Sunday, February 8, 2015

EDUC 6135 - Week 5 - Designing for Distance Learning: Part I

For this week’s assignment, I chose to analyze a course through a site called Coursera. Given the amount of courses offered through the site, and the range of topics, I thought it would be a good place to start in order to find a class that seemed interesting. I came across a free class that is offered by the University of Houston and is called Powerful Tools for Teaching and Learning: Web 2.0 Tools. According to the synopsis, students can “learn about innovative Web 2.0 tools in K-12 instruction and how to effectively integrate these technologies into classroom practices and to create engaging student activities.”

Without knowing much about Coursera, it is difficult to understand how this open course site is beneficial. Taken from the website, the general idea of Coursera is this: “Coursera provides universal access to the world’s best education, partnering with top universities and organizations to offer courses for anyone to take, for free” (2015). Basically, it offers courses from educational institutions around the world for any student to take in the comfort of their own home and on their own time; it is the essence of online, self-paced learning.

In researching the course I picked out, I noticed that there is an overview about the course, and the entire syllabus is laid out for students to look at. I find this especially beneficial because this means that a student can make an informed decision about whether or not to join the class based on what is stated in the syllabus. This is a five-week course, and each week is broken down by what is expected of the student and what will be learned during that week. Formal objectives are not stated, but each week poses a question for students to focus on. Even without the objectives, I feel as though the course was pre-planned and the way it is set up will allow students to stay organized and create a learning structure that works for them (Simonsen et al., 2012, p. 134).

Because there can be as many as 30,000 students from around the globe in one Coursera class at a time, things need to run smoothly. Each week has a series of videos from the instructors, and students are graded using peer-reviewed projects, discussion boards, and quizzes. Given that the instructors cannot take the time to perform a needs analysis for the courses they will teach, each class is still set up in such a way that the students get the most information they can by watching the videos and completing the projects.

Coursera offers programs that allow students to receive a certificate upon completion, but one of the best things about the company is that they also allow students to pick and choose what classes they’d like to take. While the course I chose for this week’s assignment is free, there are also paid courses. If a student decides to pay for a course, they will receive credit for the course; however, if they take the free version, they are doing it for their own benefit and knowledge. I think that’s what sets Coursera apart and makes them one of the institutions that really stands out in the world of online learning.

About. (2015). Retrieved from

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M. & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson

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