Monday, October 30, 2017

HOW TO SELECT THE BEST MOOCs: Six Tips from an Expert

·         This blog is based on an article by Ki Mae Heussner(1)

The Expert
·         The tips are from MOOCs expert, Feynman Liang, a "21-year-old ... pursuing a dual-degree program in engineering and biophysics from Dartmouth and Amherst"
·         He has "also completed 36 massive open online courses (MOOCs) on Coursera, Udacity and edX"
·         He took "10 courses simultaneously   while completing  a summer internship at Google.  When his friends go out for Thursday night parties, he often stayed back to complete Coursera assignments due the next day. On  occasion, he spent 80 hours on a single assignment. But he said the MOOCs have helped him pass  lower-level classes in college and even prepped him for his Google interviews,
·         Liang was one of Coursera’s ‘top 50’ students based on the number of courses he has completed(2)

·          Massive, Open, Online Courses (MOOCs) have attracted all kinds of interest from people inside and outside education.  The major MOOC startups have teamed up with dozens of top-notch schools around the world for classes in a range of disciplines,
·         Despite the buzz, student drop-out rates are still very high.  Some estimates say that as many as 90 percent of online students never finish the classes they enroll in.


1. It’s not just about the certificates
·         You don’t need a certificate or official recognition for what you take away from the class to be useful to you in other areas of your life,
·         Liang took a class on algorithms and data structures with a top Princeton professor that did not offer certificates of any kind. However, when he walked into his technical interviews for a summer internships, he realized that “being in that class gave him the answers to the questions being asked in the interview.”

2. Don’t judge a course by its videos
·         Excellent online courses may offer highly produced videos with graphics,  animations and artfully shot sequences or they may just have a professor in front of a camera,
·         But don’t dismiss a whole course just because the videos don’t seem up to par. An electrical engineering course Liang took on Coursera didn’t have great videos, but it was one of the best classes he’s taken online,
·         To evaluate a class early on, test it out for a couple of weeks to get a sense of the professor’s personality and commitment level.  Assignments and quizzes that just ask you to recall material covered in the video might indicate the professor is just doing the online course because of a university initiative, not a real personal interest.  More thought-provoking questions and problem sets could show the teacher's investment.

3. Be prepared to complain about peer grading
·         Liang isn’t excited about Coursera's peer review process. In a class of 30,000 the students depend on peer grading to get feedback on papers and assignments that don’t lend themselves to automatic computer grading. Students train using a grading rubric and then they are asked to evaluate a certain number of their peers’ work,
·         The problem is the huge variables in the feedback. Some students may be Ph.Ds in the topic of the course, while others may be high-school students or non-native English speakers with  limited vocabularies,
·         The upside is you get a chance to interact with people from all kinds of backgrounds.

4. Don’t play it safe when you pick classes
·         In a competitive college environment, where every final grade ends up on a transcript, students may be reluctant to branch out beyond the courses they know they’ll do well in,
·         However, on Coursera, students are free to delve into social psychology, behavioral economics, climate science and other topics, without worrying about the outcome. The student can indulge in their curiosity. The student can learn topics ranging from the history of humankind to the history of rock, all from the comfort of your their home. Also, if the student would like, they can ask unintelligent questions or test out half-baked theories anonymously.

5. Don’t assume there’s consistency between classes
·         As Coursera co-founder Andrew Ng has said, his startup isn’t a university , it’s “a humble hosting platform.” That means the professors and schools design the curriculum, create the content and set the class requirements,
·         Coursera obviously sets the framework and provides support, but its classes run the gamut in terms of quality. Once you’ve registered for a class, pay attention to its assignment policies. Some classes may not ask you to submit anything until the very end of the course.  Others will fail you if you miss more than 30 percent of a week's assignments,
·         Also, a lot of professors are trying out course content for the first time.  Be prepared to feel a bit like a guinea pig as policies shift do to the professors learning what works.

6. If you take just one class, make it this one
·         Potential Courserians obviously have a huge range of interests and motivations, and there’s never going to be  just one course that fits everyone's interests,
·         But, of the more than 50 classes Liang has taken, the course he would most  recommend to a MOOC newcomer  is“A beginner’s guide to irrational behavior.”  This class (taught by a professor of behavioral economics and psychology from Duke), touches on all kinds of lessons regarding human nature. “It’s one of the more accessible and rock-your-world classes.”


To start selecting your first (or next) MOOC, please click here.




Posted by Dr. Nat Tuivavalagi 

No comments: