Coursera – Great opportunity to bag some learning

I’ve just finished my 7 week course with Dr Chuck on Internet History, Technology and Security.

I’ve also just signed up for another 5 courses over the next 9 months.

What’s Rob talking about?

I’m talking about courses delivered free through the very excellent Learning Management System called Coursera.

One of my team, Kevin, told me about it and I signed up straight away. I signed up for Dr Chuck’s course as it sounded perfectly suited to my work and my chosen career. It was an exceptional experience. Here’s some thoughts:

There are too many courses to choose from
I struggled to keep my choices down to just one at a time. It’s not possible for me to do more than one course at a time – I simply don’t have time, but for those who are time-rich there is nothing to stop you taking multiple courses.

The delivery suits my learning approach
The lessons are delivered via recorded video lectures/sessions run by the course leader. In this case Dr Chuck sat in front of the camera and worked through some ideas using slides, videos and images. He was able to annotate the material to explain and add extra information.

He also included lots of video interviews and other clips to explain ideas or tell stories.

You can pretty much watch these videos at your own leisure throughout the course.

The exams are not rigorous
The tests are multiple choice and the only thing stopping you looking up the answers elsewhere is how honest you are at abiding by the honour code. There was one peer reviewed assignment which seemed to go well, but the ones I marked varied, mostly due to the understanding of the question (I believe).

The exams are not compulsory. I actually like it this way as I can sit the exams but not get stressed and hung up on the pass/fail element. I learn by soaking up the information and making copious notes.

It took longer than the suggested commitment
I think the estimated time to attend the course was about 4 hours per week. I found it took a little over that, depending on whether you watched/researched the extra material.

I tyically worked on the course each lunch time Tue > Thu and early morning Mon and Fri. This suited my time lifestyle. You can make it work as you see fit.

There is a community
Surprisingly for a Social Tester I didn’t do much socialising with the community that built online around the course. I think at one point there were 30k people signed up. I’m not sure how many finished it.

The wiki and meetups that happened around the course looked interesting but I just didn’t feel the need to get involved. I can’t put my finger on why not though…


I thoroughly enjoyed the course. I learned loads, felt like I got real value (IT’S FREE!!!) and have signed up for many more courses.

I don’t expect they will all be as good as each other, but if it’s not enjoyable, or too easy/hard then you can drop out and pick up something else. It’s a great way of learning more about a variety of subjects.

I’ve got Social Network Analysis up next, followed by How To Reason And Argue, Critical Thinking and then an Introduction To Sociology. There’s loads of stuff to learn.

If you’re interested in more on the courses visit