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Posted by Marilyn Dispensa at 11:41AM   |  Add a comment

I've completed one Coursera Course, "Fundamentals of Personal Financial Planning" and am currently in a very different one called "Aboriginal Worldviews and Education".

The first one delivered content mostly in narrated Powerpoints with very simple regurgitative quizzes.  There was one peer assessed assignment which was a case/role play where you were given a situation where you had to consult with a friend who needed financial advice.  It was an engaging assignment and the peer assessment and self assessment was valuable but I still missed the assurance that one gets when your work is evaluated by the instructor.   Like others have mentioned the forums gather input from people from all over the world but they can be overwhelming at times.   We didn't really have the opportunity to do any "number crunching" with regards to example case or our own finances which leaves a real gap in what I think you would get out of a real college course.

The Aboriginal Worldviews and Education course is a lot more extensive in the content and types of activities.
There are video lectures, video links, articles to read and web sites relevant to the topic.  If anything, it is worth going to just to get a list of resources that an expert in the field has selected but there is so much, it is hard to keep up with.  One thing particularly useful are the instructors "screenside chats", which are the videos the instructor makes periodically to address questions that are coming up and to "set up" a framework for activities or resources.  This adds an element of personalization.
There are quizzes and very short written assignments (250 words)  that are peer reviewed.   I appreciate this course because it is giving me a window into a topic I know nothing about and the ability to interact with people from all over the world.  I still think one would miss the value of a small class discussion on some of these topics.  I'm almost thinking it would be better to have some forums limited to smaller groups so you can get to know some of the individuals and not be swamped from enormous threads.

About the technology:
 I liked that there were optional captions on all video and that you could speed up and slow down any video.  I listened at 1.5x which got me through the lectures faster. In addition, most video has the transcripts available. I appreciate having the choice to read or watch a video, important depending on one's mood or learning style.  This technology supports full screen viewing. A lot of the video was in HD quality with good audio. With all the clips, you would tire if the quality was lacking.

The interface in Coursera is very user friendly, with collapsible sections and easy navigation.  It's great that it puts a check mark next to the videos that you've watched.

The peer assessment technology is very straightforward - you have until a certain deadline to complete your activity.  After that, you are given several peers' work to assess.  When that deadline is complete, you will see your responses.  It is very clear what you have to do and when.

I would like to see a more direct link from a resource to a forum or subforum so that posts are more integrated with the resource.

The bottom line is that in my 2 experiences these MOOCs don't come close to the rigor or depth that a college course requires.  However, for a topic you want to learn about, its a great way to have a low-stress way to access the information in a virtual community. I sometimes wish I had a local cohort to engage with on some of these topics and wonder if somehow these  could be integrated in a regular f2f class.


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