I am an ardent supporter of continual education. There is no one who doesn’t need or deserve that little extra knowledge and/ or skill. But at the same time, the scarcity of time and resources (mostly money), other commitments, and sometimes just lethargy prevents people from taking a class. In such a scenario, the Massive Online Open Courses (MOOC’s as they are more popularly known) are indeed a boon to number of people. These courses enable regular everyday people to access a wide variety of material on a great many subjects. More often than not, these courses are free of cost and high on quality. There are a variety of platforms offering MOOC’s now a days. But my favorite among them is ‘Coursera‘
I have been using Coursera for almost a year now. I have a wide variety of interests and I enjoy knowing more about them. But a full-time job and financial crunch (more often than I like to admit 😦 ) do not permit me to take an offline course. Moreover, I have had a hard time finding a conventional school with such flexibility as Coursera. So, when a friend of mine first introduced me to Coursera, I was very excited. I registered with the website then and there and enrolled in my first course, on economics. This course was being offered by an Australian University. Although lectures were slightly monotonous, the breadth and depth of the topics covered was good and the clarity of the presenter amazing. I used to spend close to two – three hours every week on watching the videos and taking quizzes for this course. It seemed a lot of fun until I found out that there was going to be a peer evaluated essay type submission as well. I kept procrastinating and finally decided to do it on the day before the final submission. It was fun writing an assignment after a long time but even more exciting was reading what my peers had written. The advantage of having such a huge peer group (being an online class) is that I got so many perspectives on the questions. Receiving a statement of accomplishment was the cherry on the top. Since then, I have been utilizing this amazing platform as and when possible.
So far, I have taken twelve courses and received a certificate for ten (I got lazy for the other two, and this is another advantage, you don’t feel guilty dropping a course as much as you would do in a conventional course, considering you are not paying a bomb for them!). I have enjoyed every course a lot. The instructors are all amazing and have different styles. The two courses I would definitely recommend to anyone interested in economics and finance are –
- Microeconomics Principles, offered by Dr. José J. Vázquez-Cognet from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
- Economics of Money and Banking, ( Two Parts) by Prof. Perry G Mehrling from Barnard College, Columbia University
Some of the pointers that I would suggest while taking Coursera courses (or for that matter any MOOC’s) are:
- Do not enroll for too many courses at a time. Then you will not be able to concentrate on any.
- View the course videos at enhanced speed. I typically watch at 1.3x – 1.5x the original speed.
- Download the Coursera app on your smart phone/ tablet. More accessibility!
- Download the lectures and watch them on your phone/ tablet to overcome the inertia of having to switch on your laptop/ desktop and avoid the frustration of low internet speed (at least in my case).
- Aim for the statement of accomplishment, they are a great incentive!
- Do not get bogged down by the number of discussions on the discussion board. But use them and contribute to them regularly.
Hope this helps. I am off to enroll in a brand new course!