Friday, March 29, 2013

10 Tools Challenge - Coursera (2)

Back to Coursera.  This is a follow up to an earlier post.

I'm now finishing week 4 for both courses I signed up for.  A third course is starting next week and I'll be in trouble.  I'm managing the two courses by sticking to the strict minimum of work.  I'm watching the video lectures and taking notes.  I'm not doing any of the recommended readings.  This makes taking the quizzes challenging. Sometimes I get "lucky" with my guesses and the score has nothing to do with how much I understood or absorbed.  

As a student, how much am I really learning? 
  • Physics for dummies (aka "How Things Work") - 6 weeks
    Entertaining videolectures, formulas are barely touched on and there is no work involving calculations.  The quizzes are challenging because they definitely test the understanding of concepts.  Yet I managed a 10/10 on a quiz for which I would have given myself a 5/10 in terms of understanding.  If the course were offered over the summer, I would recommend it to my daughter.  She might need to take the real  version of this course in the fall.  This version would be very good prep.  I'm assuming the real course is asking for a little more from the students.
  • Know Thyself (Philosophy) - 10 weeks
    Here the subject lends itself to much more reflection and deep thinking than what I am engaging in, yet it's giving me a nice, shallow introduction to some philosophers I encountered years ago or have heard of but never read. This is also a longer course and for now, I haven't made a deep connection to the materials. I'm not inclined to read much more than a wikipedia article or two on related concepts.
Now to the "discussion forums":  I tried and failed to engage in any meaningful interaction.  The benefit/cost ratio is just not there.  Too much noise.

Assuming I complete the courses and pass the quizzes, do I deserve college credits?  I don't think so. At least not for these two courses. They're really good for what they do, but I'm barely scratching the surface because I can pass without reading or writing anything.  Extensive reading and writing was 90% of my college experience.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

10 Tools Challenge - Diigo - Making better use of what I bookmark

I'll be attending a course on creativity for the next three days and I decided to refresh my brain attic by scanning through my Diigo collection for anything tagged "creativity."  There were 40 items, the first one dating from 2006.

What do my bookmarks tell me?

1) If you use social bookmarking on an ongoing basis (it doesn't have to be a very consistent habit), you will end up with a very solid collection;
2) Eventhough "creativity" isn't one of my key topics, it's one that has sustained my interest over the years based on my bookmarks;
3) I am a collector.  I re-read recently the paper by Patrick Lambe on Personal Knowledge Managemement where he highlights the main KM personalities.  I'm definitely a collector, so finding useful ways to revisit my collections, rather than just categorize and move on, would add value to the process.

Eventually I decided the best thing to do was go view some TedTalks on Creativity, which I had bookmarked and most likely did not fully watch.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

10 Tools Challenge - Coursera

I signed up for a few Coursera classes of interest, two of which started this week:  How Things Work (aka Physics 101) and Know Thyself.  From a course content perspective, it's a good mix of understanding the external world and understanding the self. For the purposes of this blog, I'll focus my observations on the courseware, learner interactions in a MOOC, and my own learning experience.

Week 1 - Initial Explorations
Navigating the course sites is very easy; the professors' guidance/instructions were all clear and available.  There were a couple of small things that slowed me down (finding a usable version of the video transcripts and finding the text of an introductory message that had been sent via email but was also posted on the site). These were really small details and overall, my experience as a student exploring two Coursera courses for the first time was a good one.

The week isn't over yet but I can tell that the main challenge for me will be figuring out a useful way to navigate the discussion forums or decide to completely stay out of them.  There's just too much noise in there. It's just not possible for 70,000 students to have a useful conversation.  An interesting element related to this is that it looks like for many students it's not their first Coursera course and they've already figured out how to set up smaller study groups and how to organize conversations in other forums (twitter, Google+, Facebook, even Meetups).  This is happening within the first two days of the course.

I like the delivery format: short video lectures with suggested readings.

BONUS: Both of my current courses are from UVA and they've been smart about showcasing the campus.  It's a plus for me since I have a daughter who is a student there at the moment.  I can think about her walking the same paths I'm watching on the screen.

As a side note, I took the first science quiz and failed, which means that technically I already failed the course.  The good news is that I'm too old to care about the grade per se but I did want to figure out what I did wrong and I think I've got it now (and I'll be a little more careful with the next quiz).

Question:  How many Coursera students (aka courserians) give up on the course when they fail the first test  when a passing grade means passing each and every one of the quizzes? (passing is 70% or higher)

Sunday, March 03, 2013

10 Tools Challenge: Presentation tools & "design"

Thinking about how tools either constrain us or help us imagine new ways of doing things. I'm a big fan of Edward Tufte, his books and his lectures. Just caught sight of one of the recommendations captured in the visual notes below:  use real objects whenever possible.  So that answers my question about whether or not to bring my juggling balls to my presentation tomorrow.  I will bring them.