HSE on Coursera: First Results and Impressions
On December 5, the Coursera: First Results roundtable will be held. Coursera, an international online educational platform, has been used for 12 HSE courses. This first cycle of courses has come to a close, with more than 340,000 students from around the world having signed up for HSE courses so far. Another 10 courses are currently open for registration.
One of the HSE courses offered via the Coursera platform was taught by Mira Bergelson, Professor of Philology at HSE. The course, 'Understanding Russians: Contexts of Intercultural Communication', was taught in English and was aimed at an international audience. Although more than 17,000 students from 170 countries signed up for the course, not all of them started the course or saw it through and received a certificate. Nonetheless, each lecture was watched by no fewer than 5,000 people.
Professor Bergelson agreed to speak with the HSE news service ahead of the upcoming roundtable and share her observations and experiences.
— Could you please give us an overview of the audience for your course?
— The audience for these courses are people of different ages and professions. Well, at least for courses like mine, which involve various areas of knowledge, such as linguistics, cultural anthropology, history, sociology, etc. The interest in Russia is particularly high this year, in all corners of the world. They are not all students currently enrolled in courses who want extra credits; the audience could well include many older people, who, as they take a step back from their careers, find out that they have time to invest in their own education. The third group comprises intercultural communications and Russian studies specialists. One of the main challenges for teachers of online courses is the need to deal with the different levels of knowledge and preparation among the audience.
The forum is an important part of Coursera lectures. With this course, numerous forum threads were devoted to issues in international politics, Crimea, the history of Russian-Ukrainian relations, etc. And although forum discussions were often emotionally charged and even heated, they were always substantive.
— What would you say are some of the problems facing online study, and what is its outlook going forward?
— The prospects are very good, and online education will have consequences for the entire system of certified education. Now, with information accessible with a single click online, the entire idea of education has changed. However paradoxical it may seem, I think that this means a return to the Middle Ages concept of the university, when people went to study not a particular subject (such as metaphysics) but to study under a particular tutor. Given the accessibility of knowledge we see today, the person leading the online course will play an increasingly significant role, that of leading, not simply giving a lecture.
Otherwise, online learning – with the difficulty of adequately evaluating students, varying degrees of preparation among the audience, and disparate audience needs that are focused on practical, basic ‘how to do’ courses – will not present serious competition to traditional forms of education.
— Will you offer this course again?
— Demand for the course ‘Understanding Russians: Contexts of Intercultural Communication’ is high. People write to me asking when it will be repeated on the Coursera platform. I only know that we will do it sometime in 2015. I know that many people are looking forward to it.
During the roundtable, teachers who recorded their courses for Coursera will share their impressions on how they went, the profile of the student audience, and the particularities of handling feedback and evaluation. They will also speak on the future of online study.
Everyone is welcome to take part in the roundtable discussion, which will be held on December 5 at 17.00 in Room 311 (Myasnitskaya 20). Registration is required to participate in the event.