Dilettante Fascination

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Coursera joins a raft of ambitious online projects aimed at making higher education more accessible and affordable. Many of these ventures, however, simply post entire lectures on the web, with no interactive component. Others strive to create brand-new universities from scratch.

Founders Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng say Coursera will be different because professors from top schools will teach under their university’s name and will adapt their most popular courses for the web, embedding assignments and exams into video lectures, answering questions from students on online forums — even, perhaps, hosting office hours via videoconference.

This sounds like worth keeping an eye on. It seems like it could go a long way towards disrupting the traditional educational model. In case you were wondering which schools, here you go: Stanford, Princeton, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan. Not a bad list.

This is amazing. And not just because it’s a innovative form of education. It can prepare one for an upcoming class they may have to take in college, but it gives people the opportunity to study things outside of the subjects required for their major.

It’s got every aspect of a traditional college course, but it’s all web based. Even though it slightly reduces the personal aspect of being able to hold a direct dialogue with the professor (since lectures are one-directional video lectures, or at least that’s how I’m interpreting it), it makes up for it by using discussion boards and videoconference office hours. From source:

…embedding assignments and exams into video lectures, answering questions from students on online forums — even, perhaps, hosting office hours via videoconference.

Multiple-choice and short-answer tests will be computer scored. Coursera will soon unveil a system of peer grading to assess more complex work, such as essays or algorithms.

Of course, for something that doesn’t count for credits, the system also has its own pitfalls that can’t be circumvented. Since quizzes and assignments are all online, there’s no way to enforce a non-cheating policy (although it could work in some cases, such as the use of turnitin for written essays, etc.).

It’s best if the system doesn’t become an absolute replacement for traditional college courses for this exact reason. If these courses were to count for college credit, students choose this option in order to cheat their way into getting credits.

If you look at it strictly as an educational tool rather than an actual replacement for college, I think this is revolutionary. You watch the lecture, you get quizzes and assignment, and you learn the subject. And it’s all free. The only thing you need to spend is time. People that use the system and then cheat their way to an A would have gotten absolutely nothing from it, except for maybe a few wasted weeks. Those that study the subject legitimately and do the work would achieve a sense of accomplishment and would be prepared for the actual college class he or she is taking. There have been tmes where I’ve wished that I had taught myself the material to a certain class before the year began. This site could do just that.

And that isn’t all. It allows one to explore subjects that they find interesting at their own leisure. College students tend to be restricted to the classes required for their major; prerequisites and time constraints forces students to stick to a specific sequence of classes, and taking classes which sound fun but turned out to be challenging would have an impact one one’s GPA. Since this site offers sessions all year round, students can choose to study something that interests them when they have time to do so, without any consequences.

Hell, I took a quick look at the site, and there’s quite a few that interest me: Intro to Pharmacology, Behavior Neurology…I’d even feel like stepping outside the box and trying out Cryptography and Intro to Logic. If I had the choice to take it in college, I probably wouldn’t because it would affect my GPA and would take up spots on my schedule which could be used to fulfill my major (For the record, I’m a biochem major).

The list of colleges participating, although small, looks promising. Stanford, Princeton…pretty cool.

Tl;dr—cool stuff is cool. I like learning about a wide variety of things, so maybe this just appeals to me a lot more than it does to the common man. But this is something I might try out. And it’s free.

  1. gracefree reblogged this from shortformblog
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  5. explodingdiode reblogged this from shortformblog and added:
    I know I just posted about this the other day, but I just can’t get over how unbelievably amazing this is! I mean...
  6. emological reblogged this from shortformblog
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  8. teachingathenstodrive reblogged this from shortformblog and added:
    Yeah I just signed up for classes with professors from Princeton, Michigan and Penn. No big.
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  10. nighthart001 reblogged this from shortformblog and added:
    Of course, for something that doesn’t count for credits, the system also has its own pitfalls that can’t be...
  11. buildingmosaicsoutoflife reblogged this from shortformblog and added:
    THIS IS ALSO BADASS!!! (Why am I just now discovering the education tag?!)
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  15. academicmermaid reblogged this from shortformblog and added:
    More education, MORE!
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