Online Learning Beyond MOOCs

iPad with app YouTube on the screen in female hands in the offic

 

Massive Open Online Courses are fantastic ways to get a structured education without the typical associated costs, but they often take a long time to get through.  A MOOC could take anywhere from a few days to a few months.  There are other ways to learn something new online within 60 minutes, though.

 

TED Talks

TED Talks might not give you a thorough understanding of Design or Accounting, but many can help you develop a opinion by taking a new spin on things.  They are generally pretty short (some even as short as 5 minutes) and send a message, whether it may be to inform you about an issue, explain a new way of thinking about an existing topic, or inspire you to take a stand or some sort of action.  There are tons of them on Netflix and all over the internet.  Here are a couple great ones to check out.

 

 

 

YouTube Tutorials

Can’t remember how to use a specific feature on Excel?  Or maybe you need to learn how to apply heavy makeup for an awesome costume party.  YouTube has all sorts of awesome vloggers who put up interesting tutorials covering all sorts of topics.  The advantage here is that you can even make requests for something you need to quickly learn to complete a project.  Here are a couple of extremely popular YouTubers!

 

 

 

Helpouts by Google

YouTube tutorials are awesome, but what if its going too fast or you don’t understand a part of it?  Some people just learn better from a live teacher.  For them, Google Helpouts saves the day.  Helpouts lets teachers post their expertise, the duration they are willing to devote to a video, and price (although many are free).  Some Helpouts are pre-recorded and work largely like any other video tutorial, but others allow you to set up a time to meet with a live tutor who can walk you through a task or even teach you about a particular topic like a school teacher or college professor would.  Curious to learn more?  Check out this intro video.

 

 

A lot of fantastic learning happens in a classroom setting (in person or through open online courses), but even more happens just by picking up on what is going on around you and by immersing yourself into a project that you need to look up information in order to complete.

 

ryanlerch_Green_-_Query_IconCareer Tip:  You can add achievements to your Accredible profile that aren’t courses your registered for through our course finder feature!  Just click on the ‘add course’ button on your profile and select the wrench to customize your entry and add your projects and courses completed outside of MOOCs.  Then remember to link your Accredible profile to your LinkedIn page so your connections can check out all your accomplishments!

How Shrek is an Autodidact

Shrek sand sculpture

Shrek is possibly the coolest ogre to ever exist – he also happens to be super smart, as he demonstrates time and time again throughout the Shrek franchise.  I’m sure you can guess what I’ll say:  Autodidact alert!

Construction Master

There are clearly other ogres in the world (cough – Fiona), but Shrek lives completely on his own in the middle of a forest.  Granted, he’s an ogre.  Regardless, the forest hardly has the modern medieval facilities available to the other characters in the movies!  Still, he successfully builds an awesome house with amazing amenities – and even creates his own system for finding, cooking, and serving himself the kind of food he likes!

So basically, he literally handles every aspect of his life on his own.  He catches, cooks, and eats in own food; builds, cleans, and maintains his own house; and plants, grows, and cares for his own garden.  Imagine how perfect he would be if he weren’t a violent ogre!

 

 

Fearsome Fighter

Nobody is born a fighter – they usually learn it to protect themselves, in fact.  Shrek is an ogre who is literally at the top of the food chain – so fighting isn’t really something nature has had to teach him.  Still, he is able to defeat every brave knight in the area…only to be challenged to fight a dragon…

…which he does effortlessly and frees the princess – and doesn’t even seem anxious about it!  That’s raw talent and self study.

 

 

Cultural Adapter

There are currently four Shrek movies and each one explores Shrek’s life with his family through his wife.  Interestingly enough, Fiona was born human – which means her entire family is human and lives a civilized lifestyle.  Of course, its unreasonable to expect that he could completely blend in, but he certainly didn’t do badly.  He became quite close to his extended family-in-law by the end of the second film.

 

 

The Flight of Autodidactism: The Wright Brothers

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When we think of the Wright Brothers, its easy to remember that they were the team responsible for the world’s first functioning airplane.  It is worth it to pause and look at the way each brother came to become some of the world’s greatest innovators with their invention.  You can probably guess what it is that made them capable of their achievement: autodidactism, of course!

By definition, innovators are people who pave a path that hasn’t been taken before.  As such, a formal education could have only gone so far for Orville and Wilbur Wright.  What they needed was a desire to learn on their own beyond the limits of school – a trait that both had in abundance.

 

Wilbur Wright

The older and more responsible of the two brothers, Wilbur was a well-rounded child with a lot of focus and dedication.  He was an avid athlete growing up and did well in his classes.  In fact, he was going to go to Yale after finishing high school.  Just before leaving, a hockey accident caused Wilbur to loose his front teeth. Although his injury was more harmful cosmetically than physically, the loss of his teeth delivered a heavy blow to Wilbur’s confidence, causing him to become more withdrawn.  Shortly after, his family’s quick move to Ohio from Indiana resulted in Wilbur never receiving his high school diploma.  These two incidents combined prevented him from attending Yale.

Wilbur’s dedication and ambition began to dwindle a bit at this point and he took a break of sorts for the next few years, helping his mother at home and father at his Church.  The big turn-around in his life came when Orville (who was five years younger) caught up in age and drew Wilbur into his own endeavors.

 

Orville Wright

Orville was always a mischievous child who was constantly getting caught and into trouble.  Largely different from his brother, he had very little interest in school and dropped out after his Junior year in high school to start his own printing business.  He pulled Wilbur into this business as well, extracting him from the rut in which his injury had placed him.

Taking on a leadership position over his brother, Orville led his newspaper to becoming a daily print and eventually turned to commercial printing.  Ever the entrepreneur, Orville went on to capitalize on the biking craze and opened a bike repair shop with Wilbur taking more of a partnership position.

 

Two Heads are Better Than One

Their bicycle repair shop is where most of their autodidactism occurred – at least in terms of the skills they later used to build the first functional airplane.  At the same time, during the mid 1890s, there was an increase in global interest in aeronautics.  Flying high due to the success of their shop, the Wright Brothers decided to take part in the craze.

Wilbur wrote to the Smithsonian Museum to request some of the more recent publications about aeronautics and the brothers began essentially teaching themselves aerodynamic engineering, building only on the knowledge of mechanics they had amassed from building their bike shop.

The rest is history as Orville and Wilbur began their experimentations and failed every time, filing for patents in aerodynamics along the way.  Eventually, they successfully developed the world’s first human flying machine in 1903.

 

Their work was surrounded by controversy and questions about their legitimacy, but regardless of all that, the Wright Brothers successfully pushed forward the concept of an airplane – an invention that the modern world probably couldn’t exist as it is without.  What’s more impressive, however, is the fact that Orville and Wilbur both managed to teach themselves the aerodynamics of the time and rose up as the world’s foremost engineers without so much as a high school diploma.  Autodidactism at its core, people!

News & Views (Week of 8/11 – 8/17)

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News

Learn about Udacity’s Differential Equations class, and why it’s not as daunting as many make it out to be.

The Programming Languages class from Udacity is now eligible for the full course certificate and coaching option offered by the company.

One edX MOOC’s creation spanned all the way across the globe from California to China. The edX blog has the full story of how Engineering Software as a Service CS169.1x came into fruition.

edX recently participated in OSCON, the O’Reilly Open Source Convention held each year in Portland, Oregon.

Futurelearn is giving away 20 flags to students who tell them why they deserve it. Learn more on their blog.

What is Team Accredible learning?

Make music with MOOCs! Check out these courses, offered by Coursera and Open2Study, on songwriting, history of rock, music technology and world music.

Around the World in 62 Days continues with Days 43-49. Featuring many countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, this week’s look includes Bahrain, South Korea and the Central African Republic.

Guardians of the Galaxy just came out, and with that comes Accredible’s critique of the auto-didacticism in the film. Read about how Star-Lord fends for himself when it comes to surviving in the mysterious world he lives in.

