The courses are interactive. Students are asked to do exercises, answer questions during videos and complete homework. Since computer grading is not the best way to assess some assignments, Coursera offers peer assessments, where people comment on and grade each other’s work.
Offerings like these made my brain cells salivate:
- Economic Issues, Food & You
- Online Games: Literature, New Media and Narrative
- The Language of Hollywood: Storytelling, Sound and Color
- Constitutional Struggles in the Muslim World
- Unpredictable? Randomness, Chance and Free Will
- Moralities of Everyday Life
- Critical Thinking in Global Challenges
- Soul Beliefs: Causes and Consequences
- The Music of the Beatles
Whew, and that’s after scanning only a fraction of the offerings. Coursera offers a feast for the mind. The company has been able to attract venture capital to license the courses through academic institutions such as Berkeley, Princeton and Yale and others in Zurich, Toronto, Alberta, Melbourne, Leiden, China and Hong Kong.
What is ahead for the future of open-access studies is anyone’s guess, just as it is for news media. But the barn door has been unlocked. The cows are out. Rather than try to lock the door again, we can create new models for making information and resources both readily available and economically viable, as Apple has done with iTunes.
Technological changes are dizzying for those of us born before the era of television, but they are making it possible to share knowledge and resources in new and earth-friendlier ways. Coursera gives me hope.