A month ago I started an online course from the Open University called Start Writing Fiction. I’d been looking for something that was a live course. That is, a course where there are other people taking part at the same time and with the opportunity for live discussions and interactions with a course moderator.
The course started a month ago and I’ve been trying to catch up ever since. The first week coincided with the week I had to go home unexpectedly. I didn’t have a chance to look at the material until the day before I came back to India. The course is 8 weeks long . Each Monday I’m sent a peppy email welcoming me to the next weeks study, congratulating me on my continued efforts and hoping I’m enjoying the course. Yes I am enjoying the course but I’m 2 weeks behind. I only skim read the Monday emails in case there’s a spoiler about the future tasks – I don’t want to be distracted by an exercise in Week 4 when I have to focus on Week 2.
I’ve realised several things about becoming a student again. I’ve missed having a structured learning experience. I’ve missed being able to interact with class mates even if it is only on an internet forum. I’ve also realised that I’m REALLY slow. The course guidelines suggest spending 3 hours a week on study. That’s 3 hours for an average of 15 exercises per week. Ok, some of them are reading exercises and there are also video clips to watch and discuss but still…3 hours is not a long time. And then you have to comment. Each exercise has a discussion board. Here my fellow students and I post little snippets of our writing, compare notes on our reading of a particular passage, discuss the motivation behind our writing and initially worked out how to use the bloody technology. Several of my early posts were apologies for posting a response on the wrong thread.
They sounded like an Englishman making his way down a crowded train carriage “Oops sorry…Apologies wrong thread…Sorryyyy…Oh I do apologise!”
During my Week 1 there was a live chat over Twitter that was linked to Week 3. Thankfully it had been announced in the Monday email. Huzzah! I thought, a real life conversation with my fellow classmates. I reactivated my Twitter account, set a reminder in my calendar and promptly sat in front of my laptop on the given day at the appointed time. However, the clocks in the UK had gone back, plus I had an “is India ahead or behind?” confusion, so I ended up sitting in a virtual lecture room all by myself.
Here’s another thing I’ve realised – live Twitter chats, Me and alcohol are not a good combination. We were away a few weekends ago and the bar at the hotel where we ate one night didn’t serve margaritas, so I switched to martinis. Martinis are my new favourite drinkie. I have a bottle of dry vermouth in the fridge and the cocktail shaker permanently in the freezer. Now that the live chat was in the evening I could accompany the scintillating conversation with a yummy dirty martini no? – stirred NOT shaken. What could go wrong?
Martinis may quicken the mind but let me tell you they do not quicken the fingers. I didn’t realise how fast the questions and responses would come, although the Sis did try and warn me. I didn’t know you had to tag the question you were responding to so people knew what the hell you were babbling on about (it’s obvious now!) AND the person you were responding to. With all the dexterity of flaccid chipolatas, my fingers did the best they could to keep up with the chat, administer the martini at regular intervals (at this point it was purely medicinal!) and I did manage to get some responses in. In fact, in the round up blog sent out after the chat, two of my responses had been included – not bad for a gin medicated hour. Another important thing learnt is that I have a one martini limit…and even then I may have to put myself to bed early.
That’s blown the possibility of a date with James Bond.
Anyway, I’ve nearly finished Week 2 at this point. I’d like to have it finished by the weekend so I can start Week 3 and not panic when the Week 5 email arrives. I’ve been trying to remember if I was this slow at school or University. I don’t think I so or quite frankly I’d still be there! Hopefully I’m just a little rusty; out of practice. Learning is a skill like any other and if you don’t use it you lose it.
So back to the laptop I go…well not back because I’m already on it but back to the course page and in hindsight maybe I should stay away from the martinis…at least during school hours.