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What a mess!

  • 11 March 2019
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I am very dissapointed.

When I started my first specialsation almost 2 years ago, the course forums were still lively functioning platforms with a social aspect to it.

Then Coursera decided, like almost every platform, to work with 'Facebook Connect', which killed the forums.

We were told that there would be a facebook page for the courses. Any of those I have not found yet.

Now there is a 'Community', within Coursera's homepage, which I believe one must be a computer expert (I am not) to find ones way around. Are Coursera aware that there are students, who were not born with a screen glued to their noses?

Yesterday, after some time, I managed to enter the community, and also write a comment, but today, I have been back and forth, for I don't know how long and have still not found a way in, except to write this comment.

One can hardly call Coursera a community any longer, I certainly have no sense of belonging to a community anymore. In this aspect I am deeply dissapointed.

Kind regards,

Liliane

35 replies

@Xamãma
In the 7 years I have been with Coursera I have not seen a promise of Facebook pages. Some of my profs have created pages privately, and some universities have too, but not through Coursera as far as I am aware.
The drop in forums participation came with the rolling out of the ‘New Platform’ which allowed students to join courses whenever they want, so, people are all at different points in their courses. Also the unlimited chances to submit assignments and quizzes took away a lot of the discussions.
all in all things have changed a lot.....
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Thank you for your answer. I would be tempted to say, that if it is "The drop in forums participation came with the rolling out of the ‘New Platform’ which allowed students to join courses whenever they want....", which is the course of it, then it was a very bad move for the students. The forums, which offered both opportunities to learn, to socialise and feel part of a community, have been destroyed and it has diminished the value of the courses significantly.

It is a damn shame, sorry to be so blunt. I hope Coursera will realise this in time, and revert it back to set start and finish of courses.
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Hi @Xamãma Liliane,

Thanks for your feedback! As @Lochcarron mentioned, one of the unfortunate side effects of our transition to having courses start every few weeks has been the decline of activity in the course discussion forums.

Although it is, as you put it, a shame, we do think that the many other benefits of courses starting every few weeks are worth it. Many more people are able to learn and benefit from Coursera courses now that it is easier for them to fit learning into their schedule. Having courses run only a handful of times a year excludes many who are not available during those weeks, or who can't dedicate as much time per week as is needed to complete the course in the designated time frame.

We have started this community here as an alternative space so that learners can continue to learn, socialize, and feel part of a community, even if the forums in the course(s) they are taking are not particularly active. We are also working on improvements to the course discussion forums so it's easier for learners to use them to get and give help while they're learning.

I'm sorry you didn't find it easy to discover this community. Since it is so new we haven't done much to include it in the overall Coursera experience yet. Now that you have managed to find us, please feel welcome to help others, get involved in conversations that interest you, or start discussions which you think other members might find interesting.
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Hi @Xamãma Liliane,

Thanks for your feedback! As @Lochcarron mentioned, one of the unfortunate side effects of our transition to having courses start every few weeks has been the decline of activity in the course discussion forums.

Although it is, as you put it, a shame, we do think that the many other benefits of courses starting every few weeks are worth it. Many more people are able to learn and benefit from Coursera courses now that it is easier for them to fit learning into their schedule. Having courses run only a handful of times a year excludes many who are not available during those weeks, or who can't dedicate as much time per week as is needed to complete the course in the designated time frame.

We have started this community here as an alternative space so that learners can continue to learn, socialize, and feel part of a community, even if the forums in the course(s) they are taking are not particularly active. We are also working on improvements to the course discussion forums so it's easier for learners to use them to get and give help while they're learning.

I'm sorry you didn't find it easy to discover this community. Since it is so new we haven't done much to include it in the overall Coursera experience yet. Now that you have managed to find us, please feel welcome to help others, get involved in conversations that interest you, or start discussions which you think other members might find interesting.


Hi Claire,

I started my first course about two years ago, when there was still set start and finishing times. I have a very fragile health, and were at times not able to perform as I should have. Even back at that time, I was able to 'postpone' handing in assignments and receive reviews.

Is the problem not, that in todays world, many wants to have it done by yesterday?
If one is in such a rush, is one truly serious? Or is it then, just a matter of gathering 'diplomas' rather than learning?

I would certainly say, for the serious learner, things has been seriously degraded. So much so, that I have been thinking whether I will continue to study beyond the course I am presently doing.

