I had a rather peculiar experience with Coursera. I was super excited to find out Georgia Tech was offering “Fundamentals of Online Education Planning and Application” course, so I signed up for it in a heartbeat. The course started on January 28th, and as soon as it started the first assignment was to join a group using Google Spreadsheets. Then the chaos happened. There were thousands of people trying to fill in the spreadsheet which led the program to not allow some people to sign in, existing names were being replaced or getting deleted. After the mess, the teacher had to give us a new spreadsheet and extend the due dates for all assignments and quizzes. By then, I was annoyed about the technical issue and was frustrated that I could not dive into the actual course directly. Then there was an e-mail from the professor that went something like this, “With more than 41,000 students, there is no way of knowing if technology will be able to handle the sheer volume of hits on the servers. You are welcome to continue on this journey with me as my only intention is to help as many people as I can to better their lives. I hope we can all unite and move forward and help each other and learn about what technology cannot do and the reaction of people when technology does fail.” Like she said, it would have been great to leap forward and work on this technology issue together, but the class lost me at that point. On the same day, the class got suspended. Another followup e-mail said Coursera will notify us when the class is ready to resume.
From this experience, I strongly felt that MOOC is an extremely ambitious platform that tries to tie massive about of students (40,000 students in this case). Without a flawless technology and instruction, it can get easily lost and create chaos. I am truly sad that my first Coursera class never happened. I hope to get a better experience with a different course at Coursera.
In addition, I tried Udacity and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I love how you can go with your own pace but still need to pay attention in order to answer quizzes. Not encountering any technical problems and focusing on the subject matter was one of the foremost reason I enjoyed the experience. It is the same feeling when you trust the teacher who is seamlessly prepared, Udacity presented itself as a well-made platform that knows what it is doing.
Nature of Code by Dan Shiffman
This year, Dan Shiffman’s course at ITP is trying something new. Originally, the course was structured as a regular university’s three hour studio class where lecture and class feedback were combined. This year, Dan made lectures into videos that you can watch on your own along with all the reading and documents available on-line. You can technically take this class outside of ITP and learn exactly the same thing. However, once you come in for the class, you are signing up for 5 hours of office hours plus, learning the specific things you are interested in and also talking to others who are working on the same subject matter. So far, I am glad that I am taking this course on-site instead of just doing online participation because I can put my best effort into doing homework so I can participate actively in the class. I still believe in real class environment where I can feel the energy of other students and workload is rather mandatory compare to on-line education. I am interested to see how this class goes. Will keep you updated!