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Online Courses – What are they and how do they work?

Have you ever considered further study to improve your skills and experience. Perhaps you have become excited at the possibility and eagerly looked up all the websites only to have you hopes dashed when you look at the prices i.e. TAFE $12,000 per annum or University $30,000 per annum (note these are only approximates). This is a lot to invest especially if you are not 100% sure if the course Is right for you or if it is years since you have studied and your confidence is low.

What then are the options. What about free courses. I recently completed a six week online social psychology course via Cousera.  I heard about this course as someone had mentioned it during a LinkedIn discussion group.

I had to admit when I went onto the website I was extremely sceptical was this some sort of trap where I would have to leave my bank-account details would I be brain washed and end up in some cult.

Well once I started the course my fears were dismissed and I really enjoyed it and I also learnt a lot of interesting information that has helped me both personally and with my business.

So what is Coursera?

Coursera is a massive open online course (MOOC) it is aimed at unlimited participation via the web. In provides traditional course materials such as videos, readings, assignments and exams plus an opportunity where participants can be part of a community and contribute and share ideas via online discussion forums. Generally your assignments are marked by your peers and exams by the computer.

Coursera was founded by computer science professors Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller from Stanford University. It works with universities to make some of their courses available online, and offers a wide range of courses such as engineering, humanities, medicine, business and other areas.

For example recently Melbourne University launched Principles of Macroeconomics and several other Coursera courses and these have been very popular.

Although Coursera won’t offer you a degree you can receive a certificate of completion depending on the course. Social Psychology for example awarded certificates based on a pass mark of 80%. Sometimes revenue is generated by charging for these certificates and recently a handful of Coursera courses can now be credited towards degrees.

So what skills do I feel a Coursera course will give you:

  • Written and Oral Communication (completing assignments, contributing to discussion forums, providing feedback to peers)
  • Analytical skills (reading, listening to videos and deciphering information).
  • Interpersonal skills (interacting with others from many different cultures via discussion forums).
  • Time Management (completing the course on time while managing other priorities).
  • Mentoring (supporting others during the course).
  • Feedback (providing and receiving constructive feedback).

Of course these are just general skills but you will also find that you will learn a lot of other information that will build on your knowledge and experience.

If you would like to find out more about Coursera courses click on the link below.


Lisa Happell is a qualified Career Practitioner. You can read more of Lisa’s career articles and information by clicking on her Blog.

Note: Lisa was not paid by Cousera to write this article and she recently enrolled in:

Case Western Reserve University

Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence

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