Failing Coursera

Tim Owens, on “failing” Coursera courses:

For much of the course I felt like a bystander. Here I was watching a set of videos chosen by my professor. I may or may not have a quiz at the end of the week to gauge my learning. The videos were interesting, but I left feeling like I hadn’t participated. […] I can’t tell you the name of a single other person that was in this course and it started with over 40,000. I think that’s a shame and something they could improve on.

I’ve yet to pass a single Coursera course myself–I’ve “failed” Algorithms and HCI so far. However, I do feel like I’ve really learned something from the parts of the courses I’ve taken, and I appreciate how Coursera and other MOOCs (what a great name) have encouraged all these subject matter experts to curate and present all this useful information in brief, easily digestible chunks for teachers and students.

A story about a failed education web app

The story of someone spending a year building, selling and giving up on Knack, an online grade book for teachers. Some interesting lessons learnt, including this part about why his app failed:

Teachers say they love tech. Some blog about it. They tweet about it in #edchat and #edtech. They even coin their own special tech terms. This is a farce. Talking about tech and being on _the Twitter_ make teachers look good to administrators and to the public. They can add “Technology Committee Member” to their resumes and congratulate themselves for being innovative. But using tech to do work requires a small minimum of effort and change, and any amount of these is too much for teachers.

Overly harsh, but true*. There’s a good debate about this on the Hacker News thread, where the writer clarifies what he meant in a comment: that he’d made a mistake assuming teachers would pay for a tool that they had to spend time acclimatising to.

* I say this as a former “Technology Committee Member” and a current app developer.

By the way, tech posts are generally cross-posted to the company blog, along with pictures and videos of us doing stupid things.