MOOC #1: Done


The First of my Coursera Mooc courses, snappily entitled Developing Innovative ideas for New Companies: The 1st Step in Entrepreneurship, has come to an end. In fact the lectures finished a couple of weeks ago, but  then there was a final peer review assignment, and the reviewing period takes a while due to its nature. I’ll explain more in a moment. It will be another week or two before I get my final grade.

For me it has been an invigorating journey. The content is new and relevant to me, so that’s ultimately what I am here for, but the method, the delivery system was also new, and I had to learn how to work with it as the course progressed. What is also clear though, is that the MOOC concept, the universities running content, and the individual course tutors, are all developing and learning as well. This is great. it’s exciting to be learning again, but a bonus to be part of a learning revolution.

So to explain the format. The course is run in real time over 6-8 weeks, with a real course tutor who is a lecturer at a university, presumably with many other responsibilities. Each week we get an introductory message, and then a series of video lectures that cluster around that weeks topics. The fact that content is released week by week gives a certain structure to teh course , which is great for me, but restrictive for some, and I understand they are reviewing this. Not everyone comes to Coursera with the time and inclination to take the full course. The tutor seems to recognise that, of his 65,000 students, some just want to fast-track to relevant content and benefit from his, and the university’s, wisdom, without the slog. For me though, the slog is good. So you watch the lectures, and if you are smart you make notes. There are a couple of inline quiz questions to keep you awake. Then there is a more in-depth quiz with some multi-choice and soem free-text questions very tightly related to that week’s content. The questions in part are more a test of participation than an intellectual one. The real substance comes from two peer-reviewed assignments. From when they are set you have a week to complete a exercise around a real or imagined business venture, using tools and techniques learned recently on the course. And for this course here is where the point lies. You get to critically analyse your business concepts across a number of dimensions, which lets you start to see how narrow your initial entrepreneurial ideas may have been. Once submitted you then have a week while 3-5 other students anonymously review your work against soem specified criteria, and you get to do the same. Your grade is simply the avarage of the reviews from others. So the timetable is something like:

  • 1st Monday: assignment set
  • 2nd Monday: assignment due for submission (no late submissions possible), peer review opens, and self evaluation
  • 3rd Monday: peer review closes, and you get access to your reviewers comments and score

In addition to the course content, you have the forums. Many people setup offline facebook or Google+ study groups as well. There is a lot of boise on these, as you may expect. But there are soem people with very definitive ideas, looking for colleagues to work with and share ideas. I have no idea how successful this is but you definitely get a sense of belonging. It aso lets you see how very international the scope of the students is. It’s quite humbling.

So after 6 weeks of lectures and two further weeks of activity, how do I feel? I certainly found the Coursera experience to be comprehensive. It is much more immersive than other study methods I am following and, because it overlapped with another Coursera course, my 8-12 hours per week of study time became monopolised. I am glad it’s at an end, but also glad I have done it. I will certainly do another MOOC before too long,although I do want to get back to some of the other learning channels. The good thing is, being entirely, 100% free of charge, if you miss soem content or want to see how the course has developed, you can re-enroll in the next lap of the course.

In terms of content and style, I have definitely learned some real tools and thinking methods that i can use on the ground to test and develop ideas I have for business. But they have ben dressed up in a rather dry, academic framework. This is reasonable, since the content comes out of a dry, academic environment. The benefit of that environment is the depth and breadth of credibility and context backing up the specific content I am seeing. On balance I think I can justify the 20 hours or so of my life that it took up, with the real knowledge gained, the experience and reward I gained from sticking with the course.

Mooc is good. You should have a go.


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