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Spreading the news about MOOCs

By: Nikka S. Abes

21I am not an ambassador of Coursera but I would like to spread the word about it. I’d been hearing about free online courses about a year ago but never found the time to look into it. While taking a breather from the 9-5 sked that a working mom had to deal with, I came across a magazine editorial that mentioned Coursera and the free online courses it offered. For those who haven’t heard of them, Coursera is an education company that partners with top universities and organizations in the world. Their online format allows their partners to reach hundreds of thousands of students at any given time. At Coursera, they envision a future where everyone has access to a world-class education to help improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in.

I checked it out (www.coursera.org) and was amazed at the number and variety of courses it offered spanning the Humanities, Medicine Biology, Social Sciences, Mathematics, Business, Computer Science and so many others. You may choose from 400+ courses in over 20 categories created by 85 Universities from 16 countries. And let me say again, that they’re all free!

After going thru their course offerings, I signed up for “Introduction to Public Speaking” taught by Dr. Matt McGarrity from the University of Washington. It was a ten-week course but he got me so excited that my first week into the course, I signed up for another — “Competitive Strategy” taught by Tobias Kretschmer from Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat Munchen (LMU). This course was only 6-weeks long but I was after the Statement of Completion (SoC) which you can get after finishing the course, passing the quizzes and final exam. Yes, they have these to test whether you understood the professor’s lectures or not! You have to achieve a certain score to get the SoC.

Suddenly I knew what it meant to be part of a MOOC (massive open online course) with 100,000+students attending from all over the world. I had found what I had wanted — to learn, in the comforts of my own home and on my own time. All I needed was a good internet connection and my laptop. My kids would be off to school and I was off to my classes as well! Pretty soon I was registering for my 3rd, 4th and 5th Coursera courses. These have already started and I have 3 more chosen courses coming up in the next couple of weeks. I suggest that you don’t sign up for too many simultaneous courses though, unless you’re sure you have enough time to watch the video lectures.

My first two weeks were easy but after getting involved in a home renovation project, finding the time to attend both courses, without falling behind on the lectures was a bit tough. Just like school, you have deadlines to meet in terms of the asssigned quizzes and exercises. What was supposed to be a little over an hour per course, per week to watch short video lectures would be crammed into an afternoon for me, which was not good! I’ve since learned to instill the discipline to finish the class material for the week and not put it off for the next.

If you want to improve your resume, advance your career, or simply learn new things, check out Coursera or any of the other free online courses available on the web. Like me, you just might get hooked too.

Nikka is enjoying her break from the corporate world. She finds out what it means to be a stay-at-home mom and having more time for her 2 kids and husband. While in-between jobs, she’s doing things she has always wanted to do but never had the chance to do so.