How course completion time suggested by Coursera influences fate of a course (helps decide, enroll and complete or shelve/abandon a course) | Coursera Community
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How course completion time suggested by Coursera influences fate of a course (helps decide, enroll and complete or shelve/abandon a course)


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I have been thinking about this issue for a long time, why despite very engaging, good quality of content, great University and intention, I am not able to complete a course in suggested time frame. Like most learners I either abandon the course or simply try to put in efforts and get frustrated. It is an issue across most mooc platforms.

I would like to explain using "Social psychology " course

Typically, When I decide to take up a course, I first see "course info", that gives me idea about

level: beginner
Commitment: 6 weeks of study, 4-6 hours/week (plus a mid-course break)= 24 - 36 hours, 7 weeks , and other info. I look at my calendar and see for next 2 weeks I find it easy to devote 4 hours a day, that should ideally help me finish this course in less than 2 weeks time.
(I had raised this issue with Prof Scott Plouse and he took up this issue with the Coursera, hence now the corrected hours are 4-6 hr/ week (earlier it was 3-4 hours/ week)

Original Suggested:3- 4 hours/week ( there are 7 weeks of work, mid course break at week 5 is not really a break)
Original mention was : Approx. 17 hours to complete the course

Breakup of the course ( all suggested time added for each week)
Week 1 (9 videos, 5 readings, 2 practice quizzes, Graded: Assignment)
Mentioned time total 176 min
Need time for 2 quizzes of 25 question = ? no mention)
Week 2 (9 videos, 4 readings, Graded: Assignment )
Mentioned time total 318 min .
Need time for peer review = ? no mention
Week 3 (10 videos, 5 readings, Graded: Assignment)
Mentioned time total 380 min .
Need time for peer review = ? no mention
Week 4 (7 videos, 4 readings, Graded: Assignment)
Mentioned time total 281 min .
Need time for peer review = ? no mention
Week 5 (2 videos, 4 readings)
Mentioned time total 69 min .
Week 6 (6 videos, 7 readings, Graded: Assignment, Graded: Honors Assignment))
Mentioned time total 304 min .
Need time for peer review = ? no mention
Week 7 (7 videos, 3 readings, Graded- Final Quiz- 50 Questions)
Mentioned time total 214 min
Need time for Final Quiz= no mention (All readings also form part of final quiz)

Total time as mentioned for all weeks = 176+318+380+281+69+304+214= 1742 minutes/ 29.03 hr, add to it quiz time, peer review time, discussion forum time. Course Landing page shows 17 hrs to complete this course. (Originally). So even basic calculation of estimated time is wrong.

Pay attention to difference in course info that a learner looks at before enrolling, and what it actually is, if we calculate suggested time, that is still way less than time a learner will actually take to complete the course.
My concern is that, we have dealt with this issue on other course forum where I am a mentor ( A life of happiness and fulfillment), where in 3 separate sessions this question was raised about being realistic in estimated time and not misguide learners. One such question spiraled out as many learners joined and mentors were not able to convince the learner that they have option to switch session, ultimately Prof had to intervene and offer sort of apology.

More than the situation that we faced I feel, as a learner if I know real time that this course may require, I can plan when to join, allocate time, do not feel pressure of completing in allocated time as per course page and eventually due to this shortage of time (that was to be there), I may have to drop out/ switch session/ develop a feeling that I am unable to complete any course and thence avoid taking moocs altogether. This is not planning fallacy on my part, which till now I thought was.

All the time mentioned is for just reading like a machine, we human have comprehension added to it, routine distractions (simultaneous thinking and application that adds to forum discussion), and non native language adds to it all. I took a course on Udemy about ways to fast reading, and realised that there is difference in skimming and gainfully learning (which can be faster only if we are familiar with topic).

This shortage of time could be one very big factor adding to silent forums or learners prefer not engaging in discussion for long.

Any thoughts? How this one improvement can actually improve a lot of other issues?

7 replies

@Namrata Tejwani , there is so much to think about, excellent questions!
I once had a challenging issue with a learner in my course who was getting professional credit for the course based on the hours. She put in so many more hours than listed...between writing complex assignments and utilizing the discussion forums, what was listed wasn’t even half of the reality. My son(the Instructor) needed to write a special letter to her Principal with the accurate hours she spent.

It is impossible to know how many hours someone will spend on a course. There are some who are slow readers naturally, or who as a non Native English speaker may need to translate the materials. Others have limited time so they may rush through the materials and even skip some. Then there is the complexity of the materials. For some, the materials might need to be read several times before absorbing it. One of my peeves is that people don’t take enough time to think about and discuss the materials in a course. They just want to complete it. Some people try to complete courses in the trial week so they don’t have to pay for them!

Can you ever predict how long it would take someone to complete a course? Should you? I agree that Coursera needs to eliminate the specific hours it takes because if you take longer it frustrates you. Since courses have no real sessions, how long it takes you is personal. Perhaps a suggestion of 3 months might be wise, just to have something in place. People need to have timelines. When my son played sports in school, he had little time to do his schoolwork. He would wake up early to do it, use his lunch times, etc. find the time he needed. When he had unlimited time, his grades often fell because he would procrastinate and keep putting off his work. We do need parameters, but they need to be realistic and achieveable.
Userlevel 3
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@Judith for a moment, let us keep aside the type of learners and discussion forum. I have presented real data, it has not allocated time for peer review. Forget even that, very basic is that wherever time is allocated, it does not add up to right maths. I mean at least what we suggest and show on the pre-enrolment page, should be same. Do you not agree that if we say the course will have content worth 2+2+2+2 that adds up to 8, and on the enrolment page, we put it as 5. While we are already giving them false time estimate, should we not at least stand by our own estimate?
Why I brought up this topic is
1. It will help learners plan better.
2. It will help learners engage in the forum (if we add 30 minutes per week).
3. It will improve the quality of peer review ( add 30 minutes per assignment)
4. It will reduce plagiarism, when the learner has allocated time, they can put in efforts for own work.
Etc.
I have understood the why of it, I will use it. Addressing why an issue helps in solving it, "the 5why" theory of management.
Btw, it was so nice of your son to help, most courses do not see this level of instructor involvement.
@Namrata Tejwani , who creates this timeline? I totally agree that it is unrealistic and missing key areas where people need to spend time. I always thought the Instructors did this. If it’s Coursera then this can hopefully be changed. It might be more challenging to convince the Instructors. All yoir reasons are excellent! I never knew the 5 why theory of management....very useful tool, Thanks.
Userlevel 3
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@Judith prof Scott shared that he did the follow up with platform guys, to know that Instructor himself cannot change it. He also said the time estimate is less by his own standards. He said he could get it changed to only this much. In the forum, many learners are already reporting, lagging behind. Most mentors who also took the course also felt that and expressed it. Those who said everyone has different speed and tried to look ok, are still nowhere near completion.
@Namrata Tejwani , this just doesn’t sound right. The Instructor who creates the course should dictate the amount of time it takes.
Meanwhile, perhaps you can start a thread in your course about it so the learners won’t feel so stressed.
Do others feel that the time periods are incorrect in your courses?
Userlevel 6
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@Namrata Tejwani Thanks for raising these questions. We've shared this feedback with our team.
Thanks,@Laura !

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