Coursera is 7, anyone here 7 years ago for its beginning? | Coursera Community
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Coursera is 7, anyone here 7 years ago for its beginning?

I just received an email with a proud announcement that Coursera is 7 years old.
I have been here for about half of that time and have seen so many incredible changes.
It would be wonderful to hear from people who have been here all 7 years and can give us some history.

Have you been here 7 years ago? If so, what was it like?

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@Judith , I also got an email today. I have been here since its inception. I probably joined in August/September.
The platform was very easy to navigate because there were not too many features.
There was option of posting anonymously, not by just not writing your name in your profile, some other way, I do not know.
There was option of downvoting a post.
Trolls would post bulk msgs to ruin a thread.
Bullying by anonymous was very common.
There were no mentors on the forum, TS used to moderate forums.
Plus side was that courses were offered in nonoverlapping sessions, we used to watch introductory video and then enroll and wait for it to begin. Often I missed my continuity as I was travelling on days the exam was scheduled (I missed completing Irrational behaviour because on both scheduled dates).
The videos and transcripts got downloaded with the title name.
PDF handouts were almost always there.
Internet was too expensive and unreliable, so I used to download material to be viewd at leisure.
I was not at all tech savy but never faced any issue.
Forums were extremely active, discussions were very informative and added a lot to materials discussed. I completed several courses from various fields from top universities, which I would not have learned if there were no MOOC platforms.
Tbh, I still miss old platform but I love new platform.
Thanks for starting this thread and taking me down memory lane.
Thank you,@Namrata Tejwani for showing us what Coursera was like 7 years ago! And congratulations for being here the entire seven years. You have helped make Coursera the success that it is.
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I started my first Coursera course in November 2012. The feature I missed most from the old platform was the easy download of the videos. Like @Namrata Tejwani mentioned, our internet was also limited back then, so I always downloaded the videos to watch later. You could just click on every video on the Videos page and download them three or four at a time. Because they were all numbered and named, they would sort themselves out. I had a folder for each course I took and after watching each video, would move it into a "Watched" sub-folder. Downloads did not include in-video questions, though. One course I took supplied these as a pdf, but usually if you downloaded the videos, you missed out on them. They were there if you streamed the video, but for me, downloading worked better because I could re-watch parts or all without using up precious internet access.

The other big difference was the format of the discussion forums. I could never quite work out why, the forums just didn't work as well. After the dynamic discussions of the old platform, this was a severe disappointment to me and I actually took more courses from other providers after the new Coursera platform was rolled out. Navigation seemed cumbersome and discussion was desultory. It still is in many courses. I eventually learned to set my discussion view to All Threads and Latest to find forum activity (actually, I read how to do this as a hint from another learner, or perhaps a course Mentor).

The Coursera Community feels like a return to the old discussions. I am spending far too much of my time here lately, and neglecting my courses!

On the plus side, though, is the advantage of far more flexible schedules. Early courses were very rigid, modelled from university schedules aimed at full-time or dedicated part-time students whose lives revolved around their study schedule. MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) brought academic learning out of the universities and into the homes and phones of learners. Many Courserians have work, family, and community commitments. Some weeks it's possible to spend hour upon hour on a course, other times it can be hard to snatch even 30 minutes.

Early courses released the videos weekly, often with a quiz due at the end of the week. Some had a final exam which was only available for a limited time (as Namrata mentioned). If you missed the deadline, even by just a few minutes, you scored zero. Many courses had a pass mark of 70 or 80%, so if you missed more than one quiz deadline, you could not possibly pass the course. One course I took had about 2 hours of videos each week, followed by a quiz and a complex assignment. After weeks of complaints from students and requests for extended deadlines, the instructors began releasing each week's work a few days early, so we had 10 days rather than 7 to complete the work. I like to think that perhaps my voice added to the chorus eventually led to Coursera relaxing their deadlines.

