Greg Hamel recently left his 100th CourseTalk review, setting a new site record! We decided it was the perfect opportunity to ask this prolific reviewer about his online learning journey. Greg is a Minneapolis-based writer with a B.A. in economics. He took his first online class, on computer programming, in 2011 through MIT OpenCourseWare, and he’s been taking MOOCs ever since. Read on for insights from a seasoned online learner.


CourseTalk: What are the top five courses you’ve taken?

Greg: In no particular order…

CourseTalk: Why do you write reviews?

Greg: To reflect on courses and consolidate my own learning, while helping other students set the right expectations when enrolling in MOOCs.

CourseTalk: How many courses do you take at once? When do you review in that process?

Greg: It varies, depending on whether there are courses being offered that interest me. Sometimes I’m not taking any courses at all, and sometimes I sign up for five or more at time. I sign up for many more courses than those I actually complete and review. I often sample a course for 15 to 30 minutes and drop it if I don’t like where it’s going. I generally only review a course after I’ve gone through all the video content.

CourseTalk: How has all this online learning benefited you in your everyday life?

Greg: I understand myself better. I have a better sense of what I know, what I don’t know and where and how to learn things I don’t know. I also understand the digital world much better. Studying computing gives you a whole new perspective on the technology you interact with on a daily basis. On the practical side, I have acquired many useful skills like Python and R programming, data analysis and predictive modeling.

CourseTalk: What’s your best advice for students? For instructors?

Greg: For students – If you get stuck, seek help in course forums and revisit material after taking a break for a day or two. Don’t fixate on grades.

For instructors – Face time is very important. I almost never like courses with little instructor face time. Delivery is also important. A genuinely passionate instructor who is able to project that passion in lectures is what separates a good course from great course.

CourseTalk: What are your plans for learning online in the future?

Greg: As long as there continue to be new, freely-accessible courses that interest me, I’ll continue taking at least a course or two off-and-on for the foreseeable future. I have my eye on the new machine learning and big data specializations on Coursera. I’m also enrolled in Statistics for Business II on edX.