I know there are costs involved in running an organisation like Coursera, but I would rather pay a bit more per month, than this now haphazard kerfuffle Coursera has become.

We have become too busy, chop chop chop and we want it done, that's not a way to learn, no matter how much this suits the modern capitalistic effeciency driven world.

Festina Lente!

Kind regards,

Liliane
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Yet another thing, it is now possible to take notes electronically. What a wonderful effecient way to do it! No, it is not. Taking notes by hand is far better for the learning process.
Taking notes electronically, is passive, you gain nothing from it. When taking notes by hand, pencil to paper, the matter noted is processed through the brain, helping the student to remember and digest the subject at hand.

Had it not been better, to have invested those resources in smoother running of the courses, than various electronic gadgets?

"In general, research shows that taking notes by hand allows you to remember the material better than typing those notes on a computer. ... A similar study on the topic showed that taking notes using the pen-and-paper method leads to better recall ability than typing them up."

Here the sudents, don't even have to type. Instead Coursera is promoting the worst possible way to learn in regard to notes.

Kind regards,

Xamãma
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In my view a course that encourages participants to start at any point in time is something other than a MOOC. The ‘Massive’ in MOOC is the essential ingredient that allows critical masses of learners of all levels to focus on the same material at the same time, discussing and learning from each other in well-populated forums. This was certainly the intent of the original MOOCS and it's sad to see its abandonment for what I assume is financial rather than educational cost effectiveness.

In regard to taking notes electronically I'm inclined to agree that this can be passive but everyone has their preferences and the self-directed learner probably has a good idea of what works best for themselves. Personally, I tend to lose hand written notes so now I distill notes onto Evernote which has excellent facilities for notebook compilation and tagging.
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In my view a course that encourages participants to start at any point in time is something other than a MOOC. The ‘Massive’ in MOOC is the essential ingredient that allows critical masses of learners of all levels to focus on the same material at the same time, discussing and learning from each other in well-populated forums. This was certainly the intent of the original MOOCS and it's sad to see its abandonment for what I assume is financial rather than educational cost effectiveness.

In regard to taking notes electronically I'm inclined to agree that this can be passive but everyone has their preferences and the self-directed learner probably has a good idea of what works best for themselves. Personally, I tend to lose hand written notes so now I distill notes onto Evernote which has excellent facilities for notebook compilation and tagging.


Hi Gordon,

Thank you for adding to this thread, I agree with most of what you write. Except about taking notes. Regardsless what the individual might believe about themselves, science clearly shows that taking handwritten notes, is preferable to any other method.

I have taken handwritten notes for years. I rarely read them again, but because I have done it by hand, pen to paper, it is processed in the brain in quite a different way, and is stored and archived in the brain forever. And can be found when neccessary.

I am not arguing with you, and thankfully each student can do as they please, but they will not benefit as much from their own preferred method, as much as they would using pen and paper. This is fact and not beliefs.

Finally I do believe that Coursera has far bigger issues and problems than notes, even if I in the context of this thread, were the one to bring it up. Mostly as a demonstration of Courseras objectives, which seems to have changed and become more profit orientated and less learner orientated. Defeating the original idea.

Best wishes

Xamãma
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A PS: We don't always know what is best for ourselves. I hope that someone from Coursera does read this thread, and take both what you have written, as well as my own comments into consideration.
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" ... they will not benefit as much from their own preferred method, as much as they would using pen and paper. This is fact and not beliefs." Fact in social sciences can be very elusive 🙂 I'm not familiar with the research but I'd want to know how "using pen and paper" was defined and compared with what other methods because 'equivalent' digital procedures are not difficult to imagine.

But regarding the bigger issues, Coursera and most of the other xMOOC providers see education as a commodity that can be bought and sold. Financial considerations colour everything from the constant exhortations to upgrade to the use of dubious but inexpensive methods promoted as 'assessment'. Ideally, authentic Higher Education should be free for all who can benefit in accordance with the UN resolution of 1966. (More here!)

"We don't always know what is best for ourselves" then who does? Everyone is different and an important part of education is surely to develop critical faculties so we can become self-directed learners.
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" ... they will not benefit as much from their own preferred method, as much as they would using pen and paper. This is fact and not beliefs." Fact in social sciences can be very elusive 🙂 I'm not familiar with the research but I'd want to know how "using pen and paper" was defined and compared with what other methods because 'equivalent' digital procedures are not difficult to imagine.

