“The more I read, the more I acquire, the more certain I am that I know nothing.” – Voltaire.
Having started work while I was still in high school, I recognized early the importance of regularly adding to my knowledge and skills. Knowing things outside of my classroom was the only way to stay ahead. Today, as a young entrepreneur, this outlook has been reinforced. I continue to learn even outside of my work environment.
I got introduced to ‘Coursera’, the educational technology company, through a TED video where one of the founder members talks about a very simple and noble concept – education should be available to everyone, and the very best of it, with no biases! Something that sounds logical but still is a herculean task. Coursera had my curiosity and now my attention too.
That’s exactly what Coursera does; it offers the very best of online educational courses by the world’s best professors at absolutely no cost. The platform also instantly amazed me with its simplicity and responsiveness. It offers online courses across subjects and allows you to browse topics as per your interest. The first course I enrolled for was titled ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior’ by Prof Dan Ariely from Duke University – a subject that I had no formal education in, but was curious to learn more about.
The lead up to the course, how it engages and helps you gear up for the video lectures is brilliant. It is simple, suggestive and allows you to get involved at your own pace. The best part is that you get the opportunity to be a part of an amazing educational establishment that you always wished for but could not afford on various grounds, be it time, priority, money or admission criteria. Here I had access to knowledge just like thousands of other ‘Courserians’.
I have always believed that it is the teacher who makes a subject interesting. Prof Dan, who is one of the foremost leaders in psychology and behavioral economics, comes across as really approachable person. That too when he is across continents and behind a screen! The way the course is delivered, with interesting quizzes, videos & examples, the self-study material, make the process of learning extremely comfortable and exciting.
A few distinct features that I feel differentiate Coursera from regular classroom teaching are:
Availability: The fact that you have foremost educational content available to you at no cost, without any selection criteria is a game-changer!
Choice: The ball is in the court of the learner. You get to choose your subject, take ownership over what you study, how and when. You control your education.
Time and Convenience: You can take courses as and when you have time. You can take a break, or a piss, without having to take permission. You decide when you want to sit for your class, all at the click of a button.
One-to-one: The conversation, though delivered to thousands by the professor, is still personal – the learner is at the center of the experience at all times.
Discussion Fora: Forums allow you to learn from and with others from across the globe. It allows you to completely overcome geographical boundaries in the entire learning process.
Tests and Grading: The quizzes, tests and grading are made fun. It is not forced upon you and help you learn rather than cram like most of our education system.
I won’t keep you further from exploring Coursera. But remember, do the courses for the knowledge they have to offer and not for certificates that you pile up. The same obviously goes for internships. Learning is a lifelong process; enjoy it!
From a true fan,