I’ve been interested for some time in coursera. Take a college course, for free?! Sign me up. I love learning things, but need that additional incentive: deadlines. I saw a course on SFF and the Human Mind and signed up immediately.
The course has an intense reading requirement 11 books in 11 weeks. And a challenging writing assignment 11 essays in 11 weeks. The essays prove to be more of a challenge than I expected. I didn’t think much about the 320 word limit, but it’s not that many and our professor was very clear that the essays should enrich our fellow student’s understanding of the class.
It’s hard work, but it’s a blast. The professor has clearly thought about these books a lot and I’m starting to see threads that tie the list of books together each book seems to build on the thoughts and images seen in the last book. And the essays really make me think. I’ve seen the perfect essays on the forums and aspire to that level of awesomeness.
People complain a lot. At first they complained abou the readings being too much. And they complained about not liking the books, but once our first essay was returned – they complained about the peer review. The entire course’s grade hinges on this, so it is a major sticking point for many and most of us are just learning how to review our peers. We’re not all that good, and we’re not all that consistent.
Being the optimistic human I am, I think we’re getting better. Both at writing essays and reviewing them. Plus there’s still 7 more books, 7 more essays.
I’m taking two more courses this fall. I don’t need grades or even certificates – but I need deadlines and peer pressure. So I recommend Coursera. Not all the courses will be good, not all your classmates will be sane, but as long as you want a little mental stimulation, go for it.
* Excluding this note, this post was 320 words.