But regarding the bigger issues, Coursera and most of the other xMOOC providers see education as a commodity that can be bought and sold. Financial considerations colour everything from the constant exhortations to upgrade to the use of dubious but inexpensive methods promoted as 'assessment'. Ideally, authentic Higher Education should be free for all who can benefit in accordance with the UN resolution of 1966. (More here!)

Everyone is different and an important part of education is surely to develop critical faculties so we can become self-directed learners.



You seem suspicious of social sciences, and ask for research, here you go, knock yourself out:

The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking

I am happy to pay my monthly fee here. if things are working as intended.

You ask: "We don't always know what is best for ourselves" then who does?" When you have lived a life on the edge, lived it like an extreeme sport, not knowing what is around the next corner. Taken chances the fewest dare take. And you, at a mature age look back on your life, then you will realise the truth in my words.

I have a saying; "I was never so intelligent and so knowlegable as, when I was 18. Since then everything went downhill!"
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@Xamãma Thanks for link. Am puzzled by reference to monthly fee? What fee? No problems with the rest!
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I pay 39 US Dollars per month, when active in courses on coursera. Don't everyone?
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@Xamãma No - the audit option is free. Only a small proportion of participants aim for certificates and have to pay. For example, see the poll here on "Why do you take online courses?" Nobody to date has given "To get a certificate" as a reason.
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@Gordon_L

Five answers in a thread, can hardly demonstrate anything on a platform with thousands of participants. I can show you another thread, which contradicts this Finish at your own pace

In regard to your claim, just a couple of quotes from the thread you link to;-

"Getting a certificate is actually a good motivation for me to complete the course. Although I keep it to myself, I find it encouraging to get a certificate from the world's best institution, after putting effort to learn and to finish the course."

"For that purpose I will need to obtain the certificate."

"The goal for me is at the end, to complete the course and the required tests and assignment to get a verified certificate."

As far as I have known so far, you are/were not able to submit your assignments unless you paid to participate. Are you telling me it is possible to participate fully without payment? And that that is what most participants do?

Am I paying to review fellow students who is participating for free, without getting even one review back?

Personally I do not aim for certificates, but doing the written assignments in the courses I take, is a major part of the learning process. (We don't do quizzes)

@Claire Could you please explain payment options vs. free to me, as I do not fully understand what Gordon_L is talking about. Am I completely mistaken?
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@Xamãma I don't know the actual proportion of paying participants in any particular MOOC but from forum discussions etc I'm pretty sure it has been a small fraction of the total. I say "has been" because as monetisation tightens and less material is made available unconditionally and for free then there will be a greater proportion of payers - obviously an objective of the MOOC providers.

Everyone has their own idea of MOOC participation. I've had experience of peer assessment when it was free and personally, I would not want to pay for it. Phrases such as "complete the course" or "required tests and assignment" reflect the objectives of those creating the course and do not necessarily coincide with the objectives of individual learners.

Various MOOCs divide free and paid for material in different ways. This is usually explained in the introductory sections.
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@Gordon_L

I am sure you are right, we are all here for each our own reason. I have paid for all my courses, everyone of them. And I have found it ok. I know it has been possible to apply for financial aid, and maybe I would even qualify, as a rather poor pensioner. But I would rather not divulge my priate economy to strangers.

Please explain to me. Are you able to do the lessons of any courses and to do the assignments and get reviews/grading (possibly even diplomas) as well as those of us who pay for it? I would not know how to find free courses on coursera. I would not know where to look. But seemingly all courses I have taken, have not been for free. May I ask which course(s) are you taking?

I know the very first time (2015) I tried out Coursera, I started on a course 'Philosophy and the Sciences', after the first lessons (week 1), I found out I could only see the videos, and that was it. If I wanted to do more I had to pay. I assumed this was a general rule for Coursera.

I agree in the ideal world free courses for all would be great. But it is not an ideal world and one can be certain, that if someone will 'sell' you something for free, then you are the product. This has never been more true, there is always a price to pay.

