I heard about Coursera around two years ago when a course called Fundamentals of Online Education: Planning and Application caught my attention. I was teaching online at the time, had just recently completed CELTA, and was looking for ways to embellish my CV in the absence of a degree in hopes of increasing my chances of getting hired somewhere. So I browsed around the site, familiarised myself with how it worked, what it required, and then I signed up.
The great thing about Coursera is that it’s free. All you need is a computer, an Internet connection, and time, though I suppose you would also need to have a penchant for self-study and good time management if you plan on doing the course in its entirety and receiving a statement of accomplishment. The courses are offered by actual universities or organisations around the world and many, if not most, are well-known. Each course will usually have its own unique setup and requirements for completion, but some common features are video lectures, reading assignments, writing assignments, peer grading, peer interaction, and quizzes/exams. If you’re not interested in attaining the statement at the end of the course and are only interested in the resources, then you’re free to follow the content week by week and skip the assignments and quizzes that are worth points required for the statements. I opted to go for the statement for every course that I took so that I could have proof of taking the course and also so that I could have something to add to my portfolio. The workload for each course will vary as will the course length, so you can expect to do as little as two to three hours per week for four weeks, or as much as six to eight hours per week for twelve weeks. There are also deadlines to meet for quizzes, assignments, and grading for those who wish to earn a statement.
As someone who has experience with online self-study from my high school program, I know how difficult it can get to just sit down and study when there are so many distractions around, more so for Coursera since it’s free and you don’t really stand to lose anything if you end up not doing the work. But all you really need when it comes to self-study is a goal and motivation to reach it. It’s especially difficult to get motivation when the content you need to get through is possibly putting you to sleep, but I guess if you want something enough, you’ll find it in yourself to do what it takes to get it. As soon as I found myself starting to drift off, I’d stop whatever I was doing, get up and take a break, then go back to it when I was ready to start again. That’s another great thing about Coursera and self-study, you choose when you want to study, so you can do one hour a day for six days or you can cram the six hours into one day if that’s your style, as long as you meet the deadlines. You also have a chance to interact with other people taking the same course from all around the world–thousands of them–and that offers good support if you find yourself struggling with some of the content or if you just want to make some new friends who have similar interests.
When I first started with Coursera, most of their courses were in the fields of marketing, math, economics, or science, so I didn’t find much to interest me at the time so I was only enrolled in one course–which, unfortunately, ended up getting cancelled because of a number of difficulties it encountered when it launched, which was actually kind of ironic considering the course topic. After some time though, other fields were getting added like literature, history, and education and that’s when things started getting busy for me. There were times when I was taking three or four courses simultaneously and my entire day just consisted of Coursera. My job was home-based at the time and that’s why I was able to invest all the time and effort into it, but if I had been working a full-time job out of the house, I doubt I would have been able to do what I did. I’ve completed fourteen courses to date, and my next one, Learning to Teach Online from UNSW Australia, starts in a week.
Here’s a list of all the courses I’ve completed with Statements of Accomplishment (A) and Distinction (D) so far:
- The Fiction of Relationship, Brown University, September 2013 (A)
- Foundations of Teaching for Learning 1: Introduction, Commonwealth Education Trust, September 2013 (D)
- Social Psychology, Wesleyan University, October 2013 (D)
- Accountable Talk: Conversation that Works, University of Pittsburgh, November 2013 (A)
- Foundations of Teaching for Learning 2: Being a Teacher, Commonwealth Education Trust, November 2013 (D)
- Crafting an Effective Writer: Tools of the Trade, Mt. San Jacinto College, November 2013 (D)
- Foundations of Virtual Instruction, University of California Irvine, November 2013 (D)
- Introduction to Philosophy, University of Edinburgh, December 2013 (A)
- Emerging Trends and Technologies in the Virtual K-12 Classroom, University of California Irvine, December 2013 (D)
- Foundations of Teaching for Learning 3: Learners and Learning, Commonwealth Education Trust, January 2014 (D)
- Advanced Instructional Strategies in the Virtual Classroom, University of California Irvine, March 2014 (D)
- Foundations of Teaching for Learning 4: Curriculum, Commonwealth Education Trust, April 2014 (D)
- Performance Assessment in the Virtual Classroom, University of California Irvine, May 2014 (D)
- Foundations of Teaching for Learning 5: Planning for Teaching and Learning, Commonwealth Education Trust, June 2014 (D)
For more information about Coursera >> http://www.coursera.org