Introducing: Universiteplus

universiteplus

Universiteplus is an online learning platform that features quality education from leading Turkish universities aimed towards Turkish and English speaking learners.  The courses are self-paced, free, and have the opportunity to earn a certificate for a reasonable 69TL. 

As the first Turkish MOOC platform, Universiteplus has three main goals – to provide Turkey (and the world) with free, unique and vital opportunities to revolutionize education, to support the best Turkish professors by giving them a platform from which to teach, and to take advantage of international interest in regional affairs to share Turkey‘s own story. 

Keep watching for more courses, new professors and new universities participating in Universiteplus as they are on the look out for the best and brightest!

The Platform

Taught by leading Turkish professors with tenure at prestigious universities around the world, the courses consist of video lectures, projects, learning activities and final exams.  There are also forums to participate within.  Designed to work around your busy schedule, courses are self-paced and available at any time – it is easy to access on your smartphone and other devices.

 

Profiles

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Universiteplus offers a great profile page for each user.  You can share a little about yourself – your interests, where you are from, and ways in which people can contact you – such as LinkedIn.  You can easily see who is in each class by checking under Participants to contact a coursemate offsite (to follow on Twitter for example)

A Wide Selection of Courses

Universiteplus has a great assortment of courses – these are just a sampling of the courses available.  While these 3 are in English, there are many more in Turkish.  This will be exciting news for our friends in Istanbul, Samsun, and Ankara!

universiteplus course page

Career Counseling

This “Career Counseling” course will explore the basic principles and concepts involved in the career development as well as college and career decision making processes of individuals. It will focus on reconsideration of the roles & responsibilities of career counselors & clients in individual & group counseling. Participants will gain knowledge of occupational-educational information & vocational testing that is applied to the process of career counseling.

 

universiteplus entrepreneurIntroduction to Entrepreneurship

The purpose of ‘introduction to entrepreneurship’ course is to help you begin the process of developing a set of skills and competencies focused on entrepreneurial opportunity recognition, innovation, and small business management. This course is about dreaming and pursuing those entrepreneurial dreams.  This course will challenge you to think and act boldly, and to break with conventional thinking when it comes to the realities of the marketplace and your own business ideas. Introduction to entrepreneurship will equip you with basic skills and tools that will allow you to effectively pursue your entrepreneurial dreams. Entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs.

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Occasionalism East and West

Philosophy, History, Islamic Studies, Religious Studies majors can take this course. Occasionalism is commonly understood as a theory that ascribes all causal power to God on the one hand and treats cause-effect relations in nature as occasions indicating the manner of divine creation on the other. This doctrine was formulated first by the Muslim scholars in the 10th century, i.e. the Ash’arites and Maturidites. It was transmitted to Europe via the works of Averroes and Moses Maimonides in the 13th century. In the 17th century, it reappeared among the Cartesian philosophers, famously in the work of Nicolas Malebranche. Many philosophers in the 17th and 18th centuries seriously took this theory into account, responded to it and to a certain extent influenced by it. In this course, we will examine wider philosophical dimensions of occasionalism both theoretically and from a historical point of view. Some questions that will be addressed are as follows: What is the relationship between occasionalism and monism (or pantheism)?

Make sure to check out the course finder to see the full selection of courses from Universiteplus – and remember to update your Accredible Learner’s Profile to reflect the new courses you’ve selected!

How to Become a Programmer in 9 Weeks: Week 0

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Path to Programming

When people ask me what I want to do with my life, I tell them I want to build [game-changing] software in Silicon Valley. They think that’s pretty cool and the next question is always about where I got my computer science degree.

Erm…I didn’t.

I got a Business Administration degree and had no credentials, training, or even background reading in software development until about 4 weeks ago – which is when I Googled ‘difference between front-end and back-end development’. So yeah…’novice’ was kind of written on my forehead.

I am still definitely very much a novice, but that first Google search set into motion a series of followup searches. These led to my introduction to the concept of online tutorials and eventually, I found development bootcamps.

 

Its not About the Money

Development bootcamps are a new concept that have been gaining traction rapidly over the past few years. Starting with Dev Bootcamp in 2012, they’ve been popping up left and right. Most boast job placement rates in the upper 90%’s and some even guarantee positions for each of their students.

As a result, demand for admission has skyrocketed and the market is happily providing supply. While this is fantastic for the ‘coding bootcamp industry’, it makes choosing the right one all the more difficult for prospective students.

The promises bootcamps make about glorious 6-figure software engineering jobs had me unmoved – it is just too hard to believe that 8 to 12 weeks are sufficient to amass the kind of knowledge needed to land those jobs. I preferred to look further into bootcamps that made more realistic promises, like claiming to be able to jumpstart (not finish) the programming learning process and helping to find a junior developer position/internship that would serve more as a learning apprenticeship than a comfortable long term gig.

This particular criteria filtered out a huge number of options. Next, I wanted to learn stuff that would be useful to me for a while. Programming languages and frameworks go in and out of ‘style’ constantly – the last thing I wanted was to build skills in something only to have to start over in something new right away. My research said that JavaScript is a very popular upcoming language used on both the front end and back end – and that’s how I zoned in on Coding House.

 

How do You Prepare for a Bootcamp?

Before the bootcamps (but after the shorter online videos), I found instructional websites like Treehouse and Code School. At the time, I didn’t have the time (or sheer motivation to carve out time) to spend the hours on these websites that were needed to achieve even the lowest level of proficiency in programming. When I was accepted into Coding House, however, I buckled down began pummeling through them. I found that Treehouse was absolutely perfect for HTML and CSS with a fantastic tutorial for building a website. When I got to programming and JavaScript, however, I got a bit bored. The tutorials were long, and to someone totally unfamiliar with the syntax, they were difficult to follow as well.

I tried Code School at that point, and absolutely loved their JavaScript tutorials. Code School has shorter videos than Treehouse, and more time is spent in guided exercises than simply listening to lectures. This catered well to my minuscule attention span and let me build a solid introduction to basic (very basic) JavaScript. It should be noted, however, that Treehouse goes into a lot more detail – if I had more time to prepare before starting my bootcamp at Coding House, I would definitely have worked through all the Treehouse tutorials as well – just after finishing Code School for the basics.