How to Become a Guardian of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy

After a fantastic opening earlier this month with great critical reviews as the cherry on top, Guardians of the Galaxy proved to be a win for Marvel.  Of course, being the superhero nerd I am, I went and saw it opening night.  Superhero-Nerd-Me loved the action, tech, and comedy while E-Learning-Nerd-Me spent the entire movie whispering loudly to my poor friend (and everyone within a 4 seat radius) that Star-Lord is a total autodidact!

Just as a quick reminder, autodidacts are fabulously awesome people who love learning and teaching themselves new things.  Star-Lord probably turned to autodidactism more out of necessity than a pure love of learning, but he still dances to sweet ’80s music and refers to ‘The Legend of Kevin Bacon’ from Footloose – so he retains the awesome factor, in my opinion.  Check out these instances that proved Star-Lord AKA Peter Quill caught the autodidact bug.

 

 

Musical Tech Prowess

Depositphotos_9262656_xs26 years after being abducted from Earth as a child by ‘space pirates’, Peter still listens to music on the same
walkman from the same audio cassette with the same headphones.  It is probably safe to assume that in all his struggles and travels from planet to planet, Peter’s beloved music system broke down from time to time.  Considering that he likely didn’t have contact with too many Earthlings, he had to figure out how to fix everything himself.  The key words here being: ‘figure out how’.  Plus, I don’t know of any battery from the ’80s that would still have enough juice to power a tape player after 26 years – so Peter probably had to engineer a replacement power source on his own.  Conclusion: Autodidact.

Bonus:  Peter’s ship, The Milano, had a cassette player and speakers installed.  Considering we don’t make extraterrestrial spaceships here on Earth (at least not to the knowledge of us ordinary folks), he probably installed that himself too.

 

The Ultimate Linguist

Here on Planet Earth, we have hundreds of different languages – sometimes dozens within the same country.  Unless every being on every planet except Earth exclusively speaks English, there were probably several different languages that Peter had to learn in order to jump from world to world and continue to communicate with ease.  Considering the fact that he grew up around pirates, there probably weren’t too many maternal figures or teachers around to teach Peter – which means that he largely picked that up on his own too.

When he left Earth, Peter was definitely more than 8 or 9 years old – well past the threshold where humans can pick up languages extremely rapidly.  The fact that he picked them up so well at his age points to his fantastic self learning skills as well.

 

So You Think You Can Dance?

Well you don’t have much on Star-Lord, the Amazing Dancing Alien!  Kids don’t have fully developed motor skills – that’s a well known fact that explains why kids are usually not the best dancers.  That’s also why it is so extraordinary that Peter left Earth as a child, didn’t have access to Terran movies or culture, but picked up how allguardiansmovieto dance (albeit ’80s style) completely on his own based solely on 26-year-old memories.  He beat his ultimate nemesis in the movie by distracting him through a dance off !

Imagine what he would have been able to do on Earth with access to a dance teacher and pop culture.  Granted, becoming known as a Guardian of the Galaxy is a pretty cool title, but the Next Michael Jackson would have been pretty spectacular too.

 

If you think Star-Lord is an ultimate autodidact, check out Groot!  He learned to dance as a baby:

Images from: Marvel Comics and Marvel Cinematic Universe
http://marvel.com/guardians

 

 

 

Mahatma Gandhi: Learning by Doing

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After researching autodidacts for weeks, a trend has become quite apparent – often, these self learners start out performing poorly in school and formal education.  They then begin teaching themselves what they love and go on to be geniuses.  Albert Einstein, Walt Disney, Leonardo da Vinci – and Mahatma Gandhi.

 

Humble Beginnings

It is difficult to imagine that the pacifist who strategically and very intelligently inspired an entire nation was a poor student.  Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was exactly that as a child.  More enamored by sports and games, his performance in school was mediocre at best with his only real strength in English class.

