It’s been a while

For the past few months I’ve been rather busy. I mean, I haven’t been so busy that I couldn’t post here, but when I get home from work at the end of the day that last thing I want to do is sit in front of my computer and write.

What have I been up to?

1. Sending emails that go out to 13,000 people

The job I started in June involves designing free, online courses that are taken by thousands of people around the world. Perhaps you’ve heard of them? If you read the Chronicle of Higher Ed, you have. I design MOOCs (massive, open online courses) at my university through a project that was started by Harvard and MIT. The best thing about this job? I’m not the one teaching the course. I have no grading or marking to do, no prep, no work to do at home. Okay, that last bit isn’t entirely true. There were many weekends that I was adding code, writing transcripts, watching videos in preparation for their release later in the week, or checking quiz questions. Or solving problems that were discovered late on a Friday night. The course I was assigned to help design and develop was an anthropology course, a subject I wasn’t super interested in, but I really enjoyed it. I learned quite a bit about indigenous people in Australia, refugees in Malaysia, water scarcity in the Atacama Desert in Chile, and material culture in Cuba. The stuff was fascinating. The faculty member I worked with gave me lots of freedom to add what needed to be added to the course. This involved writing the emails that went out to all of the students every Monday. But let me tell you that it’s a bit stressful to hit send on an email that’s going to go out to over 13,000 people. I would try to write the email Sunday night, send it to the faculty member for feedback, test the email to make sure all the hyperlinks worked, and then finally hit send and hope that I hadn’t made a typo or included a broken link. But now the course is over, and I’m just starting to look at the data for analysis and report writing. Work is slowing down a bit, but I’m already starting work on the next course (one on climate change) and prepping for some other projects.

2. Loving the people I work with

Seriously. There’s a core group of us who work in the The Back Room: three media specialists for film editing, recording, and animation and four learning designers (including me). We also have a fantastic project manager, a data analyst, faculty research fellows, a data czar, and other very inquisitive and interesting people in our work space. It’s really the best combination of people who are laid back and crazy smart. On the days when we have Skype meetings with the office at Harvard I have to pinch myself because it’s so hard to believe that I get to interact with these people.

3. Making friends on the train

When I tell people about this, they think I’m crazy. Although I have talked to the sleepy guy a couple times, usually to tell him we are at his stop, I chatted up the cop about a month ago. We had a great talk about the legal system in Australia and the upcoming G20 summit that starts this week. A couple weeks later, I sat across from him and his wife and we all chatted again. I know I shouldn’t be chatting so much in the quiet carriage on the train, but I figure if I’m chatting with a cop no one will give us a hard time.

4. Taking a holiday

I’m saving most of this for another post actually, but I might as well preview it in this one. Dan and I took a week long holiday at the Whitsunday Islands. This involved hiring a car and driving 13 hours north past the Tropic of Capricorn to some of the most blue waters and white sandy beaches you have ever seen. It was the first real vacation we’ve had since coming here, and Dan needed that time off. Our holiday involved lots of pool and beach time, lots of reading, and that’s about it. It was exactly the kind of vacation we like. We also had a couple minor adventures including a helicopter ride to a secluded island, a boat trip to Whitehaven Beach, and a drive up the coast a bit more to take our chances swimming even though there were signs posted to watch out for stingers (jellyfish). No worries – we made it out alive.

I’ll leave you with a picture of the blue skies and bluer waters that we woke up to on holiday (and the Woolies in the bottom left corner).

Airlie Beach