Tips for a coursera course
August 21, 2015 9:13 AM   Subscribe

Coursera just released their mobile app and I signed up for a course. It's been a long time since I was a student. Any tips?
posted by aeighty to Education (6 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: If the course requires a lot of reading, then it's good to recognize that student reading is different from most reading we do as an adult. It requires deeper reading and rereading. Whenever I return to school, I have to reset my expectations on how long the readings will take me. I could easily read a trashy novel in an evening, but in academic reading I might top out at 100 pages.

Good news, academic reading gets faster over time. Bad news, if you haven't been reading in that way for awhile it's slow going at the start.
posted by 26.2 at 9:35 AM on August 21, 2015

Best answer: A lot of this depends on what course you're taking, and whether you're doing it for free or for a verified certificate, and whether you're going into this with an expectation of doing every single thing on the syllabus or just watching the videos and getting some new information out of them. Coursera has a lot of different types of classes - some are highly academic and require a lot of existing subject-area knowledge to be able to get anything out of the class, while others are mostly for fun/personal interest.

I've taken some Coursera classes where I made an effort to do all the readings, take all the quizzes, etc., and others where all I did was watch the videos because that gave me the information I wanted without the stress of having to take tests and meet deadlines. I think the most important thing I realized while taking Coursera classes (for free, for personal interest only) was that some of them were worth it to me to do all the work - especially in the more math-and-science type classes - and others created unnecessary stress for me if I tried to stick to the deadlines and take all the quizzes, and so I'd just watch the videos and not worry about keeping up with the syllabus.

Keep in mind that there's a wide range of quality of instruction/instructors on Coursera, and for some of these instructors it's their first time doing a video course. As long as you aren't paying for the verified certificate, there's absolutely zero need to stick with a class that isn't working well for you. If your first one isn't doing anything for you, don't give up on Coursera right away - try something else and see if you like it better! I've taken a few Coursera classes I really loved and plenty of others that I dropped out of because they didn't feel like a good match for me at all.
posted by jessypie at 10:03 AM on August 21, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far. I suppose I should've mentioned that I registered for two courses: "Algorithms I" and a survey of world history since the 1700s. Although both of these are mostly for "fun" (and I've taken "algos" in university) I'm very much interested in retaining the information that I learn.
posted by aeighty at 10:09 AM on August 21, 2015

Best answer: I'm doing Ng's Machine Learning course at Coursera now. The main thing I've learned is the primary materials (videos, weekly homework) are not the most useful thing. Instead I rely heavily on course notes on their wiki as well as a bunch of extra tutorials posted as discussion forum posts by one of the course mentors. They explain the material in much more detail. And textually, which I learn from better than lecture videos. Unfortunately all this wiki and tutorial material is very poorly organized, I've got a growing collection of bookmarks as I discover more of them hidden away.

Also one extra resource for classes with programming assignments like Machine Learning and, maybe, Algorithms. You can find previous students' solutions to homework on GitHub or elsewhere online. I found them by searching for snippets of code from the homework problems. Of course it'd be stupid to use this to cheat on the homework: no one cares if you "pass" a Coursera course. But I haven taken a look after I complete the homework myself, to see if other students used the same approach or something different. I imagine Coursera frowns on this.

One last trick; you can use coursera-dl to download a whole course's materials, particularly the lecture videos. Useful for offline viewing or if you have slow Internet. The mobile app may do this too, not sure.
posted by Nelson at 10:48 AM on August 21, 2015 [5 favorites]

Algorithms I was an amazing class. I definitely recommend doing the projects. I didn't really know Java going into it so the first few weeks were a struggle, but I really got a lot out of it.

In general, I think one important thing that I tend to not do enough of is to review the material. Go back to previous lessons and see if you really know the material by being able to describe it without looking at the page.

I also think it might help to set aside certain times as "class time", and think of it like you're actually attending the lecture or doing the homework. I know from time to time I've fallen behind while real life gets in the way, and I think it helps to have that structure in order to stay on track.
posted by cali59 at 11:32 AM on August 21, 2015

I recommend you check the « learning how to learn » course on Coursera. It draws from cognitive sciences and teaches you how your brain works and how to use it for learning. The strategies it advocates can help for developing all sorts of skills (not just academic). The course is one of the most popular courses on Coursera and is extremely well rated by the students. It is easy to follow and very engaging, Professor Oakley’s enthusiasm for learning is really infectious. It gave me greater confidence. You can join any time.
posted by bluedora at 7:53 AM on August 23, 2015

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