As the resident rookie here at the NFPA, I still have a lot to learn. I’d be blatantly lying if I said that my background in journalism, linguistics, and marketing ever taught me anything about fluid power. While having an outsider’s perspective can be helpful in finding new ways to communicate ideas, working in this industry requires at least some sort of familiarity. That’s when the internet can be good for more than just procrastination.
MOOCs (massively open online courses) and other free online courses are popular for people looking to fill gaps in their knowledge. Just recently, the University of Minnesota launched a Fundamentals of Fluid Power MOOC on Coursera.org, a site with online versions of college-level courses from universities across the globe on a variety of subjects. Using video lectures and links to reading materials, the course quickly went beyond the basics and delved into the physics behind fluid power—complete with equations and tricky unit conversions. It was dumb luck that my word-and-color-loving brain got any of the math-based quiz questions right, and I’m sure that had I taken the course at a university, I would have gotten a polite letter from the dean urging me to reconsider my life choices. However, the MOOC was designed so that anyone could learn something. The explanations of which hydraulic and pneumatic components do what, and where you can see their everyday applications, were worthwhile as a complete beginner. I left with a basic understanding of how things like cylinders, valves, pumps, and accumulators are used. Those with more of a technical or engineering background would have gotten even more out of the course, including passing quiz scores. Just about anyone working in the fluid power industry could use the course to fill knowledge gaps, especially new employees.
Even though the course had a set time frame for those wanting to earn a certificate, the course is much more flexible for the rest of us. Anyone with a Coursera account can:
- Enroll in the course for free
- Pick and choose which parts of the course to complete
- View and download the videos and reading materials at any time, even after the course ends
For a no-pressure overview of fluid power for a variety of audiences, the MOOC is definitely worth a look. To learn more, check out the course summary page: https://www.coursera.org/course/fluidpower
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