Tech Doesn't Teach… But it can Help

Archive for the tag “coursera”


I have been following the Gamification course on coursera for the past couple of weeks. It’s taught by Kevin Werbeck of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School. I’m interested in this course for two major reasons (each with questions):

#1: What is gamification? 

              How does it work?

              What’s the evidence that it actually provides a benefit?

              What are its best practices?

               Can I apply these ideas to my Biology course?

#2 Does Online education work?

                I like codecademy, but is online education limited to programming or similar problem-based classes?

                Can I actually learn from this course?

                 Is it motivating to come back to for a whole semester?

                Can I apply what I’ve learned here (technically) to make my own classes better / more integrated with multimedia?

So far, the answers to most of these questions are positive. I do feel like I am learning something and I do think that I can apply the elements I learn both about online education and gamification to my own work. I intend to write more thoroughly about this once I’ve gone a little further in the class.



Online Education

I know for a fact that I killed my chances at getting hired at a 2-year college because I gave an honest answer to their question of, “How do you feel about online education?”

To be honest, I totally flubbed the sample lecture as well – but this question made me immediately aware of myself in the present. I stood there knowing that I had two possible options before me: I could give them the answer they wanted to hear –

-“Oh, they’re great. I’m very excited about the possibility of bringing education to people wherever they live and whenever they have time. (Actually, a lot of this is true. I do feel this way)

or, I could speak my true feeling on the matter. 

I chose the latter. I don’t like to lie, especially in an interview. And even more so because saying that this was something that I would be interested in would mean that I would have no way out of it when they asked me to do it. So, I said, “To be perfectly honest. I think it’s a decent idea that I’ve never seen done well. In fact, the experience that I’ve had with it suggests that it’s actually worse than a bad idea. I’m sure it makes money for the institution, but I’m not sure that anyone actually learns anything.”

Great answer, huh? I actually said that. What was I thinking? 

I can tell you. I was thinking exactly what I said. 

Now, a year or so later, I think the world is changing. Kahn Academy is firing on all cylinders, I’ve said all the time here or on the downhousesoftware.wordpress blog, that I am simply in love with Codecademy. And since I’ve had that interview I’ve also been hearing more and more about Coursera.

I don’t know who first put Coursera on my RADAR, but it was probably 6-9 months ago. Since then, I’ve been trolling over the site now and again, wondering if I could take a class there. There are plenty of subjects that interest me: Math, Biology, Programming. But I worry about the time I have for such a project. Between teaching, these blogs, codecademy, my physical programming class I go to, trying to launch products from DownHouse Software and all the home responsibilities I have – not to mention that I really need a real fulltime job badly – how can I honestly say that I can add this new responsibility in and give it the time and attention that it deserves?

If you don’t know much about Coursera, the website is Coursera.orgImage

and there was a recent article in FastCompany about the the creators, Former Stanford Professors Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller, and what they hope to accomplish. Image

If you have any experience with Coursera or other services similar to this (there are actually too many to mention, but MIT’s open courseware does come to mind as a less structured approximation), let me know what your expereince has been. 

If you don’t have any experience with this, but would like to, perhaps we can try our first course together. I’m considering joining the Introduction to Interactive Programming in Python course ( starting October 15). I’d be happy to go into it knowing that there is someone else there that I can email/ chat with.


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