My Digital Life: Dr Barbara Oakley

Welcome to the third post of our new series, in which we ask our author clients to answer three questions about how they use digital marketing in their careers, and how it affects their writing.

This week: Dr Barbara Oakley, a professor of engineering at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, and Ramón y Cajal Distinguished Scholar of Global Digital Learning at McMaster University. Her research involves bioengineering with an emphasis on neuroscience and cognitive psychology. Barbara teaches two massive open online courses (MOOCs), “Learning How to Learn” (the world’s most popular course) and “Mindshift” (based on her latest book of the same title), alongside legendary neuroscientist Terrence Sejnowski. She has received many awards for her teaching, including the American Society of Engineering Education’s Chester F. Carlson Award for technical innovation in education and the National Science Foundation New Century Scholar Award.


What do you is think the most effective thing you’ve done in the digital world?

The most effective thing I’ve done is a massive open online course called “Learning How to Learn,” through Coursera – University of California, San Diego.  We’ve had nearly 2 million enrolled students. A big part of the success of this course is that I used attention-grabbing techniques, humor, and solid science, to convey the key ideas.  A good explanation of how to create an online video course can be found in week 4 of my course “Mindshift” (it’s free). The courses have served to help introduce people to my books.

How do you feel about the way digital technology has made it easier for writers to connect with their readers?

The fact that so many people know about my work, and reach out to me, means that I’m constantly kept informed of the latest trends in what’s going on that’s related to my writing.  It’s not that I can respond to everyone. But the interaction I do have with my readers and viewers helps keep me sharp and helps me know what people are most interested in.

What’s the single best piece of advice you can give to other writers about the best use of digital marketing?

I’ve found that emails to those who have enrolled in my courses are the most effective means of outreach.  I send an email out each Friday to roughly 1.1 million students.  This weekly email builds a solid sense of community around my writing and my courses.


Visit Barbara’s website at barbaraoakley.com