Learning with Coursera

This is my review of Coursera, an open education resource (OER) with 82 million users worldwide. I am one in a million or (82 million) of Coursera users. I completed the 6-week course called Sharpened Visions: A Poetry Workshop as a foundation for my major learning project for EC & I 831.

First, this blog will provide an overview of Coursera’s broad subject reach, proven approach and popularity of their Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) offerings.  I then briefly recount my experience completing Sharpened Visions answering the following questions. Is Coursera user friendly? Was the course well-organized? Was the course high quality?  I will conclude the blog discussing Coursera’s usefulness for teachers.

What is Coursera?

Coursera is a huge MOOC. According to its website: “Coursera partners with more than 200 leading universities and companies to bring flexible, affordable, job-relevant online learning to individuals and organizations worldwide. We offer a range of learning opportunities—from hands-on projects and courses to job-ready certificates and degree programs.”

Coursera.org

Coursera was launched in 2012 by Stanford University computer science professors, Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller, according to Wikipedia. The first MOOCs were created by four universities. Today, Coursera has 150 university partners creating courses providing online education worldwide. Coursera’s 2021 statistical report is summarized in the list below.

Coursera by the numbers

  • 82,000,000- Learners enrolled Q1 2021
  • 3000 – University level courses offered
  • 11 – Topic areas
  • 150 – University partners creating courses
  • 50 – Non-profit, government and business partners accessing learning services
  • 17 – Languages available to translate materials
  • 90% – Percentage of courses that may be audited for free
  • $61 – Tuition per course to obtain a certificate of completion
  • $12 – Tuition per guided course
  • 1000- Guided projects that last less than 2 hours
  • $400 – Price of yearly subscription to access 90% of the courses
  • $2000 -Tuition for university credit certificate course
  • 25 – Fully online bachelor’s or master’s degrees
  • $9000 – $50,000 – cost to obtain a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree
Screenshot: coursera.org

I chose Coursera’s Sharpened Vision: A Poetry Workshop as the foundation of my major learning project. Ultimately, my goal is to write and perform spoken word poetry. In this section, I will review Coursera from my personal experience as a learner in this specific course.

Is Coursera user friendly?

Selecting a suitable course and registering for Sharpened Visions was quickly accomplished online. Once registered, I was invited to set goals to encourage time management and complete the course in the estimated 12 hours/ 6 week time span of Sharpened Visions. The course syllabus and student expectations were clearly described in six short introduction videos.  Sharpened Visions could be downloaded to access offline. Although I submitted assignments on my laptop, the course materials were also accessible on my iphone and could be downloaded and available offline.

The ideas in Sharpened Visions were both easy to understand and challenging to learn. Concepts were laid out in bite-sized chunks, presented via short video, by an engaging instructor. The workshop portion of the course involved submitting a draft poem for peer review and reviewing other student written poems. The criteria for writing and reviewing the poems were clear to me.

Is Coursera well- organized?

Sharpened Visions was well-organized in 6  weekly sections.  I just clicked on each week to view the videos, then read the transcripts,  reviewed the summary video, completed the quiz on the concept learned, and applied that concept to my own poem.  When I completed the lesson, I was notified of the percentage of the course completed and the approximate number of hours remaining in the course.

Was the course high quality?

Sharpened Visions was created by a credible university, the California Institute of the Arts. University of Minnesota assistant professor and poet, Douglas Kearney, facilitated the course. His video presentations were highly engaging. In addition, browsing the list of over 3000 courses created by 200 recognized universities, colleges and training organizations from around the world, I was impressed by the variety and quality of the offerings. McMaster University, the University or Toronto and the University of Alberta are three Canadian university MOOCs offered through Coursera. According to their own website, Coursera consistently receives high ratings from learners, an average of 4.5 out of 5.  

Would Coursera be useful for teachers?

I think that educators could benefit from the Coursera OER. Teachers in rural, remote or small schools are at times assigned to teach subjects that may be beyond their subject or skill level expertise. They may not have had specific training or experience delivering the assigned subject. Although Sharpened Vision was at a beginner level – completing this course may even help a high school ELA teacher with the poetry unit.  

Coursera also offers guided project-based courses are very short and specific to a certain skill in computer applications such as using Excel.

Screenshot: Coursera.org

Another course that I think would be helpful to teachers/ schools implementing reconciliation is the Coursera called Indigenous Canada. This course was created by the University of Alberta.

Screenshot: Coursera.org

Coursera offers a tremendous variety of courses and most are free! Many schools forced to slash budgets due to government funding cutbacks, have decreased or eliminated professional development funding. Strategically tapping into Coursera could strengthen teacher skills and knowledge without the expense of tuition fees, conference fees, travel and accommodations.

Limitations

Teacher time and energy to complete an online course may also be scarce in these times. Interaction with other adult learners to unpack complex concepts and enhance understanding is optimal. Authentic interaction, building trust and developing relationships among students, instructors and mentors is something that is noticeably absent from a MOOC. Establishing a professional learning network may address this limitation. Using Indigenous Canada as an example, perhaps a group of school staff members could enrol concurrently and then meet to share their learning journey.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Coursera’s MOOCs are quality open education resources because courses are created by accredited universities with qualified instructors facilitating learning. Many of the courses are free or relatively inexpensive.  Coursera is worth considering for the purpose of learning skills,  preparing for a new career, upskilling an organization or even earning an advanced certificate or a degree.

8 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing such a thoughtful and detailed review of Coursera. I really appreciated hearing a bit about your experience as well as your overall impressions and possible applications. I will definitely be checking this out as a possible source of PD.

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  2. Hi Brenda, I really liked your analysis of coursera, especially your sections about limitations, and teacher uses. You made great connections with the process and did not simply give a pros and cons with platform. I would love to see a coursera or a MOOC that worked specifically on financial literacy in our local area.

    Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Hi Chris, Thanks for your thoughtful comments throughout the course. There really is a fantastic variety of courses in Coursera. There may even be a financial literacy course. Take care. Brenda

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  3. Brenda,
    I appreciated reading more about Coursera and your experience with Sharpened Visions. I am glad to hear that it was a worthwhile learning experience and that the material was engaging. When life settles down a bit- post masters, I would love to check out this course. I really feel that it would be great to showcase the course offerings to teachers and staff working in schools. Even the everyday excel course would be so fantastic for administrative assistances of library techs.

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    1. Hi James,
      Thanks for the encouraging comments throughout the course. Yes, taking the Cousera poetry course kept me busy because of course one needs time to get those creative juices flowing. Best wishes in all your future endeavors.
      Brenda

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  4. Thank you for this Brenda! I feel the Indigenous Canada course would be so helpful as we journey towards truth and reconciliation. As a new administrator this would be super PD and very beneficial. I have different teaching duties with my new teaching assignment so I may peruse the syllabus and see what I can find!

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