I just finished completing two courses at Coursera, and boy do I have a sense of accomplishment. Following one of these courses from beginning to end is quite a challenge. Since I’ve now taken classes through Udemy, Khan academy, and Coursera I thought I’d take the time to comment on them.
But first I want to reference a couple of topics I’d discussed in previous blogs. The first is levels of understanding. When it comes to levels of knowledge, we can break it down into several levels:
- Mimicry -Here a person can take a set of explicit directions and repeat them.
- Adaptation – The person can take a set of instructions and adapt them to similar situations.
- Understanding – A person understands a set of instructions, including the knowledge surrounding each step.
- Knowledge – The person fully understands the topic, and take that knowledge and adapt it to other topics.
In addition, when performing education there are two “significant” approaches. Using the bottom up approach, we teach an individual a series of increasingly complicated tasks, and when enough tasks have been learned, a person begins to “move up” the education ladder.
Alternatively, a top down approach can be taken. With this model we teach a person broad categories of knowledge with respect to the topic, and eventually they learn enough to perform individual tasks.
Either approach works, it depends entirely upon the topic, students, and educator as to which model works best. However with both models, the objective is generally to move a person from #1 on the list to #4.
So how does this apply to Udemy/Khan Academy vs. Coursera? The former tends to use a bottom up approach, while the latter tends to use the top down approach. So when considering what path to take for courses, keep this in mind.
In addition, Udemy/Khan academy courses can be taken in small chunks. You can tell yourself “today I’m going to learn _____.” Whereas Coursera courses involve significant commitments of time (typically 5-10 hours per week for 2-3 months).
The advantage, however, is that Coursera has a solid path to moving an individual up the knowledge scale. Udemy/Khan Academy require a bit of self direction. Khan Academy has done some experimentation with developing a “list” of classes to be taken in sequence with respect to mathematics, but it is still in its infancy.
Which leaves me to the question, is any method better? I do have to admit after taking a Coursera course, I do feel like I’ve got a comprehensive knowledge on the subject. Udemy/Khan Academy don’t leave me feeling that way. However, sometimes I don’t want comprehensive knowledge, particularly when trying to solve specific issues. In those cases the shorter approach is the most expedient solution to the challenge I am facing.