Learning comes naturally to all of us, but, when we hear the word ‘School’, many of us don’t have a warm and fuzzy feeling. Schools tend to emphasize blind memorizing as opposed to learning the subject and gaining insightful knowledge that can be used to further fuel our learning and understanding of the world around us. Recently I took a course offered by Stanford University through the online education site Course Era which offers courses from many prestigious universities like Stanford and Georgia Tech. The course I took was Human Computer Interaction (HCI) taught by Associate Professor Scott Kemler. After completing the course, I have to say that it was easily one of the best learning experiences I have ever had. The schedule is very rigid and the course work tends to be fairly heavy, but nothing is beyond doable with little effort. And I realized how much I liked school.
The best thing about the learning experience at Course Era is the collaborative nature of the platform. We are all used to sharing our pictures and status updates on social media, but when it comes to learning stuff, having a vibrant community really helps. For instance, many of the assignments for the HCI course involved developing abstract ideas and creating prototypes to test the solution. I will be honest and tell you that in a normal traditional school I would have simply copied it from a more talented friend, but in the online classroom, the forums are filled with people exploring and creating incredible amount of work so much that they are guaranteed to inspire you to create your own, which is what it did for me. The assignments are peer graded so they kept me in my toes and the constant feedback served as a great motivator when I slacked off or produced mediocre work.
There are things beyond the course material that you are likely to learn here too. For instance, Scott, the professor, casually mentioned in one of his short videos that the CEO of Instagram, Kevin Systrom, was a TA for similar design course. How awesome is that ? I could not believe that I was learning from same the guy who taught the CEO of a ground breaking massively successful startup. The forum threads has people from all over the world supporting each other, providing valuable feedback and best of all, participating in true learning. And, all this awesomeness is free.
Here is Course Era’s founder Daphne Koller, laying out her vision for the site and how she expects it to change our world for the better.
Isn’t it incredible that we get to attend classes and learn from schools like Stanford and John Hopkins, in the comfort of our homes, along with people from around the world, at any time we prefer and for free ? I work for a company that specializes in for-profit online universities and I understand the complexities of bringing quality education to diverse and geographically dispersed group of students. Companies like Course Era and EdX (similar venture by MIT and Harvard), with their free and world-class education, can completely change the dynamics of our educational system, whether the classes are online or at a brick and motor school. Hopefully, this will lead us to a future where quality learning, is a not privilege for the few, but a basic right and a delightful journey for every one.
Currently Course Era offers more than a hundred courses. Check them out here.
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