Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Coursera for PD

So I am addicted to learning. I just can't help it. I finish one course and then I have to find something else to do.

I've known about and dabbled in Coursera for the past few years, but just seriously started considering their specialization option. If you haven't seen or heard of it, check out their options at:
https://www.coursera.org/browse.

Coursera offers free courses that you can take online for FREE, from prestigious universities (think Harvard, Duke, and Stanford). You won't earn college credit, but if you are just in it for the knowledge, it's a great option.

Now they have these specializations that you can take for a small fee. If you complete the course sequence and the capstone project, you will earn a "certificate" from the university. Again, this might not mean much in your field, but I think it's great for your CV/resume.

I graduated back in 2011 with a PhD in educational technology, but I am always super-aware of the fact that my research skills are...lacking. I completed a dissertation with original research, but I focused on qualitative data. There is nothing inherently wrong with qualitative data, it can yield really rich results. But I really have no idea what to do with quantitative data.

Enter Coursera. I found a really unique specialization from Wesleyan University. It's called Data Management and Visualization, and connects beautifully both with my desire to learn more about research, and my course work at San Jose State University (where I'm earning a second master's in library science).

I'm in the middle of the first course, and here are my observations:
Pro-
* it's free. You can't beat free.
* it's fun. It is video-based and chunked into very manageable pieces.
* it's interactive. I have to complete discussions and peer reviews of my classmates' work.

Con-
* there is no real connection with a professor. There is officially a professor assigned to the class, but I cannot find a way to ask questions or get feedback.
* there is no real feedback. If you don't pay for the course, you won't receive any feedback. Even if you do pay for the course, I believe the feedback is pretty cursory.

For me, it's a great way to learn skills without paying for courses, and without the pressure of due dates and requirements. I do what I want, when I want to and skip what is not useful.

After I finish this specialization, I'm thinking about moving on to programming!

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