by Carlos Gershenson
I have enrolled in a new free on-line Coursera offering, Pensamiento Científico. It doesn't start officially until February 3rd, but the first week's lectures are already available, and I have completed all but one. The Spanish vocabulary and the content are well within my grasp. The presenter speaks quite rapidly but clearly, and his delivery is just enough of a challenge to be useful. The very brief quizzes at the end of each lecture are useful to comprehension, and they can be repeated as often as necessary to maintain a perfect score. Succeeding lectures may get beyond my comfort zone in terms of language and content, but I feel the course has already been well worthwhile in terms of coming to grips with the spoken language.
It seems to me that on-line courses like Pensamiento Científico would be a great addition to the offerings at Albuquerque's Cervantes Institute. The resource is cost-free for students, and can be easily accessed in accordance with varying schedules. The Institute could add useful value through the formation of discussion groups at the Albuquerque location, and I would think no one would object to a small fee for the use of the facility. I will try to propose this idea Thursday when I will be at the Hispanic Cultural Center to attend a lecture by Martha Heard on her recently published book, Salir del Silencio, Voces de Càlig 1900-1938.
The course I am presently taking, as well as hundreds more offered by Coursera, is presently unavailable to anyone in Syria, Sudan, Iran and Cuba due to a ban on such online contact by the U.S. State Department. It seems like quite a stretch to imagine that a basic course in scientific thought would seriously threaten U.S. security. Given the disastrous PR associated with the wikileaks and Snowden revelations, it would seem that there would be considerable pressure to lift the current ban on access to free on-line educational resources for residents of black-listed countries. In fact, another big course provider, edX, has been able to negotiate exemptions from the ban for students in Cuba and Iran. So, maybe Coursera will get its legal act together and help eliminate this national embarrassment in the near future.