Has your Coursera learning turned out differently from how you expected? | Coursera Community
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Has your Coursera learning turned out differently from how you expected?


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I discovered Coursera in late 2012 after retiring from my paid work. My husband had done Andrew Ng's Machine Learning course and, knowing my interest in Astronomy, thought I might like to look at Introduction to Astronomy (no longer available) in all my free retirement hours.

I enrolled and while waiting for the course to start, took Computers 101 (also no longer available), which I found very interesting.

When the Astronomy course started, I quickly realized I was way out of my depth. The mathematics and physics I had learned at school nearly 40 years earlier were too rusty and I was unwilling to spend my precious retirement hours brushing up on equations and complex calculations. After struggling through the first week's quiz and giving up on the second one, I spent the rest of the course watching some of the lectures and taking the interesting parts on board. I ignored the rest.

Soon, though, I discovered courses that suited me better. Nutrition, Think Again: How to Reason and Argue (much to my husband's amusement) and various other biology topics. Later I branched out to courses on writing and discovered the science behind climate change. And, after dropping a second astronomy course, I finally hit upon The Science of the Solar System, which was both riveting and challenging. Finally, I managed to pass an astronomy course!

A watershed moment was discovering the Learning How to Learn course. I'm a huge fan, and have recommended it to people time and time again.

So, how has my Coursera learning turned out differently from how I expected? I expected to learn astronomy. I have learned some astronomy, but have also learned much more. I have started a blog about online learning. I have even landed a part-time paid job in the online learning field.

Have you joined Coursera expecting to do a particular course or improve your knowledge in a certain field, only to discover your path lies elsewhere? I would love to hear your story!

7 replies

Userlevel 7
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What a great story, @Pat B. Thank you for sharing it here. And congrats on finally passing your astronomy course!

I like your question a lot, and I suspect that I'm a the beginning of my Coursera learning journey, so I'll be curious to find out how it unfolds ...
Userlevel 5
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@Laura Thank you! I hope your online learning journey is rewarding and interesting. I am also interested to hear how it unfolds.
Userlevel 5
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Very interesting journey @Pat B. I also started my journey on Cousera when it was launched in 2012. Buying and reading a book was not able to take care of my love for learning. So MOOCs were sort of God sent opportunity to explore. So, I looked thru catalog and found many interesting courses, related to my field (medicine) but I wanted to explore something different. So I enrolled in Know Thyself, a course on philosophy. Despite coming from land of philosophy, I often felt lost in western philosophy, it was often challenging my tightly held beliefs. So I simultaneously enrolled in a course on diabetes, to help me stay hooked to online platform. To my amazement, I completed both the courses. Later on I realised that I could complete both because I used "interleaving" a way to learn better explained in LHTL, my all time favourite.

Later I took many courses on Philosophy, psychology, Soul beliefs, Reason and persuasion, Fiction of relationships, Happiness, nutrition, sleep, Mindfulness, English grammar, Photography, Moralities of everyday life, Buddhism, Emotions, Think again (I continue to keep thinking 😉 ), Business courses on leadership, emotional intelligence, Feedback, cross cultural communication, Dynamics of group communication, Lean, Influencing people, block chain etc.

While I look back I think my course selection was not influenced by what I planned to learn, but it was mostly based on recommendation by a fellow learner on the discussion forum, or conversation topics in my offline social groups. Later on when I became beta tester, I realised certain courses are way more interesting to be skipped just because I have no use of them eg Lean, block chain.

Coursera provided me with opportunity to explore as much as i can plan/ imagine and I feel confident that I will be able to learn topics that I otherwise would have not dared to learn.
Userlevel 5
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Thank you for sharing your story, @Namrata Tejwani. You have sure done a wide range of courses! Yes, I have enjoyed several courses recommended by others. Some of those I wouldn't have even considered trying, but that thirst for learning can really lead us down some unusual paths.
Userlevel 3
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My answer to your question is definitely yes.

Although I found Cousera only about half a year ago, Mindware was an interesting course. The main objective of this short class is to improve your critical thinking skills. To my knowledge, this is one of the very few course that has an interdisciplinary approach, covering psychology, statistics, economics and logic.

The course doesn’t dwell into technical details on each subject, but it discusses the main principles with many VERY good examples. In fact, I found the discussion applying the law of large numbers and heuristics to job interview settings. I even bought the professor’s book and read it.

I am now planning to take classes on psychology, statistics and logic, being inspired with this course. The good news is that Coursera has plenty of them!
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This sounds like an interesting course, @Kohei. I hadn't come across it before. Another course to add to my to-do list!

Thank you for sharing your experience 🙂
Userlevel 3
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Hello @Pat B ,

Although this doesn't (technically) answer to your question, "the science of everyday thinking", a course offered by a competitor 😉, has shaped my MOOC experience.

This was my first online course and the learning experience turned out different from what I had expected. One of the module made me rethink and change how I study and learn. It turned out that my study habits were not very effective from a psychological point of view. I clearly realized that I was cramming and not learning in college. In fact, this was an eye an opening experience.

With this experience, I enrolled in “learning how to learn” and “mindware” at Coursera. The professor teaching “mindware” also talked at “the science of everyday thinking” as a guest speaker, which is how I got to know the course.

Although my MOOC experience is still less than one year, it was fortunate for me to enroll in “the science of everyday thinking.” The lecturers were very enthusiastic and the course has shaped my learning experience. Looking back, my initial motivation to study with MOOCs wasn’t strong: it sounds interesting. But, after being inspired with excellent courses, my goal has become to re-educate myself, by taking classes on psychology, statistics, philosophy and many more 😊 This is clearly not something I expected last year. After all, I was lucky to begin my journey with a great MOOC!

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