If I did not pay I would never be so presumptious as to complain!
@Xamãma , things change frequently at Coursera but I think there still are some free courses. The courses I mentored were free except if you wanted a certificate, and then you paid for that certificate. The assignments and quizzes were all free too.
In the old community, which I believe you were a member of, coursera.org, there once was an excellent thread by Christy called, “1150+Coursera Courses that are still completely free”. It listed all these courses that you could take free. If you’d like, please see if you can find that thread, through a search and read it. It was so excellent to know there were some free courses.

i
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@Xamãma
I'm taking no Coursera courses at present but If you look at the Coursera website there are a number of courses where it's stated "Full Course, No Certificate - You will still have access to all course materials for this course." but yes, there are others where the only free part is billed as a "7-day Free Trial". In my opinion (also as a pensioner), the latter is simply an Online Course with a fee, without the 'Open' or probably the 'Massive' indicated by 'MOOC'. In general, Open Education and Open Education Resources (OER) have a significant role to play in Education and deserve greater recognition.
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@Judith @Gordon_L

Thank you both for giving a very satisfactory explanation. I can deduce that those courses I take then, are ones that must be paid for. That is no problem for me, I am happy to pay. But if I am taking a course, where I have to pay, so must everyone else (unless they get financial aid).

Now I wonder are student in the paid courses, also able to start and finish 'at their own pace'?

I am in a paid course, I review three peers, but for my assignment from March 17th, and have not yet had one single review.
I have posted on the course forum begging for reviews, three students have viewed the post, no responded. 8 days have lapsed since I submitted. I just wonder if all gives three reviews, how can there not be reviewer enough around for me to get even just óne review?

I think I will have to contact tech support today.

All in all, my complaint is not that I have to pay, my complaint is, that even when students are paying, because of the 'Ro-ro' system, it messes up the whole concept.

Seemingly I am also being ignored by community managers.
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Hi @Xamãma. I'm sorry you feel that you are being ignored by the community managers. There are only two of us, and we are both working mostly during the traditional work week (Monday–Friday).

This article in the Help Center provides an overview of the different ways of taking a course: Enrollment options. It includes an explanation of what you get when paying for a course vs. auditing a course.

The article that @Judith mentions above can be found here: 1150+ Coursera Courses That Are Still Completely Free.

Yes, it's best for you to contact the support team about peer review issues. As community managers, we are not in a position to assist with this.

Regarding note-taking, there is research that supports longhand note-taking. There is also research that indicates that students generally use the method that works best for them. You might be interested in this current (2019) overview of the debate in The Chronicle of Higher Education that references the work of multiple researchers: Should You Allow Laptops in Class? Here’s What the Latest Study Adds to That Debate.
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@Laura

Thank you for your answer. I appreciate your answer and that you of course cannot be here 24/7. I am not after free courses. I am happy to pay. To get good courses and good service.
If I was taking the courses for free, I would never dare to complain, but I am not freeloading, I am paying good money out of my small pension every month, to do these courses. I expect there are more students doing free courses, than paying, since their needs are considered above paying students.

I hope you can appreciate, that the system as it is, will exclude some student. Those of us who have systematic minds. So I am 'counting my chickens' to decide whether to continue. The system as it is, has meant, that what was to be a pleasure, and previously always has been, has become a source of stress and distress. For a person who also suffers from anxiety and depression, that can lead to a breakdown.

In a world where, those who cannot participate in the workforce, are being treated like outcasts, become untouchables, this is just another confirmation of that. It shows how shallow and superficial the world has become. And everyone is riding the wave. The race to the bottom.

Also being alone and socially isolated, studying is what gave my life some sort meaning, but I have to protect my health before anything else.

This is how selfish people are;-

I submit my weekly assignment on March 17th.
Should have been graded by March 20th.
I wait patiently for three extra days, just to give it a chance.
On March 23rd I post a thread on course discussion forum asking for reviews.
At this point 4 people have viewed the thread. No response, no review.
Yesterday I made a comment in my thread, literally begging that someone reviews my assignment.
Nothing.
By now 7 people have seen my thread. Still nothing!

The very nice guy from the live chat has now postponed my assignments. Not just the one from week 2, but for week 3 and 4 as well. This means I will have added one week to my course. Should this happen in all 4 courses of the specialisation, then I will through no fault of my own, have extended the entire course with a whole month, meaning a whole month extra payment out of my small pension.

I really do not understand how it works, everyone doing an assignment, have to do three peer reviews as part of passing. (In week one I was passed with just one review!). How can there not be enough reviews to go round and reach everyone?

