LE and HD, though most of the difference would come at the "Expert User" level.
posted by lazaruslong at 8:17 PM on August 25, 2007

"I love this plan! I'm excited. It could work!"

DarkForest: Thanks for the link to the Positive Psychology videos, those are great! I will be watching the rest of the course and I hope we can set up a forum to discuss them. You're right, there are lots of Mefites who might like to join you. I just bought the Happier book.

orthogonality: Great idea.

heatherann: I love Godel, Escher, Bach. I've been rereading that book for years.

You know, I'd like to study basic music theory and practice. Seems like there's lots of musical expertise around here.
posted by RussHy at 8:42 PM on August 25, 2007

Sheesh, if this actually got rolling and we covered enough topics, 'twould be the start of a MetaEncyclopedia! Archived instructional material with moderated educational discourse!

fap fap fap
posted by lazaruslong at 8:49 PM on August 25, 2007

I want this to happen.

Also, the only reason this post didn't get immediately torn to horrible, bloody shreds is because of your username.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 9:01 PM on August 25, 2007

I think this is a cool idea - are there ideas (or indications of people who know what they're talking about) that could be used from this AskMe on online education?
posted by jacalata at 1:19 AM on August 26, 2007

Seconding economics or a foreign language. I've been wanting to learn German lately.
posted by triggerfinger at 1:39 AM on August 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Brilliant idea. I'd be thrilled if we did a language (Italian?), or some sort of science like chemistry (since chemistry in high school was one of the few things I really thought I got, but was totally wrong).

I'd be most enthusiastic for anything other than programming language.
posted by Iamtherealme at 1:48 AM on August 26, 2007

Another thanks to Ortho for this wonderful idea. I'm up for any science or math program, but I really NEED a Spanish forum. And also some real world courses in plumbing and electrical work would be great. I can offer 2d animation & design and storyboarding.
However this works out, count me in.
posted by maryh at 2:39 AM on August 26, 2007

Sounds like a fantastic idea. I saw someone asking about alternatives to Adobe Acrobat Connect; I don't know of anything that exactly replicates the functionality, but and and are all live webcam streaming sites with chat rooms that might be able to do part of the job.
posted by adrianhon at 3:19 AM on August 26, 2007

I think we should do a course in php.

Great. I'll bring the pipe and the James Brown records.

Ummm...hang on a minute. (Consults acronym dictionary.)

Uh, sorry. Count me out.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:49 AM on August 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

I am so up for this. Foreign language French or German get my vote, but I'll try anything.
posted by darkmatter at 8:32 AM on August 26, 2007

This is a great idea. I'm so in.
posted by Meagan at 8:55 AM on August 26, 2007

Instead of setting up a MeFi site and such right away, how about a "test run" with a group of MeFites going through a MIT OpenCourseWare course together? Perhaps something like the MeFi running or cycling challenge, but instead involving a course, and people supporting each other and asking each other questions.

Such a "test run" could help identify the issues in actually trying to do this with large numbers of people for multiple subjects. It would also be a chance to test out software out there such as Moodle and identify one that is particularly suitable.
posted by needled at 10:30 AM on August 26, 2007

This is the best idea I've heard since coming to MeFi. Pure genius.
Moodle would be a really great idea for organizing the material, posting discussion threads, etc. It's open source and free, I believe.

As an aside, does a MeFi wiki already exist?
posted by HotPatatta at 12:25 PM on August 26, 2007

As an aside, does a MeFi wiki already exist?

The Unofficial MetaFilter Wiki, as seen on the MetaTalk sidebar.
posted by carsonb at 12:49 PM on August 26, 2007

Also, lazaruslong, I would gladly be your attentive student.
posted by carsonb at 12:50 PM on August 26, 2007

Fantastic idea, and there seems to be lots of learners and teachers, so what next?
posted by MetaMonkey at 12:56 PM on August 26, 2007

Speaking of the wiki, I'm thinking about upgrading it to MediaWiki one of these days...
posted by adrianhon at 1:09 PM on August 26, 2007

MetaMonkey writes "so what next?"

Well, I think it would be helpful to look at several established courses (such as MIT's OpenCourseware, or the Berkely webcasts) and see which of those:
* are complete enough to be useful as-is
* are introductory enough to be accessible;
* and are of interest to a large enough (5+ person) group.

What I'd like to see is several persons each nominate a course that meets the first two criteria, and see if we can get at least four other persons to indicate interest in it.

For the most part I want, at least initially, to stick to courses provided by a reputable educational institution, to avoid problems of the blind leading the blind.

Note that many of the OpenCourseware courses are incomplete, or reliant on non-free texts, or censor/redact copyrighted images. In some cases, it may be useful to combine resources from different courses to fill out these gaps. It's probably also useful to spend money on a text (even at the grossly inflated prices of textbooks); this isn't a problem for me but may be for some Mefites, so it's probably best to indicate the likely costs in supplies and materials for the course you're nominating.