The most important thing I did to prepare, though, was to actually build my own website. Its one thing to listen to someone as they do something and completely different to complete every step on your own with the result being the first website you ever develop. The website I built is simple, but it became my personal website and I can continuously make improvements as I learn new things. I also pushed this code to my Github account, where a potential employer or coworker can see the changes (improvements) I make over time.

 

Oh the Places You’ll Go!

Of course, I also spent some time panicking before flying out to San Francisco to attend Coding House. One thing I learned, though, is that there’s no room for stress and frustration in development. There will always be bugs in your code (as small as a missing semi-colon or extra backslash) that can prevent the entire thing from running. Looking for such bugs is time consuming, frustrating, and often stressful when you are in a time crunch. Flipping out will make it a bad experience instead of a learning one. I find that taking a little bit of alone time to reflect on how the day is going and how it can be better – almost like meditating – is very helpful.

The best part is, getting through the tougher initial learning process is a huge achievement – I am excited to have the skills I need to learn how to become a great programmer by the end of this bootcamp. There is a huge demand for good computer programmers (a trend which is likely to continue into the near future), so the job and salary outlooks are fantastic. Plus, being able to build an idea is a highly coveted skill. Many people even decide to build their own startups. The opportunities are endless and I’m excited to get started at Coding House and discover more along the way!

Spotlight on Code School

Code School

Code School is an online learning platform that allows you to learn by combining video, coding in the browser and gamification to make the learning fun.  If you have an up-to-date browser, then you are ready to learn how to code!Advancement through the course happens only once you have completed a series of interactive exercises so you can master one component before learning the next.

Here are some fun, free starter courses to help you learn to love coding!  Additional courses are available at a reasonable $29 per month.

completed-try-jquery-799b20f65cd0fdcfb1b79c009305c017     Try jQuery Self-paced — no deadlines free Learn the basic building blocks of jQuery 2.0 and enjoy new video tutorials for beginners with related programming challenges.     completed-shaping-up-with-angular-js-83ceb89bd5255391f25230727ae3f019     Shaping up with Angular.js Self-paced — no deadlines free Learn to use Angular.js by adding behavior to your HTML and speeding up your application’s responsiveness. Get ready to dive into all the angles of Angular.js!     completed-javascript-road-trip-part-1-b9f5af5196fb596271f7f97b6b477d24     JavaScript Road Trip Part 1 Self-paced — no deadlines free An introduction to the very basics of the JavaScript language. Build a foundation of JavaScript syntax and learn how to use values, variables, and files.     completed-try-objective-c-d2ebeb17d5acfd77df0bf3ae3d2b89f7     Try Objective-C Self-paced — no deadlines free Learn the basics of iOS development with the Objective-C language. Start learning to develop iPhone, iPad, and Mac apps by building a foundation on Objective-C.     completed-discover-devtools-f78b78944d7fecf40a40c8f61df99a70     Discover DevTools Self-paced — no deadlines free Learn how Chrome DevTools can sharpen your dev process and discover the tools that can optimize your workflow and make life easier.     completed-discover-drive-2b1029e989beb93b6fe63af100dd28d9     Discover Drive Self-paced — no deadlines free Learn to build applications with the Google Drive API to organize, back up, and share photos, videos, and other documents in the cloud.   As always, don’t forget to update your Accredible Learning Profile once you have selected your course(s)!

Upcoming Coursera Specializations

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Want a way to get certified for a group of knowledge that represents more than a single class? Then Coursera‘s specializations might be just right for you! They are sets of MOOCs which upon completion grant you a special certificate indicating more in-depth knowledge in a subject.

  • Each specialization is made up of MOOCs from multiple universities
  • Available in 10 subjects, ranging from teacher education to CS to music
  • Cost: $29 or $49 per course plus a $49 capstone fee
  • Financial aid available

Here are the upcoming ones:

Data Science

  • 9 4-week classes and Final Capstone project
  • Topics covered include the R language, regression models, cleaning data & more
  • Taught by Johns Hopkins University
  • Next session starts Sept 1
  • Cost: $490

Systems Biology

  • 5 classes and Final Capstone project
  • Topics taught include experimental methods & network analysis in systems biology and more
  • Taught by Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
  • Next session starts Sept 2
  • Cost: $294

Cybersecurity

  • 4 classes and Final Capstone project
  • Topics include software & hardware security, usable security, and more
  • Taught by University of Maryland, College Park
  • Next session starts Sept 15
  • Cost: $245

Fundamentals of Computing

  • 3 classes and Final Capstone project
  • Topics include Python, algorithmic thinking, and more
  • Taught by Rice University
  • Next session starts Sept 15
  • Cost: $196

 

Mobile Cloud Computing with Android

  • 3 classes and Final Capstone project
  • Topics include pattern-oriented software architectures, cloud services for Android, and more
  • Taught by Rice University
  • Next session starts Sept 26
  • Cost: $196

The Smartest Disney Character: Tarzan?

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When I think of autodidactism, I automatically think of an old Sherlock Holmes’ picture with a gentleman from the 1800’s smoking a pipe at his mahogany desk in front of a fireplace, surrounded by heaps of books and parchment paper.  This is honestly a very different picture from what most autodidacts paint, but one self-learner blew this image out of the water while I was watching a Disney movie the other day.

 

Let’s Start From the Top

Yes, I am an adult.  Yes, I was watching Tarzan last weekend – its a good movie!  As I watched baby Tarzan grow into a vine-swinging, hollering ape-man, I realized (in the nerdy way that one realizes such things) that Tarzan is the ultimate autodidact – one that represents the origins of self-education.

In the Disney movie, Tarzan is found in the jungle by a female gorilla after his parents are killed by a tiger.  She adopts him as her own and raises him in the jungle with her family of gorillas.  A large part of the story focuses on Tarzan finding it difficult to belong, considering how different his human features are from his gorilla family’s.  He finds it difficult to make friends as a child because he is physically slower and weaker and he constantly makes mistakes doing things that are perfectly normal for a gorilla, but more difficult for a human.

 

Growing up

As Tarzan grows, however, his human brain kicks in and he begins to find different ways to keep up with his adopted family.  For example, he finds it difficult to match his friends’ speed while traveling on foot, so he
teaches himself to swing on vines and leap through trees to keep up (and stay ahead).  Later, while foraging for food, he uses his elephant friend’s trunk to help blow out food from narrow spaces instead of trying to fit his too-large hands into the space like the gorillas.

