Crash Course on Creativity

An email floated around at my work a few weeks ago about some free online courses offered by Stanford University. Coincidentally, I recently read the Wired magazine article about a free online class experiment initiated by Stanford professor, Sebastian Thrun. Thrun has since started a company to continue offering courses taught by top professors. It looks like the experiment has gained some traction at Stanford. The Venture Lab began offering a course this past spring and it attracted over 40,000 students around the world.

Five courses are offered this fall. I opted to take A Crash Course on Creativity. The first lecture consisted of some reading and a video. The first assignment was about getting to know our teammates and find out what we all have in common. The assignment had to be submitted as a team. There wasn’t much info on the format of the submissions. My team started communicating by email and a Google Docs spreadsheet to list our interests, hobbies, etc. When one person asked how we would present our submission, a Venn diagram came to me right away. I started a Google Docs drawing and invited the rest of the team to join in. We finalized the drawing at a Google+ hangout (my first!) and I volunteered to turn in the assignment.

I thought I can simply submit a link or PDF of the drawing. Unfortunately, the Venture Lab site was designed to embed content from a specific set of online tools. While Google Docs was listed, a drawing didn’t work with the embedding limitations. It prefers YouTube, Vimeo, Slideshare, Google Docs presentation, Prezi and Scribd. I have a Scribd account already so I tried that first. The PDF was custom size because the drawing is rather large. Scribd couldn’t process it. I tried uploading the PDF back to Google Docs and that didn’t work either.

My last resort was Prezi since I signed up for their free account and took the intro webinar recently. I had first submitted the assignment as a one-slide Prezi. It’s kind of boring. Just before I was ready to go to bed, I realized it would be stupid to not take advantage of the zooming feature of Prezi to highlight some parts of the Venn diagram. I added a few text elements plus an order of the flow between each element and I got done shortly before the Tuesday 11:59pm deadline. Phew! That was a close call.

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