For a while now I’ve been really annoyed by what is on offer on regular television. Maybe I should be less explicit, maybe I’m not annoyed by it, but I certainly can’t appreciate it anymore. Ever since we moved to France, we’ve been mostly watching movies or tv-series, but we also watch television on a regular basis, mostly documentaries or any other kind of informative shows, as we have to keep ourselves informed. Right? Also, I like to knit, crochet, weave or sew in the evenings and these are typically things that I like to do while listening or watching something.

The last two years we’ve been mostly watching dutch television. These are either things that are shown in Belgium or the Netherlands. What I’ve noticed in the first place is that even the most dry shows, like the daily national news for example, have become sensational. We already barely watch the news, but when we do, I’m always left with unanswered questions. It’s slightly better on Belgian national tv though. I have the feeling they still try to explain a situation and put it into context to their watching audience, but the dutch national news, just leaves you behind uninformed and with a big feeling of unease. I don’t know if it’s the same for everyone, but for me that’s the case.

And then we have documentaries. There are enough good and interesting documentaries. So I don’t want to bury them all under a pile of crap. But at least 70% of the documentaries or research programs also tend to leave you with a feeling of discontent and powerless-ness. They bring you the bare truths and then you have to deal with it. They leave you empty handed, with no solutions, no handles to grab onto, no sunshine at the end of the tunnel. They bring global systems or human nature in all it’s darkness as if it’s set in stone. Not my kind of way to end a good day. At least these documentaries are better than the most recent crappy documentary I’ve seen. I really hope nobody paid money to make it. (For the non-dutch speakers, no worries, you’re not missing out on anything.)

Anyway, I hope it’s clear that we aren’t just watching any show that is on offer on tv, we are already cherry picking and even though we do this, it’s kind of upsetting to see that I can sometimes find more wisdom in old fashioned costume drama’s, than in informative contemporary news shows.

Luckily last week I met a friend, and she reminded me again that there is something like online learning. Of course I have been looking into this in the past, but I was mostly interested in the practical learning offerings, like the things offered on Skillshare. She recommended Coursera to me, which is more like a online university. So I dug into the things on offer and I found a few courses I wanted to follow during day, by myself. I even found a few of my old professors that offered courses. I remembered all those days in my bachelor university-years, that I would come back home and full of enthusiasm and explain Eduard what I had learned that day. Fun times ahead!

Then a few days later, we ended up watching bad television in the evening again, and I suddenly realised Eduard and I could easily watch a eight or twelve week course together in the evenings that we are at home. Eduard agreed – to my surprise. I was not so much surprised that he didn’t care about the things we watched before, because I know he doesn’t. He just needs to wind down after 12h workdays and get away from his computer. But I was mostly surprised that he liked the idea of following online courses on the couch with me in the evening. And so yesterday evening we started following our first course in our living room, screened on our big screen & from our beamer.

I chose this first course. I proposed that I choose one and then he chooses the next one and so on. I did veto any kind of physics or math related subjects. That won’t surprise you hopefully. For this first time I’ve chosen a class named How to change the world, by Michael S. Roth at Wesleyan University:

How to Change the World has its origins in Mashable’s “Social Good Summit” held at the 92nd Street Y. The summit brought together some of the world’s most creative entrepreneurs, writers, academics and political leaders to discuss ways innovative thinking and technology can address pressing global challenges. Beginning from talks, panels and conversations from the summit, we will add lectures, on-line discussion groups, hangouts and readings to explore the issues in politics, technology and the environment in broader academic and historical contexts. We will then discover together what actions we can take to make a difference.


How to Change the World examines how we can develop “social goods” and use them to create networks of progressive change. Classes will explore the meaning of “social goods” and then address the following topics: Poverty and Philanthropy; Climate Change and Sustainability; Women, Education and Social Change; Social Networks, Education and Activism. Each week will be structured along the following questions: 1. What do we know? 2. Why should we care? 3. What can we do?

This sounds interesting and hopeful. Something I can listen to, before I go to bed. I can especially appreciate the three questions that will be the guide through every weekly topic. As we follow the course, I might blog weekly about the subjects if I find them interesting to share, but if not, I will definitely let you know how we experienced getting into this new habit.

You are also able to follow all the courses for free. This specific course will be followed by more than 20.000 people worldwide. We’ll all try to change the world in six weeks time. Watch out!

coursera class

Images used in this post are owned and copyrighted by Coursera.