 

Back to the Beginning

This is probably how humans began to differentiate themselves from other primates during evolution, and so Tarzan goes all the way back to the beginning of the entire process of learning – which was autodidactism at its core.

Granted, Tarzan was probably a smarter human than the average.  Just look at his parents – they were stranded in a Jungle and built a flippin’ awesome treehouse to live in with awesome amenities.  They literally had no resources to work with!

 

 

Still, he was a baby – who grew up in a family of gorillas.  He finished off a deadly tiger using his brain when nobody else could, found ways to get food more efficiently, and figured out how to get around the jungle faster than the companions he constantly fell behind as a child.

I’d say that earns him the title of the Ultimate Disney Autodidact, wouldn’t you?

Adventures in Gamification: An Interview with Tom Benjamin

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To finish our series Adventures in Gamification, we have a special surprise for you!  Dr. Tom Benjamin, who teaches the Gamification in Education course on OpenLearning,  has kindly agreed to participate in an interview with Accredible to discuss Gamification, MOOCs and his future plans.  This was especially exciting as a student of his course as he answered a few questions that I thought I had sorted out…read on to learn more about applying game theory to learning – and how he applied it to the course.

Who is Dr Tom Benjamin?

tom picture Tom Benjamin graduated from University of Michigan in Psychology, then did an MBA at Michigan State. He played water polo for MSU and Sydney U while in graduate school. He moved to Australia where he worked as a psychologist and researcher. He has taught & researched at a tertiary level across a number of disciplines including economics, IT, and demography.

Music is intrinsic to development of his game research.  His Detroit music career could be best described as a frat party and wedding singer. Although he went on to academia, some of his former rock band members continued on in the entertainment sector.“We were the first generation of kids with access to electronic gear. With our paper route money we bought stereo recorders and the same mics and amps as the Beatles!,” recalls Tom.

Karaoke, campfire singing, and blues jamming have many properties of gamification. Our local Rising Star karaoke was #1 in Australia and they allowed me to test out my multi-tracks with a live audience. Often someone would hear one of my public domain songs and ask if it was “an 80’s song”. I nodded without telling them that it was actually 1880’s!”

Participants in Gamification in Education should recognize in karaoke the gamified elements of competition and unpredictability add to that the capability to change the pitch of the song to fit a comfortable key is a huge leveller. Tom explains, “You could sing anything from bass to soprano with a push of the button. And you get intermittent reinforcement as with a 10,000 song list you’re bound to kiss a few frogs before finding the songs that fit you like a glass slipper.”

On MOOCs

The true value of MOOCs can be found in the knowledge we gained, the pure learning. Where that knowledge comes from is far less important.  At one time, it was believed that radio and TV in the classroom would be the disruptive innovation, but it turned out that those devices had a much larger impact at home, where students could be exposed to the same news and information as their parents – and often ahead of when they covered it in school.

Documentaries and lectures on TV (or pod-casts) are valid methods of distributing information and gaining knowledge.  Information from experts are delivered to you in a one way dialogue, giving you the opportunity to absorb the content.  Discussions are not always required with the educator in subjects like science or history (how frequently will you want to argue a fact?) and the lectures are every bit as informative as a live lecture. ytv

Advancements in technology have made it possible (and cost efficient) to share this information to more people.  What once would take many years and much funding to produce can now be done with a pod-cast microphone and a netbook. “The information element has already been disrupted.  I couldn’t even dream of offering these courses without the massive heavy lifting subsidy from OpenLearning and YouTube.  We can put up post-grad quality material limited now only by our time investment. What won’t be disrupted will be the administrative and social elements of tertiary education,” says Tom.

“Disruptive Innovation is among the most misquoted terms at the moment.  The classical example was the motorcar which took a while to outperform the horse cart then improved exponentially, eventually making the horse obsolete.” ~ Tom Benjamin

Distance education once meant sending reams of paper material back and forth between student and the education facility.  At the University of NSW, home of one of the largest distance ed courses in Australia, Tom Benjamin introduced the use of digital technology – first by CD ROM, then the Web.  “There was initial resistance but it soon took over as the dominant format,” reminisces Dr. Benjamin. “I found OpenLearning which emanated from my University of NSW alma mater, contacted them, and they were very helpful in setting up my free MOOCs. I’m particularly grateful given that my current course have no revenue I can pass on to them.”

On Gamification

While working as a psychologist in the acute neurological and psychiatric wards in the hospitals, Dr Benjamin saw that patients had the same needs for exercise and recreation as before their accidents, but that it became more difficult due to their paralysis or disability.  Additionally, there was an embarrassment and frustration for the patient when being waited on hand and foot and having to thank a therapist for helping with simple tasks they could once do for themselves.  In this he saw the potential for computer game-based interactive tools.  “Most people welcome a chance to do something on their own and have a machine they can control, interact with, and yell at.  So we developed some physical games like the hanging ball, described in my course,” Tom explains.

Math_games_-_Big_Brother_Mouse_activity_day“Games in classrooms and rehabilitation centres had been traditional. However, the psychometric properties of games were somewhat new at the time and they remain controversial. How would parents feel if Johnny failed on a ‘game’ version of a test and didn’t get into med school? Duck and cover.My early research in hospitals sought to bridge the psychometrics between ‘task’ and ‘game’. Were there principles by which any tasks could be transformed into games? Could drills be gamified so that patients would find them more fun? Could games, despite their chance element, replace psychometric and academic tests?”

Games are a traditional teaching and learning tool. Direct instruction is the proven superior way of presenting information, there are only so many hours in a day and in a human concentration span, so games have long been a welcome alternative to drill and listening.

In the “Gamification in Education” course, we learned that games don’t have to be technology based to be effective.  They need to capture a person’s attention, draw them into a believable “world” or “story”, and challenge them into being and understanding more than they normally would. Gamification_techniques_5

“We knew for centuries that a lot of learning takes place out of school. And the success of commercial games speaks for itself. Little kids would not likely spend hours reading off quiz questions to each other at home or doing mortgage & probability calculations. But toss in some rules and dice and call it Trivial Pursuit or Monopoly and they’ll spend hours. So this is nothing new,” reminds Dr Benjamin.

