Tuesday, September 24, 2013

My MOOC Blog, Day 1

I'm taking Stanford University's Writing in the Sciences course, taught by Kristin Sainani. MOOC means Massive Open Online Course. "Massive" in this case equals 22,000 students, and this is a writing class. Can Prof. Sainani grade that many essays? Of course not; when it comes to that part of the course, we will be commenting on each other's writing. I must hope that my classmates are sincere seekers of wisdom, not Internet trolls.

As for "Open," that should mean that anyone can take part, but we're already hearing from students in Pakistan whose access to YouTube is blocked by the government and will need to find another way to view the videos.

So I watched the mini-lectures, a set of short videos, very well done, very straightforward. Sainani says that even when writing scientific papers, we may use plain and direct English. The discussion board immediately erupted. Won't simple style fail to impress editors? The question must come from somebody who has never met an editor. The ones I know sing hosannas of joy when they receive manuscripts that are already clear and readable, and which they will not need to spend hours untangling.

Stay tuned as I undergo my 8-week education in science writing. Maybe after that, Gina Kolata will finally approve my friend request.

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