Saturday, May 17, 2014

Lifelong Learning on the Web: A Review of Coursera

I just discovered the wonders of  This website offers over 650 free online courses from over 100 national and international sources including top universities like Princeton, Duke, University of Edinburgh, and more.

The courses span a range of topics including things like medicine, finance, history, art, food and education.  The courses are geared toward three groups of people: those who are lifelong learners and like to explore new topics, those who are students wanting to augment their learning in a particular area (e.g., astronomy, physics, statistics), and professionals who want to learn more in their field of study (e.g., how to teach character in the classroom).  Most of the courses are in English, although some are in different languages.

The courses run for a specific length of time, so not all courses are running simultaneously.  Most courses are about 6-8 weeks.  Each course estimates the amount of time commitment per week (e.g., usually about 4 hrs a week).  I tend to feel the estimates are on the long side. 

Coursera has an app that can be used for the course, although not all features are available on the app.  Some of the features that allow you to chat and discuss topics with other students in the class are not yet available on the app but are available at their full website.  Each week of the course, there will be videos available to watch in which the teacher is speaking right to the camera (not a far off shot from a large class in session).  The course is made just for coursera students.  Each video may be about 2 - 15 minutes in length and there may be 5-8 videos per week.  There may be extra links or readings suggested or available.  Then there is a weekly quiz in which you click an honor code button that you are doing your own work.  The quiz consists generally of 5-10 questions and is untimed.  You can typically retake the quiz 1-2 times and use your highest score. 

Many of the courses offer you a certificate of completion and there is an option to pay about $45 for a verified certificate if this is important to you. 

So whether you want to learn about new topics from your own home or want to supplement your schooling or career, check out where learners learn for free.