Coursera is Wonderful! But Don’t Just Take My Word For It

Any of you who have the misfortune of reading my blog regularly (i.e. more than once) might have noticed a bit of a trend, in that I tend to rather effusively extol the virtues of and the courses I have taken with them. Well, it seems I am not alone, as the site recently won both the official award and the people’s choice award in the Education category in the 2014 Webby Awards.Coursera themselves had this to say;

It’s amazing what one can accomplish when one has the support of an incredible learner community like Coursera’s. Today, because of the support of our learners, we were honored with two Webby awards in the Education category:

> First, the People’s Voice Award, selected by a popular vote. Big thank you to the thousands who voted for Coursera and solidified this awesome win!

 > Second, the Webby Award, selected by a panel of 1000 renowned and esteemed judges (including Huffington Post founder and Editor-in-Chief Arianna Huffington, Tumblr founder David Karp, Internet co-creator Vint Cerf, and musician David Bowie.)

This is times nicely with my recent completion of Dan Ariely’s “A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behaviour” course, which I found both fascinating as well as useful for the inspiration for new topic about which to write – my recent conference-induced rant about behavioural economics in consumer protection policy being the best example. This course was particularly interesting, as well as relevant, to some of my research interests as well as my professional work, proving that these courses can be more than just an entertaining distraction. In particular I was impressed by how well I was able to balance the workload of the course – which included weekly tests on both the lectures and the readings, two written assignments, grading of others’ assignments and a two-part final exam – with my other academic, professional, romantic and video-game-related obligations. Specifically, and backed up by the content on the course itself, I found the deadlines imposed, however unimportant in the great scheme of things, seriously helped me concentrate and get the work done in time – managing not to miss a single deadline.

I similarly enjoyed the two previous courses I took with Coursera, namely the University of Edinburgh and Professor Charles Cockell’s “Astrobiology and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life” , as well as Yale University and Professor Paul Bloom’s “Moralities of Everyday Life“. I would highly recommend all three of the courses to anyone who is curious about the topics and can spare between 2-6 hours a week should they be offered again. So it will come as no surprise that I am currently deliberating on which course I should choose next to fulfill my extra-curricular procrastinatory needs. Furthermore, I am emphatically encouraging anyone who reads this to do likewise. So far these courses have struck me as particularly tempting or at the very least interesting:

AstroTech: The Science and Technology behind Astronomical Discovery
By: Andy Lawrence, Catherine Heymans and The University of Edinburgh,
Start Date: April 28th 2014

Understanding the Brain: The Neurobiology of Everyday Life
Peggy Mason and The University of Chicago,
Start Date: April 28th 2014

The Global Student’s Introduction to U.S. Law
By: Various Course Coordinators and The University of Florida,
Start Date: May 1st 2014

Technology and Ethics
By: Robert Bailey and The Ohio State University,
Start Date: May 19th 2014

The Bible’s Prehistory, Purpose, and Political Future
By: Jacob L. Wright and Emory University
Start Date: May 26th 2014

Understanding Research Methods
By: J Simon Rofe, Yenn Lee and The University of London,
Start Date: June 2nd 2014

Bioinformatics: Life Sciences on Your Computer
By: Bob Lessick and John Hopkins University
Start Date: June 9th 2014

Human-Computer Interaction
By: Scott Klemmer and The University of California, San Diego,
Start Date: June 22nd 2014

Philosophy and the Sciences
By: Various Course Coordinators and The University of Edinburgh,
Start Date: September 2014

… and if none of the above have particularly grabbed your attention, I still highly recommend you head over to and avail yourself of some free online education.


~ Shane


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