 

 

“My personal advice is not to feel guilty and not to get sucked into the black holes of multimedia and the latest techno-bandwagon fads. You can spend countless hours downloading and installing software, let alone learning it. I do. And teachers often end up doing this unpaid (and unthanked) at home. So I’ve always recommended setting up a multimedia club or lab rather than trying to do all this admin yourself.” ~ Tom Benjamin

Flashcards, hangman and spelling bees all have a purpose – to develop the mind, just the same as tech based games.  Including gamification elements such as unpredictability and competition will help make the learning fun and memorable.  Tom Benjamin states, “I still treasure my dictionary I won in the class Spelling Bee at Washington Elementary school!”

His advice for teachers who are looking to use games in the classroom, “My personal advice is not to feel guilty and not to get sucked into the black holes of multimedia and the latest techno-bandwagon fads. You can spend countless hours downloading and installing software, let alone learning it. I do. And teachers often end up doing this unpaid (and unthanked) at home. So I’ve always recommended setting up a multimedia club or lab rather than trying to do all this admin yourself.”

On the Gamification in Education MOOC

As a student of Gamification in Education, I found that the course whet my appetite for more information.  I researched, read, watched videos, listened to additional pod-casts, anything I could to gain a fuller understanding and to be able to better answer the quiz questions. Imagine the surprise I felt when Dr. Benjamin further explained his views on the course… neuropsychology

“Gamification enrolments have far outstripped my psychology courses. This surprised me because of the interest in what people think forensic psychology is all about from their TV shows. And neuropsychotherapy is another buzz area.”

 

 

gamification

In his course on Gamification, Dr. Benjamin used many elements of gamification – he created a quest of knowledge and understanding that motivated the learner, he used text, pod-casts, quizzes and movies to capture our attention.

“A short movie with a text version can pack in a lot because the viewer can save, rewind, and replay or just read the text the old-fashioned way. And with the OpenLearning platform the real work will be your own research to answer the quiz questions. So the heart of education remains as always: reverse-engineering from what I hope you’ll learn back to what I have to deliver to help you do that.”

What’s Next for Tom Benjamin?

“I want to expand the MOOC offerings so they are better integrated. My next series will be Personal Branding. It will expand on the multimedia resources I’ve started to put together under the Neuropsychotherapy course, which is aimed at therapists. Branding is useful to job seekers,businesses, community groups with a ‘cause’, and anyone wanting a web presence.”

Dr. Benjamin has started a new venture known as the Multimedia Institute of Technology to continue offering free courses, but he is open to developing commercial courses as well.  “My courses will focus on skills that will be useful for those already in employment such as teachers and therapists. Job seekers and businesses may well find these skills a good investment when building their portfolios.”

Interested in learning more about Dr. Benjamin and his future plans?  You can follow him on his blog or on Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn.  For the full interview, click here.

Thank you to Dr. Tom Benjamin for taking the time to speak with us at Accredible.  Also, thank you for joining us for this series.  We hope you’ve enjoyed your own Adventures In Gamification! If you’ve not yet had a chance to take Gamification in Education by Dr. Tom Benjamin via OpenLearning, there is good news – you can join in at any time!  Add it to your To Learn list today!  

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The Complete Interview: Dr. Tom Benjamin

Adventures in Gamification Logo 2

To finish our series Adventures in Gamification, we had a special surprise for you – Dr. Tom Benjamin, who teaches the Gamification in Education course on OpenLearning,  had kindly agreed to participate in an interview with Accredible to discuss Gamification, MOOCs and his future plans.  By the time we were finished, we had so much great material that it was hard to pick and choose what to share! As a student of his course, I was fascinated by his answers.  I couldn’t put down the notes as they were sent back and forth!  As a writer, I had so much good information, I hardly knew where to begin!  After I finished the initial article, I felt compelled to share the entire interview with you.  Without further ado, here it is.

Accredible (A):  Thank you for taking the time to chat with us today.  Could you tell us a bit about yourself – your education, any interests or  anything fun you might like to share?

Tom Benjamin (TB): I graduated from University of Michigan in Psychology then did an MBA at Michigan State. I was a late starter in sport, playing water polo for MSU and Sydney U while in grad school. I moved to Australia where I’ve worked as a psychologist and researcher. Although I did some casual school teaching in Detroit I’ve mainly taught & researched at tertiary level across a number of disciplines including economics, IT, and demography.

Music is intrinsic to development of my game research. My Detroit music career was best described as a frat party and wedding singer. Although I went on to academia some of our old rock band members continued on in the entertainment sector. This article explains our early experiences with multimedia.  We were the first generation of kids with access to electronic gear. With our paper route money we bought stereo recorders and the same mics and amps as the Beatles!

Karaoke, campfire singing, and blues jamming have many properties of gamification. Our local Rising Star karaoke was #1 in Australia and they allowed me to test out my multitracks with a live audience. Often someone would hear one of my public domain songs and ask if it was “an 80s song”. I nodded without telling them that it was actually 1880s.

My MOOC participants will recognize in karaoke gamified elements of competition and unpredictability. Capability to change pitch of the song to fit a comfortable key is a huge leveller. You could sing anything from bass to soprano with a push of the button. And you get intermittent reinforcement as with a 10,000 song list you’re bound to kiss a few frogs before finding the songs that fit you like a glass slipper.

An old college buddy from Detroit emailed me to ask about a guitar system I had developed years before. I literally dusted it off from the shed (where it resided on an ancient Mac). I sent it to a Professor of Music in a bundle of educational resources I was developing. He spotted the guitar system and, in his role as Editor, asked me to publish it via the Australian Music Association. Some months later it went up as the ‘Instant Play’ system.

The music education system embodies many of the principles that I’ve applied to gamification such as reduction of cognitive load, intermittent reinforcement, controlled unpredictability, and heavy use of multimedia. I’ll probably run some online courses around this system. It’s pretty revolutionary as you can not only be playing useful music in 10 minutes by ear with 1 finger, it’s that easy that you could be teaching the next guy a few minutes later.

So the courses have allowed me to tie all of these interests together.

A: What was it about Gamification that captured your attention? When? How did you first use gamification in an educational setting?

TB: I was working in the hospitals as a psychologist in acute neurological and psychiatric wards. These folks had the same needs for recreation and exercize as before their accidents but it was a bit more difficult now that they were paralyzed or otherwise disabled. So I could see the potential for computer game-based interactive tools. These had advantages over human therapists as they were infinitely patient and there was never an ego problem. It is embarrassing to be waited on hand and foot in a hospital and have to say ‘thanks’ all day for the simplest acts you can no longer do for yourself. Most people welcome a chance to do something on their own and have a machine they can control, interact with, and yell at. So we developed some physical games like the hanging ball, described in my course.

