Our favorite student stories: Week of March 13, 2017

I love reading student reviews on CourseTalk and wanted to share some of my favorites from last week, March 13 – March 19, 2017. This is a pretty diverse set of topics and providers, highlighting the fact that while big players like Coursera or edX are certainly doing a great job with their courses, there a few other notable providers out there.


We start with a Hall of Fame course from edX –  The Science of Everyday Thinking. It has been very popular with edX students for a few years now and we can see why – over 90% of impressive 1163 reviews rate this course with 5 stars.


It’s no secret that technology and business are probably the topics most covered by online courses and MOOCs, but here’s an excellent example of a highly rated paleontology course, also provided by edX – Dinosaur Ecosystems.


Next, we have reviews of 3 Treehouse courses – Java ObjectsJavaScript Basics and Local Development Environments. They confirm a trend that we’ve noticed a while ago – Treehouse has expert instructors teaching material in a very engaging and easy to follow way on a platform that is very enjoyable to use. By the way, video speed adjustment is an awesome feature, great to see more providers adopting it!


Smartly is one of our favorite providers here at CourseTalk and it’s absolutely no surprise that their Finance: Time Value of Money course is rated so highly by learners.


Coursera’s The Science of the Solar System  is another course to receive 90% of 5 star rating based 274 reviews. Two reviews of this course made our list today.


Ralph Turchiano’s review got me interested in College Algebra and Problem Solving by edX – I was looking to refresh my algebra skills and may very well choose this course to do that. Ralph also highlighted the importance of on-demand self-paced availability.


Introduction to Data Analysis using Excel is produced by Microsoft and has been one of the most popular edX courses lately. Yadav Shrestha shows that knowledge acquired through this course is very well applicable in the workplace.


Not all courses universally receive high ratings. Sometimes there are empty discussion forums or poor site loading speed or, as in the case of edX’s From Poverty to Prosperity: Understanding Economic Development – a grading system that “made unfair” what would otherwise have been a great course.

CourseTalk in Colombia: Tips for MOOC providers

After a semester teaching English in Colombia, I’ve learned a lot about education in this fascinating country. Here are three takeaways for online course providers wanting to expand in Colombia or similar Latin American countries:

  1. Focus on English and skills courses first – People here are incredibly eager to learn English. Everyone from coworkers to taxi drivers have begged me for private lessons. There would be a rush of new MOOC users if more people knew guided online English classes were available to them at the touch of a button. I suspect courses teaching other skills that open up career possibilities would be equally popular.
  2. Meet the people where they are – Colombians in general spend a lot of time on their smartphones. Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp are so incredibly popular that most phone plans include unlimited access to these three apps. MOOC providers should not only be advertising on social media and within apps, they should also incorporate these multimedia elements into the courses themselves.
  3. Make classes fun and flexible – Latin American cultures are known for their “work to live” culture, as opposed to America’s more “live to work” mentality. To succeed here, MOOC providers will need to revamp classes to make them as enjoyable as possible without dumbing them down. Colombians as a whole will be less willing to sludge through a dry class than most early MOOC adopters. This is not to say Colombians don’t work hard or enjoy learning; they just want to have a good time while doing both things. I strongly suggest MOOC creators revisit their classes to see how they can spice them up a bit.

I’m more convinced than ever that online courses are the perfect fit for Colombia and comparable countries. With just a few tweaks, MOOC providers should be able to attract millions of eager learners here!

CourseTalk in Colombia: Tales from the classroom

I can’t believe I’m saying it, but I have less than a month left in my first semester as an English teacher. You can already feel the end of the year approaching by the increase in celebrations and cancelled classes. As I look back on the past four months, here are some of my favorite stories.

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CourseTalk in Colombia: A day in the life of an English teacher

Unfortunately, being a teacher in Colombia means school typically begins at 7 a.m. That means at 5 a.m. I’m up feeling my way through a dark apartment so I don’t wake my housemates with lights. And so begins a day in the life of an English teacher in Pereira!

After I pack a massive lunch to get me through the next eight hours (there are practically zero food options near my school), I try to be out the door around 6. I walk through El Lago plaza, which looks even more beautiful than usual in the early morning; the church on the north end is lit by the rising sun, and vendors are just starting to set up on the wide pathways. I’m headed for the MegaBus, Pereira’s main transportation system. It’s a system of double-long buses that drive on dedicated lanes to elevated stations. Forty-five minutes, 60 cents and two buses later, I hop off about a block from my school.

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CourseTalk in Colombia: Living the Latin American lifestyle

Living and dining roomSo far in my CourseTalk blogs about teaching in Colombia, I’ve spoken at length about my classes and the educational system, but I’ve left out some of the most scintillating details — those about my daily life! Let’s rectify that.

Moving from Silicon Valley to Colombia has been a bit like replacing your Rembrandt painting with a Picasso — you end up with something less organized, maybe even a little chaotic, but all the more enchanting for its relaxed charm. I’ve had to get used to things like traffic rules being ignored, restaurants offering half the items on their menu, and bathrooms often lacking toilet paper, but I have gained so much more!

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