This may have been what inspired him to study law (on his family’s insistence) in England.  Gandhi never became a great lawyer due to his inability to interact cooly with witnesses, particularly during cross examination.  His profession eventually took him to South Africa, however, where perhaps his true education began.

 

Education to Inspiration

While Gandhi always had a passive interest in politics and ethics, he never became truly passionate about them until his time in South Africa.  In the late 1800s, South Africa entered a period of drastic change with its Civil Rights movement.  Gandhi had arrived to serve as a legal representative for some Indian traders in the country, but law was soon forgotten as he began to witness the turmoil unfolding around him.

By this point, Gandhi had spent his time in London focusing less on Law and more on reading texts that interested him and began to form what would become his later stance on life – the Bhagvad Gita and the Bible. These texts eventually influenced his perception on the truth and the purpose of life, but more immediately they sensitized him to think deeply about the conflict in South Africa.

The discrimination started with the native Africans in the area, but Indian immigrants weren’t spared either.  Gandhi was even thrown out of a train once for refusing to leave the First Class car and beaten later for refusing to move for a European traveler.

Exposed to discrimination and racism up close as he had never seen it before during his sheltered life in India, Gandhi began to question the rule of the British Empire and its impact on his people back home.  The sizable Indian population in South Africa faced extreme oppression and as he learned and developed as a social reform leader for the Indians in South Africa, Gandhi’s attention already began to shift toward the conditions back home.

 

The Great Spirit

After gaining great acclaim in South Africa for his work for Indians and later the native Africans, Gandhi returned to India with his nationalist reputation and a new vigor to reform the Indian government.  He entered politics and eventually rose as leader of the Indian National Congress, which served as an intense learning period for him as he met some of the greatest minds in India and picked up on the crippling issues throughout the country.

While he believed in Independence from the British Empire, Gandhi also believed strongly that the problems India was facing was largely because of its own people.  Wedges between political parties, the internal oppression caused by the caste system, unethical cultural traditions like child marriage and feminism were issues that he sought to educate Indians about.

What made Gandhi’s efforts so different from others, though, was his utter devotion to ahimsa, or nonviolence – a concept he picked up during his childhood due to exposure to Jainism.  This point combined with his newly pioneered philosophy of Satyagraha (devotion to the truth) touched his ‘students’ in an authentic way that had yet to be achieved.

He performed long term fasts, led peaceful protests, and spread his word to the entire country.  He taught people that an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.  He preached the biblical teaching that if someone slaps your right cheek, turn your head to offer them the left – nonviolent aggression.  Advancing his goal of equality by largely decreasing the negativity of the caste system, Gandhi achieved some level of success in the majority of his goals.  He became a national hero and earned the title Mahatma, a Sanskrit term from the roots maha (great) and aatma (spirit).  He literally became The Great Spirit.

 

Although Gandhi didn’t achieve every one of his goals exactly the way he hoped to, he inspired an entire country (one of the largest in the world) to accept change and embrace unity – he did it by learning from his life experiences and spreading his knowledge quickly and efficiently to those around him.  His main strength wasn’t his IQ or ability to devour and apply theory quickly.  It was his ability to learn from the situations around him and find the appropriate solutions for a given problem.  That’s real world experience!

Learning to Code? Check Out These Awesome Treehouse Features!

Treehouse Home

Learning programming skills has become commonplace and, in many cases, necessary for certain jobs.  Responding to this demand, efforts to teach a beginner to code have been popping up in different forms all over the world.  From free online tutorials to expensive boot camps cost up to $20,000, there are a myriad of options to choose from. One of the most popular such endeavors is a website called Team Treehouse that offers high-quality tutorials and workspaces for an affordable price (starting from $25/month).  If rave reviews about Treehouse’s Front-End Web Development track and teaching style aren’t enough, you can even try the platform for free for 2 weeks before deciding whether it is the right place to invest your $25. Considering the average web developer in the United States makes $81,670 and the industry is predicted to grow by at least 20% in the coming years, the investment is probably more than worth it. If you aren’t convinced yet to give Treehouse a try, check out these awesome features:

Tracks

There are 8 available tracks on Treehouse: Web Design, Front-End Web Development, Rails Development, iOS Development, Android Development, PHP Development, WordPress Development, and Starting a Business.  Each track teaches units of information including languages (like HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, Ajax, Ruby, etc.) and allows you to work through examples as you watch the tutorials.Treehouse Tracks           Treehouse Co-Founder Ryan Carson’s favorite feature within the Tracks is the Scheduler.

