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Review: Think Again: How to Reason and Argue (Coursera) (gregorulm.com)
40 points by gu on April 1, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 13 comments

Interesting to hear feedback on MOOCs. It made me consider that MOOCs are still very new and experimental. If the average quality and sophistication of of the university courses I've taken is representative of general standards worldwide, I think it may take some time for academics to rise the challenges and opportunities of the new format, and develop systems that make sense of the new format and deliver a top-quality presentation. But the breakout courses are going to set new standards as canonical courses of the global classroom.

Are there any other similar reviews of other MOOCs around?

I've studied at a number of universities, starting from a relatively unknown local university, and eventually graduating from a very renowned institution. Judging from my own experience, I'd say that if you're only used to high-quality tertiary education, you'd be surprised how disorganized and poorly taught courses at universities further down the ranks can be. Compared to that, MOOCs are already far superior. Should the working world move towards portfolio-based hiring, which seems to get more and more common, then a great many universities will find it hard to justify their existence. Sebastian Thrun, founder of Udacity, said that in 50 years only 10 universities will be left, which sounds hyperbolic to me. [0] Nonetheless, I would be very surprised if there wasn't a wide-scale disappearance of institutions from the 2nd tier and below.

I'm not aware of a site that gathers MOOC reviews, but occasionally reviews get posted on Hackernews, which was the reason I submitted mine, too.

[0] http://www.economist.com/news/international/21568738-online-...

"sounds hyperbolic to me"

Exponential not hyperbolic. If the median real world inflation adjusted income of the general population continues to drop as it has for about three generations so far, at the same time as tuition increases faster than inflation, the rate of decline of general population who can afford to attend will decrease somewhat exponentially not hyperbolic.

Also if you model higher ed as a fad, where rich kids used to go to the ivies so the masses try to copy them by going to state-U, this fad might burn out. Maybe if rich peoples kids try to do startups there will be a flood of the masses all simultaneously trying to get their kids into YC. I would theorize that fads and trends socially propagate exponentially not hyperbolic.

There are also arguments about lack of funding by .gov directly and via loan guarantees having to come to an end, but I think that would be a pretty sharp step function rather than exp or hyp.

Overall I think the best long term argument is exp decline with some pretty sharp step functions. Both linear and hyp are too extreme.

I've never seen a good biz argument against .edu mergers. Why the higher ed system has to have the biz model like corner store retail is unclear. Why can't it be like banking or big media or automotive where a handful of major players control the vast majority of the market? I could totally see 10 or so universities, each with as many local campuses as car mfgrs have car dealers. I could totally see franchise operated proctored test centers, maybe with onsite small group meeting/conference/workspace. Could you run an ochem lab for chemistry classes as a local franchise? I'm thinking probably not for various safety/liability reasons.

Exponential not hyperbolic

He meant hyperbolic as in "hyperbole," not in the geometric sense.

Thank you submitting your review, I enjoyed it! Also it is nice to see you responding to conflicting viewpoints.

I've taken 3 Coursera courses. I enjoyed all of them, and learned a lot (but they also required a lot of work). Here are my reviews of them:

Introduction to Databases: http://henrikwarne.com/2011/12/18/introduction-to-databases-...

Algorithms part 1: http://henrikwarne.com/2012/05/08/coursera-algorithms-course...

Algorithms part 2: http://henrikwarne.com/2013/02/18/coursera-algorithms-course...

I totally forgot, but of course there is CourseTalk (http://coursetalk.org/), where people can review and rate MOOC courses. There are quite a few reviews there.

One problem is the definition of a MOOC. What is it? (not the acronym, we all know that, I'm talking about the meaning).

1) Is it training? Competing with brick and mortar vo-techs and stackexchange and frankly just plain ole google?

2) Is it education? Competing with textbooks (paper and ebook) and brick and mortar college/univ and projecteuler and zillions of something-koan projects?

3) Is it socialization which is why everything gets deleted after it "ends"? Competing with a zillion internet social-type sites and facebook and G+ groups and even this site?

4) Is it presentation and puttin on an interesting show? Competing with MIT OCW videos and Kahn Academy?

5) Is it just signalling and raising awareness and showing off your hip-ness? Competing with the big social media sites, awareness ribbons (I want to buy a Chinese made $5 colored magnetic ribbon sticker to attach to my car to "raise awareness" of functional programming, either that or a colored bracelet, can anyone on HN help?)

6) Is it just a fad? Competing with "fill in the blank of memes".

For most existing products its possible to improve almost all areas, but if one product is optimizing area "X" above its possible someone reviewing with a focus on area "Y" is not going to be very happy. So you need to meta-mod review the reviewers or have some manner of tagging or something to indicate (the reviewers opinion of) whats good.

Above I was not trying to express an opinion, just trying to list the problem space, but I'll try an opinion based on some experience. If you want to optimize for #2 above in basic college math (calc, linear alg, etc) I claim you can't do better than MIT OCW's videos of Strang's classes (probably downloaded from archive.org?). But if you're trying to optimize for #4 above, then those videos are barely passable on a technical level (like if you can't read the blackboard at an overcompressed video level, why even release at that compression level? And some of the sound/mic needs work although its usable) and if you're trying to optimize for #3 above they're truly an epic fail not even really trying.

Another opinion, if you want to optimize for #4 it would be hard to beat most TED talks. Obviously done by pro-level video and audio crew on a good (from a technical standpoint) set.

Don't forget to sign up for the Underwater Basketweaving class from Coursera ;-) https://www.coursera.org/course/basketweave

Including such knots as the "Mama bear went dancing so her cubs play naughty games near the riverbend and eat sweet honey" knot.


"You must have access to a tub or pool to take this course. If you are enrolled in Signature Track, you will need an underwater webcam. Students who successfully complete this course will receive a Statement of Accomplishment signed by the instructor and a 1500-watt professional hair dryer"

Oh, and it starts on 1st April. Obviously.

Don't forget to check out the bio of the instructor:

"His thesis, "A detailed study of gender stratification, resource allocation, and asphyxiation contingencies as manifested in the context of the submergent handicrafts of the peoples of the Aquacamamata Peninsula" was named Paper of the Year by the Maritime Anthropology Digest. Professor Dunne also holds an honorary degree in Professional Salon Services, and has starred in numerous bathroom fixture advertisements."

I couldn't figure out a way to access the contents of the course beyond the syllabus [https://www.coursera.org/course/thinkagain].

Is anyone aware of an archive of lectures available on coursera or a 3rd-party website?

The course site was closed after the statements of accomplishments were created. Currently, the class archive is only accessible to those who were enrolled. But don't worry, the professors announced that this course will be offered again in August.

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