A Curious Blog

Let’s Talk about MOOC

August 02, 2020

Recently during the lockdown period, I have started to pick up on MOOCs again, particularly on Coursera. MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) is not new to me. I used to hang around on Coursera and other online learning platforms quite a lot in 2013 (Coursera was founded in 2012) and even wrote about it.

I remember quite well that at the beginning all courses on Coursera were completely free. And then they started being… not. It wasn’t like a flick of a switch, it happened gradually. Courses started to be locked, or some parts were locked, and the button for free enrolment got smaller and smaller and more hidden - could it even have gone at some point?! It got so complicated and I felt so unwelcome as an early supporter of MOOC, that I stopped entirely in early 2014.

But now coming back after a few years of distance, I guess both of us have grown a bit. Coursera has sorted out the kinks, and I see things with fresh eyes. I noticed that courses are now generally shorter (4-5 weeks) compared to before (more than twice that), which makes it easier to finish a course and give people a sense of accomplishment. In effect, there is now Specialization, which is a series of a few courses that build up on top of one another. Back then, the lecturers seemed to try to fit in way too much into one course, and it could get overwhelmingly difficult. That, combined with a strict deadline, was so tough, that I gave up on some of them. Now you can always reset the deadline, and there’s always a session going on. It’s so convenient!

I stumbled upon Pat’s list of completed online courses (130!) and was inspired to come up with my own. I never kept track of the courses I finished, and now I wonder why. Not that I have that many. Like many people, I often got distracted and have abandonment issue. I’ve had WAY more courses on my enrolled list than the completed list. Anyway, guided by memory, I trawled through my emails, and came up with a list, which I’m going to keep updated from now on. Here they are in chronological order with some comments (pardon the links to various old blogs, I have a blogging disorder).

June 2013
Map Making: Learn to Communicate Places Beautifully, Anne Ditmeyer, Skillshare (post here and here)

August 2013
Fairy Tales: Origins and Evolution of Princess Stories, Canvas Network (post here)

August 2013
Fantasy and Science Fiction: the Human Mind, Our Modern World, University of Michigan, Coursera (post here)

10 September 2013
The Fiction of Relationship, Brown University, Coursera
This is the first course that I actually got a certificate for! (post here)

September 2013
Startup Engineering, Standard University, Coursera
This is one of those early courses that defeated me, but I reckon I spent enough time and effort on it to include it here. Looking back on it, 12 weeks course, really? Who’s got that much of attention span? (post here)

August 2013
Computational Investing, Part I, Georgia Institute of Technology, CourseraJumping from the previous course to this one wasn’t the greatest idea. It was also too hard! I didn’t complete it, but I remember the lecturer’s face 7 years later, so I think it gave enough of an impression to include it.

17 December 2013
The Future of Storytelling, iversity.org

30 January 2014
A Brief History of Humankind, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Coursera (post here and here)
This is one of my most memorable courses. The lecturer for this was none other than Yufal Noah Harari, University professor turned best-selling author. I thought the materials were amazing and that I found a real gem in a corner of the internet. Much to my surprise, Sapiens the book was published right after the course ended, and it just exploded into the world. The prof was possibly using Coursera platform to test drive his materials on Sapiens. I had the biggest urge to tell people that I found him first and that I knew him before he was famous, and the whole world was a bit late, but I don’t think anyone would care. Alas the course is not there anymore, so I’ve also got no proof, except for the virtual certificate on my Coursera account.

A Brief History of Humankind marked the end of the first MOOC era for me. There were some sporadic online courses after, but mostly I ventured out for real life paid courses.

2 March 2016
“A Room with a View” by Forster: BerkeleyX Book Club, University of California, Berkeley, edX

29 April 2016
“The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Wilde: BerkeleyX Book Club, University of California, Berkeley, edX

Markedly in August 2017, I had a moment madness and decided to enrol in a Bachelor Degree in English Literature and Creative Writing with the Open University. I’m doing it part time so it would take me 6 years to complete. It’s possible that I didn’t quite realise that I was signing up for separation with “spare time” for the next 6 years.

November 2018
The Power of Podcasting for Storytelling, FutureLearn

October 2019
Modern Masterpieces of World Literature, Harvard University, edX

Thanks to the “summer holiday” in between my University modules (June-September) and a worldwide pandemic, I’m having my second wave of Coursera-ing. Let’s call these ones the pandemic edition:

16 June 2020
Entrepreneurship 1: Developing the Opportunity, University of Pennsylvania, Coursera

22 June 2020
Learning How to Learn, McMaster University, University of California San Diego, Coursera

26 June 2020
Modern JavaScript: ES6 Basics, Coursera Project Network

3 July 2020
Getting Started with Go, University of California, Irvine, Coursera

7 July 2020
Mindshift: Break Through Obstacles to Learning and Discover Your Hidden Potential, McMaster University, Coursera

11 July 2020
Build a Modern Computer from First Principles: From Nand to Tetris, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Coursera

16 July 2020
Functions, Methods, and Interfaces in Go, University of California, Irvine, Coursera

24 July 2020
Ancient Philosophy: Plato & His Predecessors, University of Pennsylvania, Coursera

From this recent batch, my favourites are Barbara Oakley’s Learning How to Learn and Mindshift. She’s possibly responsible for my waking up at 5am every morning to study and journalling obsessively. Another notable one was Build a Modern Computer from First Principles: From Nand to Tetris. I think I have a thing for Hebrew University of Jerusalem - they’re awesome.

Just a note that I didn’t always pay for the certificate, but I’d consider a course completed when I’ve done the majority of the quizzes and assignments. Those I have certificates for I added to LinkedIn (to score bonus points?).


Authored by Dioni, who half the time wonders how she got here. Writing is her way to make sense of the world.