“Once you pick a Track, you can choose how long you’d like to take to complete the Track. We then calculate how much time you should spend on Treehouse every day and then help keep you on schedule”

 

WorkspacesTreehouse Workspaces

As you follow along with the videos, you can also code along in a workspaces window that allows you to preview your work at any time.  There is no downloading or desktop work necessary.

Forever Expanding Library

One of the best things about Treehouse is their ever-expanding library of tutorials.  Even if you get through all of the tracks, there is always new content being added to its library that you can use to improve your development skills whether you are a novice or expert. Just in the past few weeks, they have come out with several new tutorials, from Git Workshops to Android Animations.  Its candyland for an autodidact!

Forums and the Gamification of Learning

Many online learning platforms employ the use of gamification as an incentive to continue to learn, and Treehouse is no exception.  Users earn points and badges that lead to reward videos that tell fun stories and are great mini-breaks before getting started on the next track. Another one of Ryan’s favorite features falls into this category:

“…getting your answer marked as “Best answer” in the Forum. You get extra points!”

The forums not only provide a space for students to interact as they learn and help solve each other’s issues, they also play into the gamification aspect of Treehouse to inspire users to remain active. Treehouse GamificationSo after reading about all these great, ever-growing features, are you reading to become an awesome developer?  Sign up for your free trial here!

 

“With Treehouse and a little imagination, you can go anywhere…” – Author Unknown

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?

Buzzwords Decoded: Synergy

Innovation - Ideas Light Bulb Hatching

Welcome to another week of Buzzwords Decoded with Accredible!  Last week we cleared up the ruckus around ‘dynamic’ and are back again with ‘synergy’ to take your resume up another notch.

 

Definition: Merriam-Webster Dictionary

1: synergism; broadly : combined action or operation

2: a mutually advantageous conjunction or compatibility of distinct business participants or elements (as resources or efforts)

 

How to Use it Incorrectly

Synergy is pretty much what happens when two things are combined to make something better – at least that’s what its supposed to mean.  The ‘synergy’ of ‘your leadership with your innovative team’s dynamic skills’ bringing about a positive change on your project is just a long and annoying way to say that you led a solid team to achieve an awesome outcome – which can be shortened to you being a good leader.  Period.

Whenever a word is unnecessary, it is being used incorrectly.  More often than not, ‘synergy’ can be replaced with ‘teamwork’ or ‘together’ which are words that are heard more often in conversation and are therefore easier for the brain to process and move on from.  Throwing ‘synergy’ on your resume for the sake of showing off your beautiful corporate jargon will bring about a few sniggers and the trash pile.

 

How to Use it Properly

Just don’t.  ‘Synergy’ could still belong in a high-level corporate meeting when discussing a merger or acquisition, but there are very few ways it could work on your resume.  If you are trying to talk about the synergy of your dedication to maintaining a certain profit and passion for green initiatives, just use ‘and’.  If you want to mention leading a synergy of two teams within your company, just use ‘collaboration’.

Synergy is not a word used in everyday conversation, so it will likely force a recruiter to pause on your resume, think about the word, and then move on after wasting precious time necessarily.  Any reader should be able to glide through your resume as though they are reading a story.  Words or phrases that make them stop and think about the term instead of the accomplishment its describing is useless.

 

Take Away

Don’t use ‘synergy’ unless you have a really, really good reason for it.  It will either get snickered at or ignored – neither of which are desirable reactions to your resume!

Do you have a resume cliche you’d like to see addressed in this series?  Leave a comment below with your word and the Accredibles will decode your cliche as quickly as possible!

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.