I realise, that if the system as it is, is what the young unpaying people want, then they are the most important. But never forget, the majority is not always right!

Maybe Coursera could consider separating the courses into two, a paying line and an unpaying line. And let the paying line have set start and stop dates, instead of this ro-ro system. I expect that it is us, who are paying for the courses that also enables Coursera to offer the courses for free. So I, who am diligently doing my duty and reviewing my fellow students every week, I am paying to give others the opportunity to study for free, students who cannot be arsed to give me a review back. Student where at least some of them, are not truly interested in the courses, but who just needs to clock up hours for their main study.

So I expect I will unenroll in the next few days. I know when I am not welcome!

KInd regards,

Xamãma
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Coursera has become an insult to serious and paying students!
@Laura...
I really do not understand how it works, everyone doing an assignment, have to do three peer reviews as part of passing. (In week one I was passed with just one review!). How can there not be enough reviews to go round and reach everyone?
....


Hi @Xamãma. Sorry to hear that you are disappointed. Could you please tell me what your course is? Thanks.
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@Maryam I am enrolled in 'Memoir and Personal Essay: Managing your relationship with the Reader'.

Thank you for asking.

Best wishes,

Xamãma
@Xamãma, thank you! This sounds like a really interesting course. I'm sorry that I cannot solve the issue by reviewing your submissions as I'm not enrolled in the paying mode of your course. I'd like to simply highlight a few points here since I think it could create a better picture of the situation.

I really do not understand how it works, everyone doing an assignment, have to do three peer reviews as part of passing. (In week one I was passed with just one review!). How can there not be enough reviews to go round and reach everyone?

I realise, that if the system as it is, is what the young unpaying people want, then they are the most important. But never forget, the majority is not always right!


This course is the first part of a Specialization where you have to pay to access the assignments. Non-paying learners are enrolled in the audit mode. They cannot submit anything; therefore, they are not able to review your work even if they want to, because the assignments are locked for them.


Maybe Coursera could consider separating the courses into two, a paying line and an unpaying line. And let the paying line have set start and stop dates, instead of this ro-ro system. I expect that it is us, who are paying for the courses that also enables Coursera to offer the courses for free. So I, who am diligently doing my duty and reviewing my fellow students every week, I am paying to give others the opportunity to study for free, students who cannot be arsed to give me a review back.


The assignments you reviewed had been submitted by learners who were just like yourself. You all have enrolled in the other option (not in the audit mode). This means non-paying learners are already in a separate line, simply having access to the videos, readings, and so on. They do not particularly follow the start and end dates as they are not involved in submitting any assignments.

The problem is that there are not currently enough paying learners to review your submissions. Could someone force people to enroll in the course to increase the number of paying learners? Is it non-paying learners' fault that the number of paying learners is not enough? I would say no.


I would be tempted to say, that if it is "The drop in forums participation came with the rolling out of the ‘New Platform’ which allowed students to join courses whenever they want....", which is the course of it, then it was a very bad move for the students. The forums, which offered both opportunities to learn, to socialise and feel part of a community, have been destroyed and it has diminished the value of the courses significantly.


If Coursera revives the old platform's session system, what would happen? There would a few sessions available per year. You would have to wait for a few months for a session to start. On the current platform, you may have to wait for more learners to review your work, but you can enroll in a course whenever you like. Your deadlines are personalized, so you don’t need to be worried about missing them. On the old platform, missing deadlines was equal to losing the chance of passing a course. As a result, you had to wait for a few months for the next session of the course because deadlines were literally hard-hearted. I mean the old system would not accelerate your progress.


@Gordon_L
I can show you another thread, which contradicts this Finish at your own pace

Yes, the "finishing at your own pace" notion cannot be reflected well in your course as this course depends heavily on peer-graded assignments. The main problem is that your progress depends on others' progress. In courses that include quizzes and programming assignments, however, one would be able to truly work at their own pace. I would suggest that in such courses, the instructors recruit a few TAs (perhaps from their universities) in order to help learners when there are not enough reviewers.


So I expect I will unenroll in the next few days. I know when I am not welcome!

As you know better than I do, nothing is perfect. Every system has its own advantages and disadvantages. But here, in my view, the pros outweigh the cons. I sincerely hope you'll get your final grade very soon and reconsider your decision. Wishing you all the best in your future endeavors. 🙂

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