Free online distance learning courses

8 02 2013
Back and already hard at work!

Back and already hard at work! (Photo credit: clemsonunivlibrary)

I recently came across the Coursera website and was amazed at the quality of the resources available for free.  Through this site you can enrol on free online distance learning courses on a massive range of topics from some of the top universities from all over the world.


Only one of the courses on which I have enrolled  has started so far, but the quality is really impressive.  Aside from the excellent learning resources, the tutors are regularly on hand to answer questions and the course community as a whole is very active in both the discussion forums and the course wiki.


As I have said, there is a really wide range of topics, including computer programming, equine nutrition, aboriginal world views, academic writing, maths, history, economics and business management.  Participating institutions include the University of Edinburgh, University of California, Stanford University, University of Toronto, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Michigan and Princeton University, to name but a few.


It’s all free and definitely worth a look!



Commonly Confused Words: “your” vs. “you’re”

29 06 2012

Misused word: Both your and you’re are commonly misused

Examples of misuse: “Have you got you’re coat?”  “Yes.  Your treating me like a child.”

Word it is confused with: Your and you’re are commonly confused with each other

Corrected example: “Have you got your coat?”  “Yes.  You’re treating me like a child.”

Explanation: Your indicates possession – something that belongs to or is part of you: your hat, your nose.  You’re is a contraction of you are.  The apostrophe (‘) indicates that one or more letters have been left out when the words were joined together.  Use you’re if you can put you are in the same place in the sentence and have the same meaning: you’re bossy / you are bossy, you’re running / you are running.

Note: Gerunds go with the possessive, so you should use your.  A gerund is a verb ending with -ing, used as a noun: “Your running is terrible.”

Commonly Confused Words: “Specific” vs. “Pacific”

17 06 2012

Misused word: Pacific

Example of misuse: Is there something wrong with this Pacific bike, or is it bikes in general?

Word it is confused with: Specific

Corrected example: Is there something wrong with this specific bike, or is it bikes in general?

Explanation: The definition of specific, according to, is:

  1. having a special application, bearing, or reference; specifying, explicit, or definite: to state one’s specific purpose.
  2. specified, precise, or particular: a specific sum of money.
  3. peculiar or proper to somebody or something, as qualities, characteristics, effects, etc.: His specific problems got him into trouble.
  4. of a special or particular kind.
  5. concerned specifically with the item or subject named (used in combination): The Secretary addressed himself to crop-specific problems.

The Pacific is an ocean.

Commonly Confused Words: “On Route” vs. “En Route”

17 06 2012

Misused word: On route

Example of misuse: They were on route to Blaydon Races when the bus wheel flew off

Word it is confused with: En route

Corrected example: They were en route to Blaydon Races when the bus wheel flew off

Explanation: En route is a French phrase, which, according to, was adopted into English in the late 1700s.  As the phrase is French, so is the spelling and in French en and on are separate words.

Commonly Confused Words: “Definitely” vs. “Defiantly”

17 06 2012

Misused word: Defiantly

Example of misuse: I think it’s defiantly going to rain tomorrow

Word it is confused with: Definitely

Corrected example: I think it’s definitely going to rain tomorrow

Explanation: According to, the definition of defiantly is:

Characterized by defiance; boldly resistant or challenging

The definition of definitely, is:

1. in a definite manner; unambiguously.
2. unequivocally; positively.
If you are certain that it is going to rain, use definitely; if you think that it is going to rain to go against everyone’s wishes that it doesn’t, use defiantly!

Commonly Confused Words: “Bought” vs. “Brought”

17 06 2012

Increasingly I have been noticing words that are commonly misused or confused with other words in writing and generally it would be unkind or inappropriate to point it out to the author at the time, so I thought I would do a few posts on here about it instead.

Just to make it clear, I want these to be positive posts, not critical, unkind or negative ones.  It’ll probably be easiest if they follow a set format, so here’s the first one.

Misused word: Brought

Example of misuse: How old was your son when you first took him out and brought an ice cream?

Word it is confused with: Bought

Corrected example: How old was your son when you first took him out and bought an ice cream?

Explanation: Brought is the past tense of bringbought is the past tense of buy.  Did money change hands in order to obtain the ice cream or was it taken with you from home?  You bRing something today, yesterday you bRought it; you buy something today, yesterday you bought it.

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