Free-time can be used productively by signing up for any number of online courses with portals such as Coursera.
By offering courses as offbeat and varied as “History of Rock” and “The Brief History of Humankind,” Coursera has steadily garnered the attention of students, as well as the working population.
The realm of education has expanded widely with the advent of the Internet and new technologies. Coursera, founded in 2009 has redefined distance learning by allowing people to take courses from 83 leading universities and professional development institutions across the world.
Most colleges in India do not provide students with enough opportunities to venture outside the course they have chosen, which hinders the students’ learning.
Coursera can prove to be a useful addition for those interested in exploring other academic disciplines. Malathi Jogi, an Economics student, took up a course in philosophy offered by the University of Edinburgh. She says, “Coursera is a new approach to education, which is several shades better than what I've received in my years as a student here.”
Archana S., a C.A. student in Mumbai, currently taking the course “Introduction to Arts; Concepts and Techniques” offered from Pennsylvania State University, says, “I’ve always been passionate about art and this course has given me an opportunity to explore my artistic side.” She adds that the course has introduced her to facets of art she was unaware of.
The method of learning on Coursera usually involves video lectures and requires students to read prescribed books and articles for better understanding of the subject. Regular tests, assignments and peer assessments keep students on their toes. On completion of a course, several universities award a Certificate of Accomplishment signed by the instructor.
This was one of the factors that pushed Abhishek Swaminathan, who is pursuing a master’s in Industrial Design, to enrol in an Operations Management course from Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He says, “I consider it a complementary skill and hope to use it when I work in the industry.”
Lavanya Machiraju, an Arts student, has enrolled herself in finance courses on the website. She says, “Coursera is beneficial because it gives you an in-depth 10-week course on a particular module or subject, usually by lecturers from top colleges like Brown or Michigan or Columbia.” She also points out some drawbacks such as not being able to communicate directly with the professors and not receiving feedback from them on assignments.
Beyond the office
One of Coursera’s biggest strengths lies in its broad appeal. It gives those who are employed a chance to study subjects they could not take as students. Many manage to juggle work and studies efficiently. Sudhamshu Hebbar, a software developer, devotes about two hours every night to the courses he has taken. He has completed courses like “Computational Photography” and “Understanding Einstein - Special Theory of Relativity.”