Free Online Courses with Coursera

Recently I decided to look into distance education and online learning. Now being a stay at home mom with limited income, I wanted to see what was out there for free online learning. Just to brush up on math, science or whatever else I could find.  I was actually a bit annoyed that Coursera kept coming up every time I searched for free online courses, I thought it was a scam.  I kept thinking there is no way that Yale, Duke and many other prestigious universities and colleges would be offering their courses online for free, also it wasn’t offering the kind of basic courses I was looking for. The idea threw me off completely, so much so that I didn’t even bother looking more into it until a couple of months later when I finally got fed up with trying to navigate through endless college, university & other education websites.

Now I should probably take a step back and explain what Coursera is exactly. It is an education focused technology company, based out of California. Coursera works with universities and other organizations to provide online courses, specializations, degrees in all different types of subjects, such as engineering, humanities, medicine, biology, social sciences, mathematics, business, computer sciences and others. It is available to anyone who has an internet connection and I am in LOVE with it. Now like I mentioned earlier, it doesn’t have the basic courses for anyone looking to upgrade at a high school level. A lot of the courses are specifically catered to professionals already working or learning in their field of interest.

I tried out multiple courses, some were to help me get a vision of what I might like to go back to school for and another just because I was interested in learning more about the subject. The time for each course can vary from 4 weeks to 12 weeks, also at the end of the course you can choose to purchase a certificate of completion. I have opted to wait to purchase my certificates, just because at the moment I have no need for them. The two courses  I have finished are Our Earth’s Future through the American Museum of Natural History and The Horse Course through The University of Florida. I have nothing but nice things to say about these two courses! They have very interesting video lectures, the information was spread out evenly throughout the allotted amount of weeks. Overall it was a pleasant learning experience. I am enrolled in some more heavy-duty courses also like, Our Earth’s Energy Future through the University of California, San Diego. This is course is longer than the first two mentioned and has quite a bit more material. Going into this course without any real knowledge in the area was a little bit intimidating at first because I could tell that the target audience were people who were currently going to school for environmental sciences or worked in that field already.

Even though this course is a little ahead of where I am at the minute I still find it extremely fascinating. If you’re like me and life gets a little hectic, they have the option to stay where you are in the course and keep your marks so far but take a break and wait for the next session. Their online discussion board is also something to beam about, at first you don’t realize how many people are taking the same course as you. At one point during a lecture the teacher pointed out that there were 11,000 plus students enrolled in the course. You see all these different points of view from all around the world. Different discussions lead to different threads and if you have a question there is almost always someone there who knows the answer.  The assignments are quite fun and I realized quite a bit about myself and my household carbon footprint while doing an assignment from Our Earth’s Energy Future. The assignments are peer graded, due to the number of students. There is a negative side to this, if you’re late getting an assignment in you may not have anyone to grade it if everyone has already moved on. Now if you pass the assignment, but it’s late it is ok, you can still pass the course. I find that to be a bonus.

There is a lot more to rave about when it comes to Coursera but I’ll and keep it short for now. Thinking about how much closer this site brings people to learning has made it a joy to write about. I recommend that everyone takes a look through their catalog of courses and try it out, whether it be for fun, building up your resume or to advance your career! Also if you have any questions the staff at Coursera is extremely helpful and efficient. Comment if you have a story about Coursera you’d like to share!