Like most writers, I am an inveterate procrastinator. In the course of writing this one article, I have checked my e-mail approximately 3,000 times, made and discarded multiple grocery lists, conducted a lengthy Twitter battle over whether the gold standard is actually the worst economic policy ever proposed, written Facebook messages to schoolmates I haven’t seen in at least a decade, invented a delicious new recipe for chocolate berry protein smoothies, and googled my own name several times to make sure that I have at least once written something that someone would actually want to read.
Lots of people procrastinate, of course, but for writers it is a peculiarly common occupational hazard. One book editor I talked to fondly reminisced about the first book she was assigned to work on, back in the late 1990s. It had gone under contract in 1972.
I once asked a talented and fairly famous colleague how he managed to regularly produce such highly regarded 8,000 word features. “Well,” he said, “first, I put it off for two or three weeks. Then I sit down to write. That’s when I get up and go clean the garage. After that, I go upstairs, and then I come back downstairs and complain to my wife for a couple of hours. Finally, but only after a couple more days have passed and I’m really freaking out about missing my deadline, I ultimately sit down and write.”
Over the years, I developed a theory about why writers are such procrastinators: We were too good in English class. This sounds crazy, but hear me out.
Read more. [Image: Wikimedia Commons]
Oh yeah. Procrastination begets the motivation…
With a few keystrokes, you can register for a HarvardX MOOC on Computer Science, Genomics, Justice, or China. Hundreds of thousands of people have done so, and in a report that we and our coauthors released this week, we show that only about 5 percent of these registrants go on to earn a certificate of completion these courses. We could have titled the report: “MOOCs have low completion rates.”
Completion rates in courses, and graduation rates in colleges, have long been important metrics for measuring college success. If students invest time and money into earning college credit and then fail to complete a course, this represents an implicit breach of a commitment made by the students, instructor, and institution alike. If 95 percent of students who enrolled in a residential college course dropped out or failed, that course would rightly be considered a disaster.
After digging deeper into the data, however, we decided that completion rates are at best an incomplete measure, a position that is increasingly shared by many others. We would argue further: at worst, completion rates are a measure that threatens the goals of educational access that motivated the creation of MOOCs.
Read more. [Image: John Gress/Reuters]
Just because you don’t finish doesn’t mean you didn’t learn
SPACE WEATHER STORM WARNING!
"It begins on the sun’s surface: a broad, hellish plain of boiling 5,700 degree gas. Powerful magnetic fields arc upwards from the surface, rising high into the solar atmosphere to form giant, twisting arcades of energy. Matter streams up these arches to be gripped in a magnetic vise a million miles above the surface. Then something happens. Something shifts. Magnetic lines of force in the arcade snap like steel cables on the bridge to heaven. Billions of tons of solar gas are suddenly blown outward, exploding across interplanetary space. Three days later the shimmering ball of energy smashes head-on into the unsuspecting Earth."
This “geomagnetic storm” could disrupt satellites and potentially cause the Northern Lights to drift southward, but it won’t damage us Earthlings.
However, it does give me a chance to point out one of the coolest government sub-agencies: NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center and to type the words “Space Weather Storm Warning!”