To help you better understand Coursera and be successful in it, I am happy to share my own experience on taking a Coursera online course. Here are three reasons why I took it:
- My major and career path is in Education field, so taking a Psychology course will enhance my professional knowledge.
- The course is taught by a prestigious professor from a top-ranked university and it is FREE!
- It is an online course which allows flexible learning pace.
The course name is Buddhism and Modern Psychology which is a six-week long learning period, and it turned out to be an extraordinary learning experience. By sharing my learning experience and reflection, it may help future Coursera learners be more successful.
Choose What You Love
A long time ago I registered another two Coursera courses, but I ended up only finishing the first-week course due to my own laziness. Unlike traditional courses, you will not receive any punishment by not showing up or not finishing assignments in Coursera. So this time I have to pick a course that I am either strongly interested or beneficial to my career so that I would be motivated to finish the course. Once you choose the course you deeply love, you just need to make a commitment to it.
Prepare for the Course
Just like other traditional courses, I went through the course syllabus and borrowed textbooks from library one week before the course officially begin. I also played around on the Coursera platform a little bit to get familiar with the Learning Management System. Besides, I navigated through “Grades” and “Discussion Forums” sections on the platform and learned how the assignment, discussion activity, and exam will be done. I strongly recommend you do the same to save yourself time later.
Get Feedback from Peers
In Coursera you will only get scores and feedback from peers instead of professors. At first, I doubted whether the peers’ feedback would be valuable. But later, I found that this new grading system provides me much more beyond the traditional classroom. I have received some considerate and long comments from peers, which encourage me to rethink some critical concepts. Besides, it is very inspiring and enjoyable when I am reading my peers’ essay where I learn so many new ideas and perspectives and improve my critical thinking, analysis skill, and logical thinking.
Interact with Online Classmates
Lots of people are questioning whether online learning is capable of high-quality interaction. In fact, Coursera does have high-quality interaction! The discussion forum is the main tool for learners to interact with each other and exchange ideas and opinions. In Coursera’s discussion forum, you will see some volunteer mentors replying to learner’s questions. These mentors just like TAs in traditional classes–they previously achieved good scores in the same course and now love to help new learners. Another interaction between learners and the instructor in some courses is the Office Hours where the instructor creates a new video every week to answer the most emergent and difficult questions from that week. With the help of social media, for example, Twitter, Facebook, and discussion forums, the instructor is able to collect many interesting questions and respond via a short video or announcement. Even though it may take some time to adapt these new tools and methods, it can be very effective if we adapt them enthusiastically. The only thing you need to do is to be open and present!
Manage Your Time Wisely
The workload for my course was about 6 hours a week. Basically, I watch some lecture videos and finish some readings every week. There are only two essay assignments throughout the course. The challenge for me is that I have to work in the day, so I have to study for this course at night or on the weekends. Once, I missed one week of content due while traveling and I had to catch-up by finishing two weeks of the course within one weekend, which was a painful experience. So my suggestion is to finish the weekly content as soon as possible and do not wait until the last minute.
Looking back, the overall Coursera experience was fantastic! Getting a 96.8 final score from three other peers is truly rewarding. I also read lots of books and gained new knowledge and understanding in psychology and religion. My tips might not apply to every Coursera course because every course is designed differently, but it will remind you to keep open-minded to new ways of learning and continuously learn, grow and share in the world classroom.