(For me personally, I'm interested in Comp. Sci., Biology, Cognitive Science, "harder" Pyschology, and some Maths and some Chemistry.)

So take some time, look here and here and here, and then begin your nominations.
posted by orthogonality at 1:35 PM on August 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Hmm. I had hoped this would be oriented? That is, that a member would suggest a topic they feel comfortable leading some students through, and once that topic received enough "votes" from students it would commence, with the leader providing the courseware, timetable, meeting schedule, lecture material, assignments, et cetera.

This would avoid the blind leading the blind situation, and it would sort of make the proposed "MeFi University" a product of our vast and talented membership.

That said, I'm going to look over those links and see what looks good.
posted by lazaruslong at 2:48 PM on August 26, 2007

I'd like to establish a place for people interested in this topic to 'meet'. This thread is an obvious place, but metafilter threads tend to die out pretty quickly. Is there some other place to meet that might be more obvious than this thread? Is there a place where new 'news' about this idea could be posted that would keep our present 50 or so posters interested and bringing in even more people?
posted by DarkForest at 3:41 PM on August 26, 2007

I'd like to second that nomination for a dedicated home to this proposal.

I suppose if you want I could just create a free pHp message board over at or something.

It'd be a start.
posted by lazaruslong at 4:34 PM on August 26, 2007

I'll go ahead and do that, actually, and try to summarize some of the data in this thread so far. Gimme an hour or so.
posted by lazaruslong at 4:35 PM on August 26, 2007

djgh: Basic maths would be amazing, but I doubt anyone else is as basic as I am in that respect.

lonefrontranger: If there was someone out there that could teach basic maths concepts so that idiots like me can understand them.... well I just can't even explain how great that would be.

Hey guys, I'd be delighted to teach "basic maths". Not exactly sure what that means, but I'm reasonably clever with mathematical concepts up to around trigonometry or so, and I can understand some more advanced concepts so I can certainly teach it. I probably would need access to some kind of online textbook (I'm sure one such exists) just to refresh me on the basic equations.

So, as far as votes, I am interested in taking a course in:
  • History or Microhistory
  • Anything weird in science and math (I can't get enough of topology!)
  • Computer Science (algorithm/abstract angle -- I get enough "how to build a website" in my job, um, building websites)
I would be willing to teach (semi-poorly):
  • Basic Maths
  • Basic Science
I should be clear that I actually know only a basic amount of science or mathematics (i.e. advanced level high school physics/pre-Calculus). My strength is that I'm a pretty good teacher, and I'm good at translating concepts so that they can be understood.
posted by Deathalicious at 4:42 PM on August 26, 2007

I'd be up for a basic maths or intro to comp sci/programming type deal. I've been very slowly working my way through Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, but I'll probably be in waaaaay over my head after a few more pages.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 6:00 PM on August 26, 2007

Not a bad idea. I get bored when not studying something.

One issue, though: how will the timing work for non-americans, if tools like IRC are to be used?

Also, I'm putting a vote in for History, specifically Germany 1918-1945. We need more granular detail in order to more effectively make use of the "you know who else" meme.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:12 PM on August 26, 2007

It's a start.

At least for now, we can discuss things further over there and maybe settle on a design / topics.

If anyone wants admin rights and wants to help, or wants to build a better temporary home, feel free to post in the forum for it over there and let me know. I'm not trying to hijack this idea or anything, I just really want to see this happen.

Registration to read the threads and reply is required just to make things more organized, but I've used these free pHp boards before and they are not spammy. Use your MeFi username if possible.
posted by lazaruslong at 6:21 PM on August 26, 2007

Count me in. I'm having surprising amount of difficulty with the registration though - just call me spambot.

I would be interested in anything History or language, and can probably help out with Chemistry and basic maths.

Whilst i think the idea of seminars by members is a great idea, I don't think we can expect members to be coming up with whole courses. It would be a huge amount of work for any one person. Maybe we could have people volunteer to be mentors of a course though.

Time difference will be a problem, as it'll be impossible to suit Europe, Australia and the US at the same time. If the time was set up for the benefit of most of the participants, and then left open for as long as people were interested (at least 24hours), it could work.
posted by kjs4 at 10:28 PM on August 26, 2007

lazaruslong writes "It's a start."

How about making the forum NOT require logging in to read?
posted by orthogonality at 12:56 AM on August 27, 2007

How about making the forum NOT require logging in to read?

Done. Logged out users or non-registered users can read no problems.

Like I said, I'm not trying to hijack this, just give us a temporary home to meet and maybe actually make this happen. If you or anyone else wants admin rights over the forum to make changes like that, please let me know. I am not "that guy" when it comes to webdesign and forum management, so I'd be more than happy to have someone else handle that aspect.
posted by lazaruslong at 7:27 AM on August 27, 2007

So far we have 9 out of the 57 users that expressed interest over there. That's a great start.

Now, someone else step up and let's get this going. I feel like I've overstepped by bounds or something. =)
posted by lazaruslong at 7:29 AM on August 27, 2007

Let me make a little proposal, but beware the caveats below.

I'd like to go through the Positive Psychology course here. It's Harvard so it satisfies the major institution criteria. I've already been through the lectures once, but would like to go through them again and have people to talk to about them. I wouldn't see myself as in the role of a leader and I don't really think it would be necessary in this case.

It's an easy course, no real pre-requisites. It would not fall into the 'harder' psychology category. I used it in a self-help sense in order to find a bit more happiness. However, it would also be of interest to the general psychology student even if it is not particularly rigorous or difficult.

There's 23 lectures. I'd propose viewing them at 2-3 per week (like mon, wed, fri), with a separate thread for each lecture posted somewhere where we could talk about the lecture, post our reactions, talk about how we might integrate the ideas into our lives (if that is your goal, it need not be). Some topics related to the lectures could also get their own separate thread, if there was enough interest and volume of comments.

You'll need real player (yuck, sorry) to play the lecture videos. Don't know anything about the real alternative player. It may work, I don't know. I have successfully used mplayer to download my own copies of these videos.

I don't know that I'd be able to participate in any real-time chats. Scheduling may make it difficult. I much prefer threaded discussions of the metafilter sort that I can post to when I'm free.

There are some readings for the course here. Most of them are available online, which is nice. They're listed by lecture, to be read before the lecture I think.

The lectures themselves are mostly lively and interesting. The first couple are less so as it's overview and history of humanistic psychology. Later lectures get better. Most of the lectures have a few minutes of unimportant unrelated material at the beginnings: announcements and the like.

If you're interested in following this class, go off and view the first lecture to see if it's to your taste. Post here if you're in, or email me, or post to lazaruslong's board. I'll be checking all three. Again, though: I'm not planning to lead anything, I may disappear for days at a time, but if there's a motivated group, we can just do it together.

As to where to hold further discussions, I'm wondering if we could post our threads at metachat? Would they throw us out? Is that outside their charter? I just like the metafilter interface much more than the typical discussion board interface. Maybe I just feel a little safer having my info and writings hosted at metafilter rather than someplace I know nothing about. I guess we could ask at metachat if we could use them till we find/decide on a real home (if it's to be at all).

Similarly, maybe we could start our potential GEB discussions at metachat too, if they're amenable to hosting us.

Bringing this opus typed into a little box to an end, I'd just loke to express condolences to orthogonality for his FPP that got deleted. I'm glad I saw it before it went.
posted by DarkForest at 7:34 AM on August 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

DarkForest writes "I'd propose viewing them at 2-3 per week (like mon, wed, fri)"

I suspect this is way too ambituous for many of us.
posted by orthogonality at 3:29 PM on August 27, 2007

I suspect this is way too ambituous for many of us.

That's fine. The schedule isn't important.
posted by DarkForest at 4:26 PM on August 27, 2007

posted by adamvasco at 3:55 AM on August 28, 2007

I would gladly provide course material for marine biology, oceanography, ecology, and related topics.

I also need to improve my Spanish, so I would be glad to join an intermediate level class.
posted by nekton at 11:11 AM on August 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

posted by IronLizard at 7:52 PM on August 29, 2007

I figure that I may as well chime in to state that I could lead a number of elementary physics courses, as well as a number of more advanced math courses (eg. Multivariable Calculus, Group Theory, Mathematical Proofs, Topology)
posted by vernondalhart at 10:30 PM on August 29, 2007

I'd be interested in following courses in math, physics, cosmology and cellular biology (time allowing). The bio simply because so much has been added since I learned the basics, decades ago.
posted by Goofyy at 5:06 AM on August 30, 2007

I could lead\help with some basic physics type courses, and could probably teach math up through calc I. i could help with a lot more math and physics than I could teach, as well. I imagine I could teach some German as well.

Otherwise, I'd be up for learning
* philosophy 101 (what?)
* French, Arabic
* New programming language, or programming topics
* More physics
* Econ
* Psychology
* Other stuff?
posted by !Jim at 10:46 PM on August 31, 2007

A physics course would be interesting. I'm in. When do we start?
posted by yoz420 at 11:47 PM on September 4, 2007

Looks like I'm a little late, but this is a really cool idea!

I'm up for learning pretty much anything (GEB discussion included) with the exception of languages (got my hands full learning mandarin!), but above all I'd really love to do some math. Meeting online once or twice a week to discuss and/or prove some theorems would be right up my alley.

I don't think I'd really be able to teach anything but I would be happy to help out with any computer science/programming courses/study groups.
posted by benign at 3:00 AM on September 8, 2007

I'm interested in it.
posted by Tuwa at 4:09 PM on September 10, 2007

So, uh, what happened?
posted by Aloysius Bear at 4:32 PM on September 18, 2007

« Older Dark blue forevah!   |   I don't know where to start. Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments