Once upon a time, you could turn on cable television and (kind of) learn about the world around you by tuning into stations like The Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel and The History Channel. But then came Pawn Stars and Honey Boo Boo and, well, now we have excrement like this and this.
So where does one go for educational videos that won’t put you to sleep? MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) have been hailed as the future of higher education, and while the jury is still out on that claim, they’re definitely a great resource for choose-your-own-adventure intellectual exploration. Registration and enrollment are typically free at the major MOOC websites (Coursera, Audacity and edX) and you’re under no obligation to actually complete the assignments — some even offer auditing as a registration option.
For example, Coursera has an excellent course titled “Designing Cities,” produced by the UPenn Design School. Every week for 10 weeks, the professors release a few video lectures, each running about 15 minutes in length. The course is currently halfway complete, so the videos will be available for at least another six weeks. So far, the origins of Kansas City have been covered, and Clayton and Pruitt-Igoe have received depression-inducing mentions. There is a lot of beginner-level explanation, which is particularly useful for people who care about urban design and living, but lack the background or vocabulary to put their opinions (frustrations?) into coherent sentences.
Here is a link to the course, and here’s a summary provided by the instructors:
“Sometimes people talk about cities as if they are outside people’s control, like the weather. We are using the word designing in the name of our course, because everything that happens to shape cities is actually the result of decisions made by governments, business investors, and citizens. Our course is about understanding how and why these decisions get made, and how they can be organized and improved. In other words, the ways cities are designed, and ways people can design them to be better.”
Course introduction video: