* I wish there were a way to fund online education through philanthropy/donations. Coursera being for-profit leaves a bit of a bad taste in the mouth. At a practical level, it complicates what images I can use in my lectures and qualify as fair use.
* After several years the site is far from being at a point where an instructor can log on and upload content. The interface is constantly changing, confusing, and buggy. My university has a dedicated team who help out instructors with putting their material online and even they are often confused about how to edit this or upload that.
Overall I'm glad that Coursera exists and is finding a revenue stream; my own undergraduate education would have been vastly different if I'd had access to the material that's available today.
 Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency technologies https://www.coursera.org/course/bitcointech
(I work for EdX.org as a developer)
Regarding point 1, my understanding of Fair Use within an Education environment is that an instructor using protected material in the context of a lecture or assignment is, by default, an instance of Fair Use. A lot of the pivot relates to the scope of the use - as in, photocopying an entire chapter or short-story is okay, but photocopying the entire book is not. With images, I think you're well in the clear. I can understand where you're coming from with your concern, I just don't believe it to be material.
My university has a dedicated team who help out instructors with putting their material online and even they are often confused about how to edit this or upload that.
This scenario strikes me as counter-intuitive from a savings perspective, because now there's two layers involved: Instructors and IT Support. Actually, it sounds like a terrible waste of overhead and expense the University is laying out. Will Coursera reimburse your institution for the burden, or is it so small compared to the revenue brought in through Coursera that the expense is immaterial?
I get a macabre laugh out of learning Coursera actually kind of sucks at its main value proposition of being a technology platform for education, in that it's not user friendly for actual educators. Yeah it's a 'disruption' platform, sure. Just seems to me like throwing a Basball into an Olympic Swimming Pool.
If it's anything like my university was, the team he's referring to didn't exclusively support Coursera; their purpose is to provide faculty assistance with managing online content in general. Whether it's the university's internal Blackboard site or Coursera, they support whatever platforms the professors are using (assuming it's a university approved platform).
So the marginal expense of supporting Coursera is likely negligible, unless they've somehow managed to make a worse interface than Blackboard and it's particularly resource intensive to support.
I brought this thread up in #snowdrift on freenode and there was some interesting discussion around coursera's model and this critical talk by Eden Moglen: https://boingboing.net/2012/05/27/innovation-under-austerity.... There's a full transcript here: https://www.softwarefreedom.org/events/2012/freedom-to-conne.... I've mostly viewed coursera as a good thing even if it's a for-profit company, but I'm not as confident any more.
DonorsChoose.org makes it easy to help classrooms in need. Public school teachers post classroom project requests which range from pencils for poetry to microscopes for mitochondria.
I bet there's a way you could sneak in support for your Coursera teaching.
As for uploading content, that seems like a really tough and time consuming problem. Are you allowed to put together a wiki or webpage? I was doing some prep for an Operating Systems course and read this excellent blog post about why textbooks should be free . In the post, the writer mentions that "perfect is the ultimate enemy of good", so he decided to write the initial draft of a textbook purely in plain text rather than properly format it with something like LaTeX. Getting the necessary content out there seems like a good first step for you and your team.
There are ways to do this. The problem is that they don't readily scale. Self-funding systems scale much better than systems that require ever-increasing amounts of external funding.
Systems that generate what they need to grow don't have the same constraints. If money is what your business needs to grow and it generates a significant yearly profit, then your business can meet its own needs to enable growth.
Is that clearer? Some sorts of systems, when functioning correctly, will tend to be self-perpetuating. Others will, as an artifact of structure, require endless external resourcing.
Has anyone else noticed that since this recent pivot, the quality of Coursera's classes have declined?
I recently tried a course hosted on Coursera from an Ivy League school, as part of a business "specialization" that consists of 4 classes at $90 each. The class was 4 weeks long and was taught by 3 different professors. The only material provided was a series of video lectures (10-20 5-minute lectures per professor) and a smattering of blog posts and news articles for optional reading.
There was some discussion in the forums that the lectures seemed to jump around, and didn't cover all the material represented in the final exam. Some previous students were guessing that the gaps in instruction were because the course used to be 9 weeks long before they started charging for it.
I enjoyed the class but didn't feel like I got my money's worth. In the end I decided I could get more value by just buying and reading books on business development on my own.
The main problem was that the course was unfocused and rushed. It felt like the instructor was trying to touch on every single thing a person might learn over the course of a graduate level course. But since the class was shorter both in terms of number of weeks and time students could be expected to spend on any one week, it just resulted in a lot of very shallow treatment of an immense number of topics. Some lectures were barely more than a recitation of paper titles.
To be fair, the specialization I was on included a final project which could have been cool.
I think that while we've added a couple educational tiers above reading books and articles on one's own, we're still missing one or more between paid MOOCs and "real" higher education.
I think the problem can be solved by organizing study groups and paying for a tutor to see you through your online learning career. Regular meet-ups in real life with a person, to check the state of your studies and discuss strategies and future courses to take up would be better than just creating a free account and starting to learn on your own.
MOOCs could be complemented by in-person educational coaching. That would reduce the dropout rate and make it seem more "real". MOOCs don't need more teachers, they need more coaches - people with experience in the psychology of learning.
I was looking for such a set of problems to gradually learn functional programming by exercises but all I could find was a video course that also had a set of 10-20 mini-problems to solve as it progressed. That was by far too shallow for this learning task. And to think that FP is the love child of Hacker News, with tons of posts in the last few years, yet, there is no comprehensive resource of exercises.
Maybe if they switched to selling textbooks and bundle the video course with the textbook. I would never go out and buy a $200 textbook to something I have no foundation in, but if I'm getting a video course with it, maybe.
But having taken a dozen of them on coursera, I feel there isn't really a standard that is declining, it's just that
some classes are fantastic, some not very much so, and it has been like this since the beginning.
I wonder if there's a place for a site that:
1. Gathers recommendations the best book on a given subject + some set of practice material
2. Helps to forum study groups or classes, gives them forum/hangouts,etc,offer some structure, etc
3. Enables P2P grading by students
Basically ,helps as much as it's possibly can for students to form great classes around great books.
What do you guys think ?
The problem is there are many things I want to learn and I may be willing to invest 40 hours in one week to get the required knowledge instead of having to wait 3 hours * 8 weeks.
I don't buy into the belief that the only way to learn something is by taking a course or getting a degree. I can buy the same programming book or the same physiology textbook used in a course and read it on my own. The only problem is that, unless you really do something outstanding to prove that you know the material, its not something you can put on an application/resume.
Which is why the Education industry is really the Accreditation industry.
I wouldn't want to waste my time on a class that just teaches you how to use Hadoop. On the other hand, there are some topics that I'd have a much harder time believing can be treated well outside a classroom setting. Classes that deal with softer skills such as project management strategy or research design really seem to benefit quite a bit from the group learning environment. You could certainly learn them other ways, but probably more slowly. If you're trying to build a career there's an opportunity cost there.
It still early but this might help potential students get a sense of quality of the credential before hand.
edit: just saw the other comment -- yeah, same dealie
What I'm particularly angry about is that in former days you could get a free certificate of accomplishment for the courses from the Data Science specification
A few weeks ago Coursera changed the policy even for these existing courses. That's why I completely lost any trust that I had in Coursera and will actively avoid taking courses from Coursera (and instead look what edX has to offer).
edit: oh, certificate vs certification. I don't know of anyone who cares about the Coursera certificates, but it seems certifications are still in vogue.
That said, looking at your site now it does seem to have a problem with courses being listed as "always available". A couple of examples:
Second, a whole lot of the questions in the end-of-class survey for the most recent MOOC I completed where things like, "My opinion of [University] has improved since taking this course," and, "I am considering applying at [University]."
The class is Dan Boneh's Crypto 2 course.
I did't think crypto 2 had ever run?
I took the first round of crypto 1 and have been waiting for 2 ever since!
I've taken a few Machine Learning / Big Data courses using MOOCs and done enough homework such that I get a certificate. But I'd never put it on a resume because that would imply mastery of the subject, and no MOOC is as sufficient in coverage as a normal college curriculum.
I took the MOOCs mostly for context in areas where online tutorials are terrible; at the least, it'll help lead to some sweet blog posts. :)
1. It shows the resume owner is a self-motivated autodidact which I think are some the most important skills a developer can possess.
2. It gives a great talking point for the interview. One of the ways an interviewer can gauge an individuals intelligence and communication skills is how well they can describe what they learned in a class.
I think it depends on the industry. In software development I stopped even looking at the education of the person applying because I've never found any meaningful correlation between schooling and the capabilities of a developer. In fact at times I found a reverse correlation where the higher the degree the less able they were to code so I try to not even look at all to prevent as much bias as possible in either direction.
Would it though? I think it at least demonstrates interest and a sufficient level of involvement to finish the course. I wouldn't assume it implied mastery, but I wouldn't assume that for college degrees either (even if they are better than MOOCs at present).
If, on the off-chance, your interviewer is into MOOCs, this is a plus.
If not, there's also an off-chance they're curious 'what is this'?
And if not, then educate then on it. Done on personal time because of personal/professional interest.
No downside to MOOCs there. Perhaps that is the ace in the pack - that they should, by existence, become required (hence a ranking-up in push for certification by Coursera recently).
If you're in an emerging economy and didn't go to your country's No. 1 Famous University, then you need some way of telling people in a hurry not to discard your application, because you might actually be good. MOOC completion may be one of your better shots.
Even though this isn't the same thing at all, this reminded me of a course I had in college where instead of attending in-person and in-class meetings, we all had to create Second Life avatars and meet online.
The professor was doing research on the subject and I quickly found the online meetings for 'educational computing' (Microsoft Office class) to be pretty useless. Luckily this was long enough ago when it was possible to not have a good enough video card for such an activity and I was allowed to not attend those meetings anymore.
This is a completely personal, liberal arts-educated perspective and anecdote, but going to Rice University for a Computer Science degree is akin to going to MIT for an English Literature degree. Prestigious school, sure. Is it the field for which it's known to be at the top? Uhhh, nope.
Also, Chomsky is a professor in MIT, so I would give a shot in their linguistic courses.
In fairness I do know Chomsky's work and his prestige in the field. Personally as an artist and student of language, and as a working professional who employed an English degree for my income year after year in business environments, I am not a fan. At all. I'll just leave it at that.
I just can't see how taking online courses, especially for money, is a cost- and time- effective way to do that.
I think I need to actually build an agent-based deep learning system and run multiple businesses to actually learn those skills. How-tos and background, reading, exercises etc. for all of those things is available online for free for filling in gaps between trying things out.
Is it just me, or is a plane on a runway a scary analogy for investment?
If being higher off the ground is better in this analogy, you're far better off building a structure than flying a plane because that plane will only stay aloft as long as it has fuel.