Sunday, November 4, 2012

Coursera 6 Weeks On

I am still hanging on to my A History of the World since 1300 by Jeremy Adelman from Princeton University on Coursera. Going into my 7th week, with 3 essays done, 10 peer reviews and 12 hours of lectures. And that's minus the extra hours spent re-listening to some parts of the lectures again. From the feedback given to us, there were 83000 people who signed up for the course. But for the first essay writing assignment, 1800 or 2% submitted their essays. But according to Coursera that's quite an awesome figure. And I made up the 2%... #grinning from ear to ear#

Going on a course like this takes great discipline, especially when I have work and family commitments. Making time to write is a major problem but I've done all 3 so far, not my best effort though, given all those other commitments. But this is something I took up on my own free will. The thing that has kept me going on are the lectures and insights which I've found quite fascinating. Interest has kept me going and having a good teacher makes a world of difference too.

The listening part was easy. It's the writing that I found needed effort. Lectures were easy becasue I could stop them any time and listen to them any where. For the writing assignments, one actually has to read up, re-read, think through and re-hash the ideas. Essay writing is a good way of consolidating what one has learned. It makes us think. One thing which has been reinforced is the importance of writing skills. At school, what we are doing now is just getting kids to memorise essays. This dumbs them. The skills for memorising at best are just remembering, perhaps a certain degree of understanding and maybe some application skills.

If one is to further develop the abilities to analyse, evaluate and eventually create, one has to be made to write. Anyway, this is what I've learned from this endeavour.

Back to the course. What would be helpful would be some real feedback instead of the awards of 1-3 for peer reviews. But I guess for a course of such magnitude, it would be difficult to have that personal feedback. Anyway it's free. I think the people involved in Coursera are fantastic people and must be quite passionate about what they do. Hats off to them. I don't know how far reaching the effects is but I think this is one sure indication that education is changing. And I think too this will make our education system obsolete.

Education in Malaysia is politicised. Well, if we don't revamp and make it relevant, it's going to be obsolete. Who needs to go to school when school comes to us... and none of our institutions even come close to those universities offering courses on Coursera... And guess what, many of these courses apparently count towards the credits too for many universities too. Anyway, having gone halfway for my present course, I can see why. 12 weeks of lectures up a semester's worth of work. With 2 hours of lectures, they do meet some of the requirement of 'contact hours'. Just that in this case there is no face to face meeting or discussion. But the course content is what we do at university level.

Going through the last 6 weeks have taught me to look at events and how they affect us from yet different angles and perspectives. It's a process of mind sharpening. And an exercise of enlightenment too, liberating in a way. Learning from the past, reading about world history, I've discovered that the world is actually smaller than I had imagined.

Finally, why even bother with World History? It actually liberates the mind and reminds us that who we are, where we are today... well, the past had everything to do with it. Or that there were other great eras. Every century, every decade, every lifetime has had its share of great achievements, folly and misery. Many same outcomes, different players. Many shared goals, different players. What goes around, comes a round. Life is a circle and in walking down the world's timeline, you somehow learn to see it. One learns humility.

This is education... when stuff like this go online and one actively seeks it out, that's education one is seeking. And I think we've got to inculcate into our young such an attitude - to seek for an education and not just passing exams. Passing exams is seasonal. Seeking education is lifelong.

1 comment:

Ting Siamooi said...

hi.....I signed up for a coursera too. Hubby was very excited that he found free courses online and signed up. Told me to do a course too. Thought why not and remembered reading ur blog about it!! Not sure if I can complete it or not...most busy time now.