Monthly Archives: September 2012

Experiences and Comments on free online learning….Coursera

In my last post I mentioned that in order to understand the free online learning model, I felt there was a need to experience it.  Therefore, I signed up (along with at least 600 others) to take an online course via Coursera, a social entrepreneurship company that partner’s with the top universities in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free.

The course I have taken is called Networked Life.  In the overview of this course, Professor Kearns from University of Pennsylvania outlined the main goal of the course is to look at a network-centric view of modern society, technology and science.  It will look at the network structure (shape) and the network dynamics (what’s going on in the network). Great I thought, a six week free course on a topic that interests me.   Well, 4 weeks into the 6 week course, here are my observations.

Although the overview of the course, advises that there are no formal perquisites to taking this course, it does state that it is a highly disciplinary course, and does require a basic level of mathematical understanding when defining the structure of a network. In my opinion the course content is not for inexperienced students to networking concepts. Previous experience in the terminology used and the science of networking is a definite advantage. Not to mention, more than a basic mathematical ability to solve algorithms used to measure network structure is essential.

Some of the positives experienced; were that online learning can be done anytime, anywhere to suit your personal needs.  The format included videos lectures, extra readings and websites for support, followed by quizzes, which were required to be taken within the week to gain full marks.  Forum discussions with others were a great support.  Another major positive for online learning is that video lectures are usually very short 12-20 minutes and can be viewed and reviewed over and over to help with clarification.  The option to stop/start videos appealed to me to cement understanding.

Challenges of online learning experienced so far; there was a fair amount of discipline required to view the videos, partake in the discussions and take the Quizzes by a certain date and time.  Many independent learning skills were required, notes to be taken, notes to be reviewed and reflected on, further investigations to suggested websites/readings to find information to support the content.  This required dedicated uninterrupted time and discipline.  There was no-one to have a face to face clarification conversation with. Online learning forfeits the in-class experience, the agile opportunity of conversation with others in real time.  The opportunity to discuss perspectives and understandings with colleagues and lecturers was missing.

How was I going, the content is fascinating, I’ loving it. But according to the Quiz results, very mediocre…could this be a result of my dedication to the learning experience?  Should I be more disciplined?  More to come…

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