How To Remember A Sequence Of Random Words

Remembering a 10-30 (or more)  item shopping list, without having it written down on a piece of paper? Or even more impressive: a list of words that have no explicit or implicit commonalities, say a list of absolutely random words!

This is actually possible! I’ve tried it this morning and although I had no repitition during the day, I could still remember my list of words now in the evening. I’m a bit surprised myself. The trick is to


1) Think of a routine that you’re familiar with, e.g. your morning routine or your routine getting the groceries etc. Give each step a name. For example

Waking up

Procrastinating getting up

Falling to sleep again

Waking up II. – “Only 5 more minutes, then I’ll… (snoring)”

Waking up III.

Getting up


Having a glass of water

Opening the blinds

Going to the toilet

Preparing breakfast

Eating breakfast

Having a shower

Brushing teeth


Getting dressed

Doing the dishes

Checking the backpack

Grapping keys, wallet, mobile

Get dressed for the road

Leaving home

Fetching bicylce

Riding off to work

…and so forth

2) Now get some random words with a random word generator (or a sequence of words you’d like to remember) and oppose them to your routine terms. It then looks somewhat like this:

Waking up ………….. moon

Procrastinating getting up ………….. tasteless

Falling to sleep again ………….. work

Waking up II. – “Only 5 more minutes, then I’ll… (snoring)” ………….. feeling

Waking up III. ………….. elbow

Getting up ………….. hanging

Hurrying ………….. great

Having a glass of water ………….. rotten

Opening the blinds ………….. frame

… and so forth

3) Subsequently comes the fun part! After each routine term has a random partner term you start going through your routine step by step, each time linking the partner term in the most crazy, exaggerated, memorable way you can think of to its routine term opposite… like this:

My alarm wakes me up from a nightmare. I touch my skin, my fingers, my face… no, I’m not a werewolf! I was just dreaming about that giganting full MOON. All the young blood I had this night… what a TASTELESS dream!  I need some time to contemplate the matter, yaaaaawwwwn… damn, I must have fallen asleep again! I mustn’t get to WORK late today! But only 5 more minutes in bed won’t do any harm. What a wonderful FEELING, it’s so warm and cosy in here… yaaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwn… ough! Suddenly a violent pain through my stomach awakes me yet again. Someone hit me with an ELBOW. That someone must have been myself. Anyways, now I’m awake and get up. In my mind’s eye I see the picture of a HANGING. Yeah, that’s what I feel like this morning: walking up to my personal gallows. I’m late and need to hurry. This is gonna be a GREAT day… Following my daily routine I grap a bottle of water and want to pour some into a glass as I realize that some ROTTEN piece of meat swims in it! What?! But there really is no time anymore to worry about anything, so I quickly open the blinds and look through the window FRAME into a beautiful morning sun. etc etc

Your story may continue endlessly. Try making it even crazier and absurd than mine. The crazier, the better to remember. Next time I go to the supermarket I give it a try with my grocery list ;).

Online Learning Treasure Chest

MOOC Platforms US

Udacity (Stanford University’s Sebastian Thrun’s spin-off company)

Coursera (launched by Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng from Stanford University, attracted top universities like Princeton U., Stanford U., U. of Pennsylvania, The U. of Michigan, Columbia University New York, and more)

edX (joint venture between the MIT (initiative) and Harvard University, other universities added later)

others incl. Skynet University by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (MOOCs on introductory astronomy. Participants gain access to the university’s global network of robotic telescopes, including those in the Chilean Andes and Australia)

MOOC providers Europe

FutureLearn (Britain): university and non-university course providers

iversity (Germany): Germany’s biggest MOOC provider with courses in German and English

OpenupEd (EU): courses in various European languages

ALISON (Ireland): basic education and workplace skills

MOOC providers Australia

OpenLearning (Australia): extensive curriculum with some basic and many specialised courses (“a business journey with caffeine latte”)

Open2Study (Australia): some free basic courses from the big island

MOOC providers South America (coming up)

Veduca (Brazil) : website not accessible yet

Webubox (Latin America, language: Spanish): website not accessible yet

Non-University Platforms/ Self paced learning:

Khan Acadamy (solid basics in math, science, economics and finance, arts and humanities, and computing; with test prep and partner content from e.g. the NASA, the Museum of Modern Art, the American Museum of Natural History)
Peer-to-Peer University (P2PU): an attempt to create a free online “campus” from and for an open community
Udemy (some free courses, some charged ones)
Course Hero (access to study material)

Other learning/ teaching platforms create your own online course (Finland)

Moodle: free software e-learning platform/ Learning Management System/ Virtual Learning Environment/ open-source

What Is A MOOC?


A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course. The term was coined by Dave Cormier in 2008 in response to a course called Connectivism and Connective Knowledge (also known as CCK08) with 25 tuition-paying students from the University of Manitoba, as well as over 2200 online students from the general public who paid nothing.

The first MOOCs emerged from the open educational resources (OER) movement. Later, in the fall of 2011, Stanford University launched three MOOCs with truly massive enrollment numbers. Sebastian Thrun, an instructor of one of these courses launched the MOOC provider Udacity, and Andrew Ng, also an instructor of one of the three Stanford courses launched Coursera with Daphne Koller, as a response to the courses’ success. In response to this euphoric development, and concerned about the commercialization of online education, the MIT created the not-for-profit MITx in early 2012. Harvard joined the group, which was now called EdX. Prominent US universities became partners of one of the three platforms. So 2012 could be described as the year of the MOOCs, with the”big three” US providers emerging and developing.


But what does Massive Open Online Course stand for?

Well, MOOCs are all about learning. What makes them so exciting and innovative at the first glance is that academic, university-level content is shared openly with the public online.

Theoretically, this proposes that knowledge presented in the course is made accessible to basically everyone with an internet connection. This is what MASSIVE stands for: the number of participants in a MOOC has no limits (nearly 200.000 were enrolled in the course Learning How To Learn in which I participated in August).

But in order to be accessible for everyone, an online course must be free of charge. This is what OPEN can be interpreted as. Although the ideal strives after free content, some MOOC platforms like the big three Coursera, EdX, and Udacity from the US consider charging or already do charge “premium” services, such as certificates. Most of the big MOOC platforms around follow the freemium buisness model: the basic product is for free, premium features are charged. Basically open/free registration and open/ free access to content currently go hand in hand.

ONLINE should be self-explanatory. It points out the internet-based content.

The term COURSE, again contains several possible interpretations. We can ask: “What is the course designed to be?” Is there a definite start and end date, as with University courses offline? Is course content accessible beyond the end of the course? Do I have to follow a certain time schedule or can I study self-paced? Are the instructors/ assistants able to be contacted? Is discussion with peers encouraged? How does evaluation work (computational evaluation as with quizzes/ peer grading as with homework, essays, projects)? What role does the instructor play – is s/he central or just supervising or something in between? What role do I and my peers have – are we mere recipients or active designers of the course’s direction?

In order to characterize courses, MOOCs are distinguished between xMOOCs  and cMOOCs, depending on their initial approach. xMOOCs tend to use regular university course material in the form of videos, readings, quizzes and written homework, which is evaluated by your classmates/ MOOCmates on an online platform, the MOOC provider. The x stands for extension (as in TEDx), indicating that the online course is an addition to something, e.g. a university course. cMOOCs on the other hand follow a connectivist approach, relying much on peer-review and group collaboration.


In order for you to get a better idea, how a MOOC may look like, coming next is a review of a MOOC that I took: Learning How To Learn on Coursera.


content compressed from

Image MOOC-poster: by Mathieu Plourde:

Image Development of MOOC providers: Yuan, Li, and Stephen Powell. MOOCs and Open Education: Implications for Higher Education White Paper. University of Bolton: CETIS, 2013. p.6

Image x/cMOOC table: Yuan, Li; Powell, Stephen; Olivier, Bill (2014). “Beyond MOOCs: Sustainable Online Learning in Institutions”. Cetis publications. Retrieved 31 January 2014.

Expedition to the unknown/ Coming up next


During August I took the brilliant Coursera course Learning How to Learn by Dr. Barbara Oakley and Dr. Terrence Sejnowski from the University of California San Diego, which refreshed my fascination on the subject of learning, a subject I have a somewhat troublesome and ambiguous relationship to. While one the one hand I have always been interested in all kinds of aspects of the world and its dynamics, I never seemed to understand anything about it. I even felt I was lacking the ability to understand, that I only knew how to reproduce memorized words (passages, lists, mind maps etc.), instead of grasping the ideas behind them. Only now I begin to realize, that my understanding of how learning works, what the brain’s capacities and limits acutally are, has been pretty much wrong. On the search to gain a better insight into the mystery of learning I stumbled across the Coursera online platform and the 4-week course Learning How to Learn. It encouraged me so much that I changed my perspective and decided to launch this website on the matter.

You’re invited to be my guest on the expedition to the continent of learning. It really feels like an expedition to me, as if I was stepping on new, unknown territory… exciting!

As my experiences on the MOOC Learning How To Learn provide the base for this website, my first posts will explore what Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are, summarize the MOOC Learning How To Learn, discuss its key ideas in more depth and have a look on how my MOOCmates process the input.

Hope to see you there!