I kept up music interest as ‘music therapy’ while working in the hospitals and these influenced my subsequent gamification principles, particularly the OrffSchulwerk approach, with its restricted set of notes that eliminated discords, hence fear of failure.

The digital era gave my music a new lease on life with multitracking allowing me to do the whole studio gig from a coffee table. For example, this version was done over a lunch hour with digital piano and myself multitracking with a podcast mic the backing choir vocals and lead. Colorize an old B&W public domain movie and presto.  I show students how to do this sort of thing in my courses.

From my clinical psychology masters’ thesis I published papers on the psychometric properties of games. Several careers later our state education department appointed me as the Senior Researcher for the Centre for Learning Innovation. They asked me to explore applications of video games. My early finding was that the multimedia may have accounted for as much of the engagement as the actual game properties (chance, competition etc) so I put my music background to good use in exploring the capabilities of multimedia, which was only just becoming affordable. I bought a studio.

A: Is Gamification a new fad or a new twist on something that has long been used in the classroom?

TB: Games in classrooms and rehabilitation centres had been traditional. However, the psychometric properties of games were somewhat new at the time and they remain controversial. How would parents feel if Johnny failed on a ‘game’ version of a test and didn’t get into med school? Duck and cover.
My early research in hospitals sought to bridge the psychometrics between ‘task’ and ‘game’. Were there principles by which any tasks could be transformed into games? Could drills be gamified so that patients would find them more fun? Could games, despite their chance element, replace psychometric and academic tests?

A: Why do you think we pay so much attention to the concept of gamification today? People seem to be embracing this idea, like it is a saviour for the classroom – is it? Or is it just another tool that should be used when the situation calls for it?

TB: What has changed since Grandma’s day is the price/capacity of computers and multimedia. No one had predicted that we would be able to run our own international radio, movie, TV networks from a coffee table. So while the psychological principles of games remain the same as ever, the costs of delivery have changed. So even if games can’t equal direct instruction methods they have some logistical advantages.

A: Any advice for teachers wanting to use elements of gamification in their classroom?

TB: Most are probably using elements of gamification in their classroom already. I still treasure my dictionary I won in the class Spelling Bee at Washington Elementary School. The Bee had plenty of game elements of unpredictability and competition.

My personal advice is not to feel guilty and not to get sucked into the black holes of multimedia and the latest techno-bandwagon fads. You can spend countless hours downloading and installing software, let alone learning it. I do. And teachers often end up doing this unpaid (and unthanked) at home. So I’ve always recommended setting up a multimedia club or lab rather than trying to do all this admin yourself.
And there is no proof that the latest whiz-bang software enhances student learning. The grey thing between the students’ ears is what we’re developing. So if you prefer or find it easier to do that with old-fashioned paper flash cards from grandma’s day, rest easy until someone shows an actual controlled study that proves you’re missing out. And don’t hold your breath waiting.

My courses only claim to show you how to do things ‘quicker, simpler and cheaper’, not ‘better’.

A: How about for parents who want to use gamification as a method of incentives for their children?

TB: We knew for centuries that a lot of learning takes place out of school. And the success of commercial games speaks for itself. Little kids would not likely spend hours reading off quiz questions to each other at home or doing mortgage & probability calculations. But toss in some rules and dice and call it Trivial Pursuit or Monopoly and they’ll spend hours.

So this is nothing new. Games are a traditional teaching & learning tool. Although direct instruction is the proven superior way of presenting information, there are only so many hours in a day and in a human concentration span, so games have long been a welcome alternative to drill and listening. The big error by some game enthusiasts has been to extrapolate Pentagon-level war games down to primary schools. The market failure of edu-games ought to have been a warning against this.

A: Do you think gamification works in the workplace?

TB: Workplace training is partly about politics. Adults can easily be insulted by having to do inane ‘professional development’ or ‘protection certification’ courses. Dressing up an inane hated exercize with a game version is like putting spice on rotten meat. That was my point about ‘eating your own dog food’.
However, there is a long tradition of using simulations for risky or expensive learning such as pilot training or surgery. Unleashing trainees on these things in the real world can kill people. A plane crash can wreck a suburb.

To the extent that a flight or surgical simulation has interaction and unpredictability it could be termed a ‘game’.

A: What drew you to MOOCs?

TB: I worked at University of NSW in Sydney where we had one of the largest distance education courses in Australia. We sent reams of paper materials to our international students. I introduced the use of digital technology, including CD and Web. There was initial resistance but it soon took over as the dominant format.
Later, at the Department of Education’s Centre for Learning Innovation, I had a number of internal departmental channels to promote my innovations to our 50,000 state system teachers but they are very busy bees and it was quite hard to get take-up on resources.

So I turned to external public avenues. For example I presented at international conferences and did video and podcasts for the International Year of Astronomy, online games through the Tournament of Minds, the music system through the Australian Music Association, gamification via Classroom Aid, forensic psychology through the Australian Psychological Society, maths and spreadsheets through an international Excel guru …etc. indeed, just like we’re doing now through Accredible.

I found OpenLearning which emanated from my University of NSW alma mater, contacted them, and they were very helpful in setting up my free MOOCs. I’m particularly grateful given that my current courses have no revenue I can pass on to them. So maybe one day we’ll do some commercial courses.

A: What role do you think MOOCs play in education? Are they the disruptor of education as they have been labelled?

TB: Disruptive Innovation is among the most-misquoted terms at the moment. The classical example was the motorcar which took a while to outperform the horse cart then improved exponentially, eventually making the horse obsolete. The same was projected for the impact of radio and TV in the classroom but the impact was more at home, where kids were exposed to the same news and material as our parents, often far in advance of what we were learning in the classroom.

The casualization of the academic workforce and cost-cuts probably contributed to the initial over-the-top enthusiasm leading to the online education and MOOC bubble bursts.

One of the huge looming issues is the descent to the low denominator of free courses. Kids are growing up expecting free software and education. But it isn’t really a ‘free lunch’. Many app-developers hope to get paid consulting work so it’s more advertising than charity.

