Friday, July 25, 2014

MOOC points from my son, a real learner

For the last 9 weeks I have been enrolled in a Coursera MOOC ‘An Introduction to Marketing’, run by Wharton at the University of Pennsylvania. Here’s the question; was it worth it and have my marketing skills improved? YES & YES!
I have to admit, nine weeks ago, I was skeptical and slightly reluctant to set aside  time over nine weeks for this course, as I had looked at others that were not so good and weaker on content. Strangely, the thing that attracted me to this course was the nice certificate at the end that I could link to my LinkedIn profile. To do this I had to sign up for the ‘Signature track’. This cost £30, didn’t break the bank, but gave me a goal, made me care and kept me going.
Context matters
I had a quick look at some of the lectures and was hooked. They were not hour-long, boring videos of a dull Prof talking at me, they were 10 minute videos, well made in different consumer locations, with interesting people, explaining things in context. For example, I really appreciated the insights into the difference between product and customer-centric companies. It was this contextual approach that worked for me. I liked this real-world application side as that’s the world in which I have to apply my skills.
Quizzes kept me going
Every so often, the video would stop and I had to answer a question on what I had just seen, keeping me engaged and not allowing me to simply go with the flow, immersing me in theory until I drowned. The module quizzes also keep you on your marketing toes as it’s easy to just drift along without reflection.
Useful app
I quickly downloaded the app so I could dip in and out when I had a free 10 minutes. That is exactly what I did. Every night, before I went to bed, I watched one quick lecture, at my own pace, until I understood the concepts. This was the perfect amount of learning for me as I have a job, play the drums and all that stuff. Whenever I had a bit of free time, I’d do it – even at 3/4am - that suits me, as when I felt productive, I’d get a load done. I felt in control. 
The Prof got back to me!
I could interact with different students on the forums, reading what they had written from their experiences. I didn’t spend a huge amout of time on the forums but they were interesting. I did ask some questions, to which the professors promptly replied. It was cool to get a reply from the Prof on a question I asked about ‘Celebrity endorsements’. For once learning was a pleasant experience! 
Tests not tricks
Tests came frequently and I scored 100% in all of them (honestly!). These really made me focus on the content and commit to remembering what I had learnt. Now I look back on it, I realize that these first tests weren’t trying to trick me , judge me or confuse me (that’s what tests and exams have always felt like), but asking me if I really knew something. If I found it hard, I could flip to the lecture and seal up any gaps. Only the last and longest test was a struggle, asking me more in-depth questions and making me project what I had learnt onto different situations. This was challenging but that’s exactly what I needed, as I was doing this, not as a course, but as a way of improving my marketing skills for my job.
Overall, a good MOOC has a good set of people behind it, professors who are clearly excited by the fact they are teaching an unlimited amount of people and are passionate about that. I like the idea that I can shop around, find the MOOC that suits me, and the convenience of doing it when it suited me, usually late at night.
Final thoughts
Did I like the MOOC? Hell yeah. Did I learn much? Absolutely. Was it useful? My job is in social media marketing and this gave me some depth of understanding on mainstream marketing. Would I do another? Already started.
This is my LinkedIn profile with the certificate. I am a marketing person after all ;)

I missed something. My employer encouraged me to take this sort of course and the fact that I can take my certificate (with distinction!) back to him is a big plus.
    Carl Clark (20)

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