I Took Two Courses on Coursera. Here’s What Happened.

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Vikram Bath

Vikram Bath is the pseudonym of a former business school professor living in the United States with his wife, daughter, and dog. (Dog pictured.) His current interests include amateur philosophy of science, business, and economics. Tweet at him at @vikrambath1.

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23 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    “find an article about a topic that was covered in this course and write 120 words about it.”

    120 words? I can’t believe that. It takes me more than 120 words to tell you the story that I’m going to have to tell you before I can tell you the story that I want to tell you. Is the exercise forcing you to take a 750 word article and trim it down to 120 words? Something like writing a precis? Something like “Jaybird told two stories. The first was about the background. The second was about the foreground and it was colored by the background in such a way that a funny story was turned sad (or vice-versa).” Quite honestly, I look at that number and I say “surely that’s not a good measure of anything at all.”

    That paragraph right there? 120 words.Report

  2. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    Your final point has a ready fix. An honest final exam, to be given/proctored at scheduled times. If you just want to take the course for your own edification, you take it just as you did. If you want a credential to go with it, you take the exam (if it’s proctored*, I’d expect the exam to involve a nominal fee to pay the proctor).

    *Proctoring is not necessary, just an option. I’ve taken finals for distance learning classes that were an honest to Buddha challenge. I was given a week in which to download the exam, and once it was downloaded, a 24 hour timer started for me to complete the exam and upload it back to the course website. Since the exam was a 24 hour take-home, the questions were tough and involved.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      I’ve had take-home exams that were 24 hours long in undergrad and law school. In many ways, they were harder then the sit in a class room for three hour exams.

      Though because I am a misfit who dances to the beat of a different drummer, I never stayed up for the entire 24 hours. I usually completed them in about 8-10 hours. Maybe 12. But the culture of American educations seems to be that if you are given a 24-hour exam, you stay up for 24-hours. Or at least you say you do. I always wonder how much time people are honestly working during this 24-hour time period.

      I also wonder why I’m such a weirdo who never could do the performative “I pulled an all-nighter” song and dance.Report

      • Add me to the list of people who never pulled an all-nighter and wasn’t afraid to admit it. After I’ve been up for about 20 hours, I start making serious mistakes.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

        I pulled all-nighters in the Navy, because something went to hell. In college, I considered having to pull an all-nighter to be a sign of poor planning. I never did it. I had classmates who wanted me to, but I was married, and darn it, doncha know, the wife wants me home in time for bed.

        So yeah, I had 24 hours, but I did them in about 8. Got a good nights sleep, then spent another few hours checking over my work before submitting them.Report

        • When I was in graduate school the first time, I had an apartment-mate who would buy assorted sorts of speed so he could pull all-nighters. What I remember about it is that once or twice each semester, I had to live with being shaken awake at 2:00 am because it was necessary that we rearrange all the living room furniture right now. It seemed a fairly small price to pay for a roommate that washed his share of the dishes and wasn’t afraid of a vacuum cleaner.Report

      • Avatar Maribou says:

        I’ve pulled plenty of all-nighters (it doesn’t help to have anxiety-induced insomnia), but I’ve never stayed up 24 hours to finish a 24 hour exam. 15 or 16, sure, I can envision that – especially if I had work or needed a nap in the middle of my useful working periods. 24, no way.

        Generally it took me maybe 8 and that was with breaks.

        I always figured the 24-hour thing was to give everyone maximum flexibility, not so anyone would literally spend the whole 24 hours working on the exam….Report

        • I pulled all nighters to write papers (and when I was a TA, to grade all the papers by the time I promised)–24 + hours. I’d start the night before, finish in time to get to school/class. Go to the rest of my classes, and then in the evening collapse on my bed. In a weird way, it feels nice to stay awake ca. 36 hours and then lay down and be able to fall asleep almost immediately.*

          The reason for the all nighters, at least when it came to writing papers, was primarily procrastination on my part. But a strong secondary factor was the fact that in college, I had only a typewriter. So I had to make sure my very first draft was passable enough (and typo-free enough) to earn the A.

          But I never pulled an all-nighter to study for an exam. I also never had a “24 hour take home exam, like Saul had. I had take home exams, but never with the time-stamp on it. The professors always assured us we should take only the same amount of time it would have taken us to do the exam in class. A bunch of BS, in my opinion.

          *I realize I’m fortunate and that others weren’t in a position to do that or had too severe insomnia. Also, I kind of “planned” my all-nighters so that I could come straight home and didn’t have to work the next night.Report

    • Oscar Gordon: An honest final exam, to be given/proctored at scheduled times.

      I can kind of see why they don’t do that though. It would be another step for people to go through, but would people really then respect the resulting credential? I have my doubts.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        How much do people respect Sec+? CISSP? CCNA? If respect is measured in dollars, quite a bit.

        Socially, nobody really seems to give a crap, though.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

        The last half of my Master’s was all distance learning, people accept my credentials just fine.Report

      • Avatar Maribou says:

        Yeah, nobody has an issue with my master’s degree being an online degree from Syracuse instead of a sit in a classroom degree from Syracuse. They care that it’s accredited, but that’s it.

        Of course, I was also in small classes of 8-40 people most of the time…

        Also edX (MIT) has quite a lot stricter standards for any sort of certification than it sounds like your coursera course did – people can audit much in the way you describe, but if they want certifications of whatever type, there’s real work to be done.Report

  3. Avatar bookdragon says:

    I think it also depends on the subject. I took one of my basic physics classes in what was, for the mid-80s, the rough equivalent: I got a set of lecture notes and examples, worked through the examples, did a few sets of homework that were turned in and then took the tests (which were proctored, in that some poor grad TA who sat in test room waiting for students to come in, handed out the test sheet and collected it when I was finished). This worked very well for me since it was the sort of material I learn easily and it did not require any sort of discussion or give and take with others.

    I think it would a truly awful way to take a design class or a class in any field where collaboration with fellow students, or discussion with them and the instructor is an important component of learning.Report

  4. The best way to do that would be to (1) purchase a textbook and (2) read it. Years ago, I did exactly one of those things and not the other.

    You stole a textbook?Report

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