I’ve been happy and able to offer my courses for free only because the government had paid me over many decades to do research, so some of it was my paid duty and I avoided conflict of interest. However, part of the cost was borne by my family life. My wife didn’t always appreciate trying to get my attention through my ever-present headphones. And I suspect many app-developers are in a similar situation.

Other big remaining issues revolve around administration and certification more than content. For example, I often purchase a CD rom education series that is as informative as any live university lecture I ever attended (and I’ve been to decades of them). And I don’t need interactivity as I’m not likely to challenge these professors on topics like Viking History or Black Holes so don’t need student interaction. This is pure learning.
But all changes when I need a piece of paper. I’m forced to spend hours biting my tongue and muttering through some dreary tome to get the dreaded ‘professional development’ points I need for certification. Whether I learn anything is irrelevant. Sometimes I know the ‘information’ to be dead wrong. But I need that damned piece of paper.

Indeed, I don’t at the moment mark assignments on my own MOOCs. Participants can say anything they like, even if I fall on the floor laughing so hard I bite the chair at the answers. I rely on the social media element. Hopefully, they will see others’ answers and think again. For me to mark & grade assignments and by implication fail some students opens up a huge number of issues. There is no way I would attempt such with a free course. My own costs and indemnity would rise exponentially and I would have to charge fees just like any conventional institution.

So the short answer is that the information element has already been disrupted. I couldn’t even dream of offering these courses without the massive heavy lifting subsidy from OpenLearning and YouTube. We can put up post-grad quality material limited now only by our time investment.

What may not be disrupted will be the administrative and social elements of tertiary education. Primary and high school levels will be even less susceptible to disruption as students there actually need to learn skills to a Piagetian timetable so they don’t fall behind. And direct instruction was essential to me as a kid. I would still welcome it as an adult so I didn’t waste countless hours ‘discovery learning’ software with no manuals.
As an adult, If I forget who Harold Bluetooth the Viking was or why it matters that black holes rotate, who cares? But it could matter if I were an academic in those fields.

So the learning per se is no longer the issue. It is the context.

A: Or are MOOCs a method of regaining public interest in education, a sense of community with like -minded individuals, an opportunity to share ideas in a safe environment that many adults find missing in their workplace?

TB: Some years ago my wife and I put our collective interests up as an e-Chautauqua in recognition of the early 20th Century’s pioneering forms of adult education. We realized that we were covering many of the topics that used to draw people in their Ford Model-Ts to tents around the USA: astronomy, music, reform, philosophy. The MOOCs seem to be tapping much the same general public interests.

What I had been trying to do in the Education department was to show teachers that they could now make their own international e-chautauqua’s with ‘educational documentaries’. The money and time investment was reaching affordable levels. For example, they say that Ken Burns took longer to make his Civil War series than it took my great granddad to fight it (hence the flag puzzle in the movie in my Gamification course), but I was able to make a Ken Burns style Civil War documentary with a podcast mike and netbook  and many more. Each year it gets cheaper and easier.

These sorts of educational resources can be as you say “an opportunity to share ideas in a safe environment”. Safety requires removal of threat. Courses you can’t ‘fail’ are one way. Social media with identified people, rather than anonymous trolls, is another safety mechanism.

A: Do you plan on offering any additional MOOCs in the future? If so, can you share a little hint about the future classes?

TB: I want to expand the MOOC offerings so they are better integrated. My next series will be Personal Branding. It will expand on the multimedia resources I’ve started to put together under the Neuropsychotherapy course, which is aimed at therapists. Branding is useful to job seekers, businesses, community groups with a ‘cause’, and anyone wanting a web presence.

I’ve called the whole venture the Multimedia Institute of Technology. The bulk of it will be free courses. However, if there is demand, I’ll develop commercial versions. For starters, if people want contemporary examples of audio-visual content instead of the ancient public domain material I rely on at present I will have to shell out $thousands up-front. Add marking and the paperwork of accreditation and we’re soon in the same expense league as conventional institutions.

So I’m investigating liaison with software vendors so I can offer my little niche better value for money than traditional institutions. For example, there are many upmarket ‘industry-standard’ tertiary multimedia courses where you pay $thousands and they let you play with their 56-channel mixing desks, TV studios, and other ‘state of the art’ gear. But when you leave the course, do you get to take the gear with you? Or just a piece of paper and a head full of skills? What I hope to do is make sure you walk away from my commercial courses with tangible software and simple methods you can implement immediately with low time and money budget.
The music system will be embedded in the larger multi-media context but could take on a life of its own as there are many people on this planet who probably wish they could have learned guitar in 10 minutes with 1 finger and I think the system will work particularly well with community groups. It needs a critical mass of people to try it and put up some videos so the viewers can say “Hey, I could do that even better”. So I’ll eventually make it a separate OpenLearning course.

I want to avoid the certificated-course route to large extent. Certification introduces massive overhead expenses and nightmares of how to accredit someone from another country. And I don’t want to teach ‘industry-standard’ software courses as there are plenty of these already and the gear costs a fortune. You don’t get ‘academic price’ on software when you step out into the real world. So I will focus on the prosumer level rather than industry level gear.

My courses will focus on skills that will be useful for those already in employment such as teachers and therapists. Job seekers and businesses may well find these skills a good investment when building their portfolios.

A: What was your biggest takeaway from offering Gamification in Education? Were you surprised by the interest and/or participation in your class? Why/why not?

TB: Gamification enrolments have far outstripped my psychology courses. This surprised me because of the interest in what people think forensic psychology is all about from their TV shows. And neuropsychotherapy is another buzz area. On the other hand, I purposely made the Forensic Psychology course comprehensive and long, even to the point of expecting high drop-out. I intended that as one message is that a lot of what passes as science in the courtrooms is highly questionable. So if people aren’t prepared to put in the hard yards it will remain that way.

On the other hand I realize that I have to fit the attention spans of online viewing. Hence one of my next instalments is going to be “Neuropsychology in 10 Minutes” as PD for our state branch of the College of Forensic Psychologists. Again, there is a political message – you don’t even get 10 minutes in the expert witness box to explain neuropsychology, more like a few seconds before you’re savaged by a rabid barrister trying to discredit you. So you need some quick answers rather than mumbled neuro-jargon.

