Coursera – my experience and thoughts

I was going to do a post on things to do when you are bored and include completing a Coursera course as one of them but actually the topic really deserves an entry of its own.

If you are unfamiliar with Coursera (or EDx which is also a very similar concept), the website hosts hundreds of courses on a wide range of topics – from data science to political science to personal development courses. The courses are sourced from Universities around the world and usually consist of video content, recommended readings and assignments.

Previously most of the courses were free and you only had to pay if you wished to obtain a certificate that you completed the course. However, when I last had a quick browse, they seem to have implemented a new system for some courses where you get free access to the content for 7 days and then have to pay a monthly fee. If I am correct, this type of pricing mostly applies to courses that are part of a specialisation although I do see this for some individual courses as well.

I have completed three courses on Coursera so far – all in the politics and policy sphere:

  • Moral Foundations of Politics (Yale University)
  • Terrorism and Counterterrorism: Comparing Theory and Practise (Leiden University)
  • The Kennedy Half Century (University of Virginia)

I thoroughly enjoyed all of them, although the Yale course certainly stood out in terms of content and delivery. I purchased a certificate for the Kennedy & Yale courses – really cannot recall why I left out the terrorism course despite being very excited to complete it (I am sure it made perfect sense at the time).

So what do I think? For me, the courses were an excellent way to get some intro to intermediate level of knowledge on the topics. Of course since these are online courses, you miss out on the interaction with the professor and your peers (there are comments and discussion sections but somehow it just did not feel the same). I think it was hugely beneficial that you could audit these courses for free (and I really don’t know what’s going on with the fee model at Coursera and why they’re moving towards more and more courses having an outright fee regardless of whether you pursue a certificate or not). Introducing a fee of even $50 per course/ a month makes it unaffordable for a lot of people. I really believe education should be accessible for everyone and am somewhat disappointed that more and more courses are no longer free.

What I did find though was that completing a course did not give me very detailed insights into the topics – at times felt like the courses did not go far enough. They did however serve the purpose of really awakening my interest (and hence I am continuing my learning of the topics by pursuing a Masters course).

Overall, I definitely recommend doing a course. Whether it’s to boost your skills in your chosen career or learn about a topic that interests you, I think Coursera is a great way to go. They are introducing more and more masters courses – I am still unconvinced about those, I don’t know if they would be a direct replacement for a degree from a more conventional institution but I guess all changes take time to catch on.

Have you completed any courses on Coursera? Which ones did you do? What did you think?

Kristina

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