Thursday, August 2, 2012

Virtual Learning

JT and I had our first taste of online education earlier this year. We both took the Computer Science 101 class offered by Stanford University through Coursera. The class, although offered by a university, was designed with high school age students as its target audience. JT did an excellent job with the class. The format of the class included watching several short lectures every week and doing assignments, sometimes programming, sometimes quizzes. At the end of the course, we each received a certificate of completion stating that we finished all of the work with a score better than 80%.

Due to our success, we decided to sign up for more classes this summer. Last week we started two classes, Listening to World Music and History of the Internet. These classes were designed with a different audience in mind. These classes include writing assignments. Writing assignments that are peer graded. In the music class, all students who submit essays must also review the work of at least five of their classmates.

This was a bit more than I bargained for.

Initially I decided to just go with the flow and see how JT did with some of the writing assignments. Then I got a look at the first group of choices for the music writing. I decided he could drop the class, we would watch the lectures together, and only I would complete the assignments. I chose what I thought was the easiest prompt and fretted over it for a few days. I finally sat down to write. After nearly two hours, I felt I had a decent product, considering I've never taken a college level class AND it's been more than 20 years since I graduated from high school. I clicked the submit your assignment button on the screen and...
I missed the deadline by an hour.

I spent some time in the class forums and found I was not alone. I also found there was nothing to be done to fix my mistake.

All of that said, we are both thoroughly enjoying our other class. The first week our assignment was a multiple choice quiz. Piece of cake. This week we have a writing assignment. But this one is not as complex as the music class assignment, and I think, with a bit of encouragement, JT can pull it off. AND this time, I am submitting WELL before the deadline.

I must admit, I was feeling like we might not be suited for these classes. I wondered if JT is in over his head with the level of the course work. I worry that JT will feel he's never ready for these kind of classes if I let him drop out so easily. Then I started thinking about the expectations Coursera has for us. There really aren't any except our own. If we do not complete the assignments, no one will remove us from the class. We can watch the lectures at no cost. We can take part in the greatest experiment in education happening during our lifetimes. Coursera is doing something no one has done before. Offering free college level classes to anyone with access to a computer. Our History of the Internet class forum has a thread where students are stating their age and what country they call home. The ages range from 11 to 81! People from countries all over the world are taking part in a group discussion about how it's even possible for all of us to be doing just that.

The video below is a TED talk that Daphne Koller, co-founder of Coursera gave in June of this year. Her vision gets me excited about the future of education. So I'll continue to play my role as laboratory rat. And maybe I'll even learn something along the way.


Jo in OKC said...

You rock for showing JT that he can reach for things.

You rock for showing him that adults can make mistakes, even in something like judging what course is appropriate, and that a mistake is not the end of the world.

You rock because you're adapting the "standard" (Coursera) coursework to let JT have access while still making it appropriate for him.

Cyber Momma said...

Jo- thanks so much for your encouragement!

You rock!