Another message of this movie will be that you don’t need a Hollywood studio to produce a useful documentary, even on a complex controversial subject like neuroscience. A lot of such TV documentaries are padding, with flutes playing and talking heads waving their hands on long walks in the fields. Their credit rolls take longer than my entire movies! A short movie with a text version can pack in a lot because the viewer can save, re-wind, and re-play or just read the text the old-fashioned way. And with the OpenLearning platform the real work will be your own research to answer the quiz questions.

So the heart of education remains as always: reverse-engineering from what I hope you’ll learn back to what I have to deliver to help you do that.

If you are interested in the works of Dr. Tom Benjamin, check out these links below:

Thank you to Dr. Tom Benjamin for taking the time to speak with us at Accredible.  Also, thank you for joining us for this series.  We hope you’ve enjoyed your own Adventures In Gamification! If you’ve not yet had a chance to take Gamification in Education by Dr. Tom Benjamin via OpenLearning, there is good news – you can join in at any time!  Add it to your To Learn list today!  

Future Learn + 4 Universities + BBC= 4 Amazing WW1 MOOCs

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FutureLearn has announced an amazing collaboration between 4 University Partners and the BBC which gives learners a chance to learn about World War 1 in a whole new way!  The BBC has opened its archives and shared multimedia content covering various aspects of the war and each university will present a different aspect of the first World War – from Aviation to the Treaty of Paris and more.  

Why The Focus on World War One?

2014 marks the centennial year of the beginning of the First World War. The war began in the Balkans, but it soon spread to become a European conflict, and developed into a world war. It was a war of unprecedented scale and brutality, with countless casualties. It also left a poisonous legacy for the 20th century and beyond, and many of the issues that were left unresolved in 1918 would lead to another world war in 1939. 1914-1918 was a period in history that has proved provocative and culturally resonant for the last hundred years.

The BBC’s Commitment to Education and Technology

This is the first time a major public broadcaster has contributed to MOOCs, according to Future Learn.  “The BBC is committed to education and looking at how we can exploit technology to best serve audiences,” says Sinéad Rocks, Acting Controller of BBC Learning. “This is a great opportunity to explore how we can do that as part of our WW1 season, and working as a content partner with these four universities to help deliver online courses will help us establish how we can contribute to the UK remaining a world leader in online learning. MOOCs are an interesting and exciting area, and I’m looking forward to exploring what role we might play,”

Simon Nelson, CEO, FutureLearn, said: “It’s our aim at FutureLearn to connect our university partners to other great centres of culture and knowledge, so I’m delighted to see the BBC and these four universities come together to create new learning experiences. The collaboration reinforces FutureLearn’s approach to online education, which draws on experts in great storytelling and academics to produce compelling courses for learners around the world.  And it’s the learners who are the real winners here, gaining access to the unrivalled resources of one of the world’s best known broadcasters, world leading educators, and each other, around an event as significant as the World War One centenary.”

 The New Courses

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University of Glasgow – World War One: Paris 1919 – A New World Order?      (Starts 13 October)

The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 ended a Great War, but it also designed the post-war future. In 1919, world leaders assembled in Paris redrew the map of the world, partitioned and created countries, and ushered in a new era of international relations. The naivety of the peace-makers of 1919 has been justly criticised. However, in setting up a permanent ‘world organisation’, the League of Nations, they changed the management of world affairs forever…

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University of Birmingham – World War One: Aviation Comes of Age                  (Starts 20 October)

This course will investigate how the early days of aviation gripped the imagination of the general public, galvanised industry and excited far-sighted members of the military.  Aviation evolved rapidly during World War 1 with modern and more effective aircraft soon replacing the very basic machines that took to the skies in 1914. By the end of war, air power wasn’t just being used for reconnaissance but in ways that are still recognisable today. When the war was over aviation had truly come of age with the opening of mail routes, exploration and record setting exploits.

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University of Leeds – World War One: Changing Faces of Heroism                     (Starts 27 October)

Did the First World War make heroism meaningless or was it the conflict that gave it the most meaning?  Through discussion and analysis of art, literature, film and television, guided by our experts, you will explore the portrayals of heroism before, during and after the war. Drawing on rarely seen archive you will be curating a mini exhibition, exploring a war memorial and writing a review of a representation of war.  Together we will examine the changing faces of heroism from distant figureheads and brave warriors to the ordinary ‘Tommy’ and front-line nurses. The emergence of alternative hero figures, including anti-war campaigners and vulnerable, shell shocked soldiers, is also covered. 

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The Open University – World War One: Trauma and Memory                                               (Starts 3 November)

You will study the subject of physical and mental trauma, its treatments and its representation. You will focus not only on the trauma experienced by combatants but also the effects of the First World War on civilian populations. In this three-week course, you will discover just how devastating the effects of the First World War were in terms of casualties across the many combatant nations and look in depth at the problem of ‘shell shock’ and how deeply it affected the lives of those who lived through it. You will also develop the skills to carry out your own independent research.  The war was not only experienced on the battlefield, however, and you’ll explore the many and varied ways in which civilians’ lives were affected by it, for example in the way combatant casualties affected the lives of loved ones who were left behind.

 Which courses will you add to your To Learn list?  

 

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Ultimate Autodidacts: Einstein to Moffat

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The Guru

Going from a high school dropout to one of the greatest minds of the 20th century, Albert Einstein was the embodiment of autodidactism.  His idea of a perfect date was to read physics texts for fun with his girlfriend – enough said.

Einstein’s introduction to science and mathematics by a childhood friend established an interest in a topic far beyond what he was learning in school.  He taught himself calculus by the age of 13.  Thirteen!  Thus began his foray into the world of self learning; It was simply far more interesting than the grammar and basic mathematics he was forced to sit through in school.

Perhaps Einstein’s greatest secret for success was his approach to learning.  He said:

“Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.”

He always believed in imagination, individuality, and inquisitiveness.  This is likely the reason (along with his accomplishments in the field of physics, advocacy for civil rights, and general good human-ness) why he became so widely admired.  This is also likely how John Moffat came to regard him so highly.

 

The Disciple

In the 1950s, Albert Einstein’s career had taken a nose dive.  He had written and spoken about theories that he had been unable to provide proof for over the last several years, which caused his reputation to take a tough hit.

At this point, a Danish painter by the name of John Moffat had just depleted the funds he was living off of in Paris as he honed his art.  He returned home to Copenhagen, Denmark where he returned to his love for reading at a nearby library.  Moffat devoured book after book about mathematics and physics, in mere months learning what took years for the average student to learn at University.

