Taking Online Courses

Not quite the challenge, not quite the breeze-through.

You should never stop learning. From experience, from fiction or from official courses that could help advance your understanding or career.

Recently I’m studying a few online courses. There are numerous websites these days that you can study for free, university courses on, for example Coursera, edX, Alison, etc.

From Writing for the Sciences, Clinical Research, Epidemiology to Neuroanatomy I have found a place to put my overactive mind to rest. For the last 5 weeks, laboring over the courses and taking notes has given me something else to think about.

But I’m hitting some really difficult parts of the topic, and my usual ability to breeze through the weekly quiz has taken a beating. One of the courses, Systematic Review and Meta Analysis has left me so puzzled I barely know why I started it.

I have re-taken some of these tests over a dozen times, trying not to feel like a failure and have come across two points-

  1. Some of the courses require you to have a more-than-basic understanding of other areas in order to apply that outside knowledge when it comes to the grind. — In this case I either get right into the subject and do my own study on top, or give up.
  2. Trial and Error test-taking doesn’t work, I need to bite the bullet and go back through the lectures and course material to find the information I need to move forward.

The Pros

Taking these courses is great. I love studying and knowing there’s something palpable at the end of it is a great motivation.

Time isn’t so much of a factor. I study while I knit, cook, bathe, pretend to listen to my parents on Skype. Doing a little a day, of anything, is wonderful for habit formation.

The Cons

Maybe you always wanted to learn programming. Even if an introduction is offered, from my experience you’ll always need supplementary material — which you have to source yourself — to fully grasp what’s being taught.

Time might not be so much of a factor, but you still need to dedicate it to watching lectures, reviewing what you’ve learned and sourcing any outside material that fills in the gaps in your specific knowledge.

If you want a certificate, all of the sites require you pay; either for a monthly subscription or for the specific course you’ve completed.

Overall, I recommend them. Just be prepared to delve into your own research to get the most benefit.