And I think in some way, this was possible only with the advent of the new platform. I love being able to start a course any time, without having to wait. I love being able to take longer to finish a course if I need to. I love being able to cram a course into two weeks if I like, although I recognise that I probably don't retain much afterwards. And I LOVE being able to learn from top instructors from famous universities, for free, without leaving my home in country Queensland, Australia.
@Pat B , that was so beautifully expressed! You took us all back to those early days. Between you and Namrata, everyone who reads your posts will understand the history of Coursera.

I used to really enjoy “office hours”. This happened weekly, after everyone had been studying the same topic. The Instructor would highlight some of our posts and questions from the discussions as well as elaborate on an aspect of the week’s reflections. Of course this could only happen when everyone was taking the course together and the Instructor was running the course for the first few times. But the results were forums that were vibrant and so plentiful.

What I have enjoyed most besides the actual courses has been the interactions in the mentor forum, the opportunity to meet and interact with so many wonderful people from all around the world. At first, 4 years ago, the only discussions that happened were about broken features. But eventually, there became more and more threads about meaningful subjects. Some of the discussions were so amazing. I learned so much about so many people and their cultures, making many incredible friends. It is interesting to watch this new community grow and to help it.
The potential for online education is growing. It has been so exciting to be a part of it. It is such a pleasure to meet and get to know people like you and Namrata here who have so much history and experience with Coursera. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
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@Judith , thank you for starting this thread!

I don't think I have ever joined in a live office hours session. Partly because of time differences. Often they are at 1 am or similar. Luckily, most sessions are recorded and I have watched a few later.

You are so right about "...the opportunity to meet and interact with so many wonderful people from all around the world." I found the social aspect totally unexpected at first. I was expecting to take courses in grand solitude, but it has been one of the best benefits of my online learning adventure.
@Pat B I have started many threads but without responsive, interesting people like yourself they would just disappear.
It amazes me that you are in a time zone that is my tomorrow. In addition to meeting so many incredible people I have developed a sense of all our time zones too.

Do you think having Mentors was a good idea ? Since you have been here for so many years, you must remember when they didn’t exist. There has been much debate about this.
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Definitely, having Mentors is essential in my opinion, especially now that instructors rarely appear in the forums. It was always a great thrill, as a learner, to see the Instructor tag in a discussion, especially if it was responding to a question I asked!

Mentors weren't as necessary in the very old days even if the Instructor didn't appear. Because so many people were in the forums, questions would be answered quickly. When there were 50,000 or 100,000 or more in a course, even if only a small fraction communicated in the forums, there were still hundreds of participants.

I was a CTA (Community Teaching Assistant) in a few courses. The University of Illinois had a great CTA training course, with forums where we could ask about tricky situations. I considered continuing as a CTA, but we were going on holidays and later I turned to setting up my blog. I love acting as an informal Mentor occasionally, without committing to a course.

And maybe that is part of the issue in some courses. Mentors were appointed, but were unable or unwilling to continue in the voluntary (unpaid) role. I had mixed feelings about being a free CTA in courses where users have to pay to access assessments. The result is courses where learners are crying out for help, but no Mentors are there. This is probably why so many of the early threads in this Community were people asking for help. They couldn't find the answer in their course forum, the Help pages are automated unless you understand how to ask for help, but there are real people here.

And yes, it's mind-boggling and delightful that we can have a conversation across the time zones.
@Pat B , this is a very complicated issue. Whenever you deal with volunteers you cannot be assured of their commitment or quality. You expressed this well, and I agree.When the courses had so many people involved, there would usually be someone to help answer your questions. But with flexible enrollment times, there are less people around. A Mentor could make a significant difference to someone. But will the Mentor stay around for those few learners? I wonder how many have left vs how many stayed. I have really enjoyed this opportunity to be a Mentor, even as the numbers declined. To help just one person is such a pleasure.

When Instructors left, they chose people they thought would be effective Mentors, but with Instructors who aren’t active, this has fallen to Coursera to choose. Has this effected the quality ? Has the Mentor Course been an effective way to choose Mentors? Is this a program that can continue as Coursera continues to grow? How can it be managed? I wonder about its future, but agree that having Mentos has been very welcoming and helpful to learners.


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