As he absorbed the knowledge, he became a fervent follower of Albert Einstein and his writings.  Familiar with the genius’ slump, Moffat (a high school dropout and painter with no credentials in physics) wrote Einstein a critical letter that analyzed all the things Moffat believed Einstein was doing wrong.  He didn’t expect a reply, of course, from such a famous and admired physicist.

Lo and behold when several weeks later, a hand-written letter in German came addressed to Moffat.  His lack of fluency in German forced Moffat to ask his local German barber for help translating the letter, which proved to encourage his efforts in physics.  Einstein took Moffat and his thoughts very seriously, pointing him to his newer writings and encouraging further replies.  This conversation continued for several letters during which Moffat successfully pointed out a poorly based mathematical assumption in Einstein’s calculations.  This interaction expanded into meetings with other great scientists of the time including Niels Bohr and Erwin Schrodinger.

It was Schrodinger’s recommendation, along with the extensive knowledge Moffat had amassed on his own, that allowed him to become the first accepted PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge without completing an undergraduate (or even secondary school) degree.

 

The Ultimate Autodidact

Albert Einstein is an undisputed genius who took on autodidactism as a fortunate hobby in addition to his more traditional education and work at Princeton University.  John Moffat took his Guru’s efforts a step further and forwent 8 years of (usually) compulsory formal study on the path to his own prestigious PhD.

Einstein and Moffat didn’t even have the beauty of the Internet at their disposal back in their times.  Imagine a modern day Moffat immersed in a MOOC with a Physics e-text on his Kindle in one hand and his online mind map on his tablet in the other.  Now that would be a force to be reckoned with.

Around the World in 62 Days: Day 22-28

Around the World in 62 Days

Welcome back!  This week we visit Africa, the Caribbean and South America as we celebrate Independence and National Days around the world.  How many countries have we visited thus far that were (or are now!) on your Bucket List?  Have you kept up with where we’ve been in the past 3 weeks?  If not check out Days 1-5, Days 6-14, and Days 15-21!

 

July 23

Flag_of_Egypt.svgThe Arab Republic of Egypt, is a transcontinental country spanning the north-east corner of Africa and south-west corner of Asia. Egypt has one of the longest histories of any modern state, tracing its heritage back to the 10th millennium BCE, which saw the emergence of one of the earliest and most sophisticated civilisations in the world. The Egyptian Revolution of 1952, also known as the 23 July Revolution, began on 23 July 1952, by the Free Officers Movement.  The revolution was initially aimed at overthrowing King Farouk, and grew to include such to abolishing the constitutional monarchy, establishing a republic, ending the British occupation, and securing the independence of Sudan. The revolution was faced with immediate threats from Western imperial powers, particularly from the United Kingdom, which had occupied Egypt since 1882.  Four years after the revolution, Egypt was invaded by Britain, France, and Israel.  Despite enormous military losses, the war was seen as a political victory for Egypt, especially as it left the Suez Canal in uncontested Egyptian control for the first time since 1875, erasing what was seen as a mark of national humiliation. This strengthened the appeal of the revolution in other Arab and African countries. The Revolution is commemorated each year on Egypt’s national day, Revolution Day, on 23 July.

 

July 25

 

Flag_of_Puerto_Rico.svgThe Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the north-eastern Caribbean.  Puerto Rico is an archipelago that includes the main island of Puerto Rico and a number of smaller islands. The island was claimed by Christopher Columbus for Spain during his second voyage to the Americas.  Spain held Puerto Rico for over 400 years, despite multiple attempts to capture it. In 1898, Spain ceded the archipelago to the United States as a result of its defeat in the Spanish–American War under the terms of the Treaty of Paris.  In 1917, the U.S. granted citizenship to Puerto Ricans, and later gave them the right to elect their own governor and a local territorial constitution. Under the tenets of the Puerto Rico Federal Relations Act, residents of the island are still subject to the plenary jurisdiction of the U.S. Congress. Puerto Rico remains a U.S. territory, although its political status is a subject of ongoing debate among residents.

 

July 26

 

200px-Flag_of_Liberia.svgThe Republic of Liberia, is a country in West Africa bordered by Sierra LeoneGuinea and Ivory Coast.  Liberia is the only country in Africa founded by United States colonization while occupied by native Africans. Beginning in 1820, the region was colonized by African Americans (many of whom were freed slaves) who established a new country with the help of the American Colonization Society.  African captives freed from slave ships by the British and Americans were sent there instead of being repatriated to their countries of origin. In 1847, this new country became the Republic of Liberia, establishing a government modelled on that of the United States and naming its capital city Monrovia after James Monroe, the fifth president of the United States and a prominent supporter of the colonization.  Liberia was a founding member of the United Nations and the Organisation of African Unity.

200px-Flag_of_Maldives.svgThe Republic of the Maldives and also referred to as the Maldive Islands, is an island nation in the Indian OceanArabian Sea area, consisting of a double chain of twenty-six atolls. The Maldives has been an independent polity for the majority of its history, except for three periods in which it was ruled by outside forces – the final time was in the late 19th century.  On 16 December 1887, the Sultan of the Maldives signed a contract with the British Governor of Ceylon turning the Maldives into a British protected state, thus giving up the islands’ sovereignty in matters of foreign policy, but retaining internal self-government. The British government promised military protection and non-interference in local administration in exchange for an annual tribute, so that the islands were akin to an Indian princely state.  The islands gained independence  from the British Empire in 1965, and in 1968 became a republic ruled by a president and an authoritarian  government.

 

July 28

Flag_of_Peru.svgRepublic of Peru is a country in western South America. It is bordered in the north by Ecuador and ColombiaBrazil, BoliviaChile, and the Pacific Ocean. Conquered by the Spanish Empire in the 16th century, they established a Viceroyalty with its capital in Lima, which included most of its South American colonies. In the early 19th century, while most of South America was swept by wars of independence, Peru remained a royalist stronghold.  Independence was formally proclaimed in 1821, and after the battle of Ayacucho which took place three years after proclamation is when Peru ensured its independence. 

 

Now that you’ve learned a little more about global events, consider adding one of these courses to your To Learn List:

 

Just to give you a brief idea of how far we’ve travelled in the first 28 days:

 

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july22 countries visited

Join us again next week when we will visit places like Vanuatu, Benin, Cooks Islands and Niger and many more!