Coursera. (Illustration by Eri Iguchi, Minneapolis College of Art and Design)

Coursera Is an Academic Recharge Station for College Students

Online studying options will never replace in-person education, but they are still useful for learning and reviewing.
December 21, 2020
6 mins read

If you were to ask me which 21st-century innovations have changed education the most, Coursera would indisputably be on my list. Coursera is an online educational platform where students can find college-level courses taught by professors from numerous universities around the world, including Yale, Oxford and Harvard.

Due to its effective organization method and the fact that it serves multiple uses, Coursera accelerates the fulfillment of academic and career goals. Despite its benefits, however, it cannot replace in-person learning.

The Benefits of Coursera

Coursera enables the acquisition of knowledge in a well-structured and helpful manner. The system covers nearly all possible areas of study and is seamlessly integrated with pop quizzes, exams for each session and recorded teaching assistant videos that cover difficult concepts.

Additionally, the way Coursera courses are structured makes the site’s sheer mass of content seem more digestible and the process more efficient. For instance, all of Coursera’s content is divided based on the “week” unit and is then further divided into several sections. Normally, each part doesn’t take more than 20 minutes to consume, which makes it simple for students to concentrate and absorb information.

The title of each section reveals the topic and allows students to grasp the organic relationship between different sections in a column. Such an arrangement allows students to weave knowledge from several areas into a large web and improve their understanding of the inner connections between concepts.

The videos, usually around 25 minutes or less, are highly condensed and carefully edited. This can make a seemingly giant topic less intimidating; it encourages people to get started and persist. The high-quality video content and sound makes the study process more convenient and even pleasurable.

A transcript for each video is always available. Students can revisit a particular area of a subject by quickly reviewing its transcript, in case anything was missed during the recorded lectures. The subtitle options in diverse languages also augment the experience for students who are studying another language and want to improve their understanding of it.

For college students and anyone else trying to learn, Coursera can serve multiple purposes. For example, learners can preview courses before the start of the semester by enrolling in classes that discuss the same or similar topics. If they are taking a difficult course, participants can review and watch content that they feel is challenging in order to further strengthen their understanding of the subject.

On the other hand, if a student is not learning enough about a particular subject in school, they can simply search Coursera for the keywords of the needed area and then enroll in similar offerings. When a person cannot enroll in a class at their school because it is fully booked, he or she can audit one at Coursera for free and learn at his or her own pace.

For students who have already graduated but miss consuming knowledge in school, they can have unlimited and easy access to the intellectual “bites” available online through their laptop or phone. It is a one-stop platform that can satisfy academic passion, professional pursuit and life-long learning ambition.

Coursera Versus the Classroom

Although Coursera clearly has comprehensive academic offerings, you might still be wondering how much it resembles the traditional college experience. The answer is, hardly at all.

Though Coursera encompasses nearly all academic areas a university offers, it is still merely an online platform for knowledge. Many important aspects explicitly or implicitly contained in college education are critically important for effective learning and development. For example, in-person interaction with classmates and professors in a classroom makes the experience more immersive, and real-time discussion of new concepts further strengthens understanding and memory.

Another reason why online education only complements the traditional educational experience is because a conventional college education is crucial in helping individuals grow as holistic social beings in highly vibrant intellectual communities. Sports, extracurricular activities, in-person research opportunities, internships and countless social events with friends are critical elements that are significant for the learning and socialization process. These activities can, by no means, be replaced by online education.

From an individual perspective, Coursera balances our studies in various beneficial ways, like its accessibility and multi-purpose format. From a societal perspective, the establishment of Coursera is a giant step toward educational equality and societal mobility. There is still a long way to go, however, due to the holistic nature of academic learning.

We know that this online course provider cannot surpass the value of traditional in-person education on campus. To maximize the developmental outcome, many of the aforementioned key elements can hardly be neglected.

Benjamin Chen, Columbia University

Writer Profile

Xiaobin (Benjamin) Chen

Columbia University
Economics and Psychology

Benjamin Chen is an economics and psychology student at Columbia University. He is always motivated to innovate and change the world for the better. He is driven and guided by values, principles and love.

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