I signed up for a Coursera class on statistics for social science researchers because I wanted to learn how to better make use of library data and also how to use the open source program for statistical computing, R. The course information indicated I’d need to plan for 4-6 hours per week, which seemed doable, until I got into it.
The course consists of several lecture videos, most of which include a short “did you get the main concepts” multiple-choice quiz at the end. Each week there is an assignment and graded quiz, and of course a midterm and final.
It didn’t help that I started off behind, getting through only a lecture or two before the end of the first week, and missing the deadline for having the first assignment and quiz graded. I scrambled to catch up the second week, but once again couldn’t make it through the lectures in time.
That’s when I realized that it was going to take much longer than projected to keep up with this course. A 20-30 min lecture would take me 45-60 min to get through because I was constantly having to pause and write notes before the lecturer went on to the next concept. And since I was using Microsoft OneNote to keep and organize my notes, anything that involved a formula took longer to copy down.
By the end of the third week, I was still a few lectures away from finishing the second week, and I could see that it would take more time than I had to keep going, but I decided to go another week and do what I could.
That was this week, and I haven’t had time to make any more progress than where I was last week. With no prospect of catching up before the midterm deadline, I decided to withdraw from the course.
This makes me both disappointed in myself and in the structure of the course. I hate quitting, and I really want to learn the stuff. But, as I fell further and further behind, it became easier to put it off and focus on other overdue items on my task list, and thus compounding the problem.
The instructor for the course was easy to follow, and I like his lecture style, but when it came time to do the graded quiz and assignment, I realized I clearly had not understood everything, or he expected me to have more of a background in the field than a novice. It also seemed like the content was geared towards a 12 week course and with this being only 8 weeks, rather than reduce the content accordingly, he was cramming it all into those 8 weeks.
Having deadlines was a great motivation to keep up with the course, which I haven’t had when I’ve tried to learn on my own. It was the volume of content to absorb between those deadlines that tripped me up. I need to find a happy medium between self-paced instruction and structured instruction.