Introducing MOOCs: Coursera

22 Apr
From my opinion, Coursera seems to be the strongest of any MOOCs that I’ve seen. Although there are other free online courses offered at different websites, Coursera has a far more professional appearance, generally more high quality courses, and a much wider variety of courses than anywhere else I’ve seen. It has also received a lot of media attention. Add in the fact that Coursera is getting some of its classes officially certified to count for college credit in the United States, and that they are aggressively increasing the number of courses offered and the number of partner universities. I suspect that Coursera is going to have far more success than any of its competitors.
On the design side, Coursera has a very clean interface, with a standardized appearance for all of its courses. Coursera tightly controls for the quality of the courses, only working with certified professionals and universities. I have successfully completed five Coursera classes, and I was disappointed once, pleased twice, and highly pleased twice. Coursera classes are free (although a paid option exists to certify your identity), and they cover a wide range of subjects, including finance, economics, history, philosophy, music, computer programming, nutrition, and even gamification, which was the first course on gamification ever offered (and which I highly recommend).
I plan on using Coursera heavily to explore my interests in many different fields, and possibly even to start new paths. For example, if I decided that I wanted to pursue a Master’s degree in economics, I would first take all the Coursera classes I could on economics to help me decide if I really wanted to pursue the degree or not, kind of as a test drive. It is possible that someday I’ll try to work in international aid and development, and I am sure that the knowledge I gain from Coursera classes will help me.
There are some subjects, such as logic or statistics which many professionals could benefit from, regardless of their field. Other subjects, like finance, nutrition, or psychology, are things that could help people in the non-professional lives to understand the world around themselves a little bit better. Speaking from my own experience, I took a finance class offered by Coursera and it opened my eyes to a whole new world. I have zero intention of becoming and investment banker, but know I know (on a simple level) how investments work, and it caused me to think about not just saving but also investing for my future.
A heads up for anyone interested in development or just how the world got to be the way that it is today, there is a Generating the Wealth of Nations class that will start on April 29th. From the course description:

If you had been alive at the start of the eighteenth century, your material well-being would have been much the same whichever region of the world you lived in, and it would almost certainly have been a precarious existence… But come forward 300 years to the present, and we see a startling transformation.

Incomes in some parts of the world have increased more than ten-fold; and now it most certainly does matter where you live – with income differentials of 50 times between the world’s richest and poorest countries.

In this course we’ll explore the spectacular (but uneven) story of economic development – beginning with the Malthusian era, moving on to the take-off of growth in the Industrial Revolution and the Great Divergence in living standards that followed, and finishing in the present with the Global Financial Crisis.

It seems like this course will be in the same vein as Why Nations Fail and The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, which is a much explored area. Nonetheless, it is a fascinating area, too. I will certainly be taking this class, and hopefully I will get some good historical and economic knowledge that will help me in a (possible) future career in development.
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2 Responses to “Introducing MOOCs: Coursera”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Introducing MOOCs: Khan Academy | Young Cosmopolitanist - August 3, 2013

    […] out all the fluff and go straight for the crunch. MRU tried to focus on this a lot, and some of the Coursera classes are forgetting this. Usually it is better to have a short video containing a higher density […]

  2. Introducing MOOCs: Alison | Young Cosmopolitanist - August 10, 2013

    […] I likes this idea from the start. It is great to be able to get a good liberal arts education from Coursera, or to learn how to program from Udacity, but unless you want to be a college professor or a […]

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