Saturday, August 04, 2012

Coursera: E-learning That Works

"Committed to making the best education in the world freely available to any person who seeks it", Coursera is bringing quality teachers from elite universities right onto our laptops and tabs. As of today, there are 116 courses from multiple disciplines -- courses that typically last from 5 to 10 weeks. 
The format is simple: Video lectures followed by weekly assignments and a final assessment at the end of the course. The assignments mostly constitute objective-type questions, but cracking them is no easy task.
I've taken a couple of courses (Model Thinking and Introduction to Finance) and have come to realize that when it comes to explaining concepts with clarity and perspective, there is no substitute for a good teacher. No fake scenarios, no "trying to be cool" or stilted writing (the kind you see in conventional self-paced e-learning) -- just reasonably good teaching using "technology-enabled chalk and talk", healthy discussions and some amount of retrieval practice. And unlike in a real classroom, you have the freedom to pause the video at any time, replay it any number of times, and take notes at your pace without having to worry about what you missed.
Does this mean the trivialization of education, with access thrown open to the "masses"? Or is this some kind of commercial stunt? Or is it the death knell for that holy cow called institutional education? Only time will tell.
Listen to Daphne Koller, one of the founders of Coursera, discussing the vision behind this venture.

And do check out the catalog of courses on Coursera.


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