AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators

Sep/14

13

Sheila B Robinson on Learning at the Beach with MOOCs

Hi! I’m Sheila B Robinson, aea365’s Lead Curator and sometimes Saturday contributor. While I cringe at describing myself with the heavily clichéd “lifelong learner,” I’m afraid it’s all too accurate. In fact, when I dream of winning the lottery I don’t think about whiling away my days on a beach reading cheesy novels, but rather sitting in a classroom, taking all the courses I missed out on in college. Problem is, my other half Larry has the beach dream, and I’d really miss him!

Lessons Learned:

Try MOOCs – Massive Open Online Courses. MOOCs have been mentioned a few times on aea365 (see here) and many evaluators (including me) have taken a course on data visualization and infographcis from the Knight Center for Journalism from the author of The Functional Art: An Introduction to Information Graphics and Visualization, Alberto Cairo. But, did you know there are additional MOOCs that might appeal to evaluators?

Image credit: AJC1 via Flickr

Image credit: AJC1 via Flickr

MOOCs offer flexibility. They’re free, distance learning (read: you can take courses from the beach!), and you can do your coursework any time of day. Most MOOCs have a video lecture component, some exercises or homework to be completed between sessions, and a final project. There are usually discussion boards where students can communicate with each other, pose questions to the professor, give feedback on each other’s work, or just have conversations. Some courses allow you to work collaboratively on the final project.

With a MOOC, there’s no pressure. While I don’t encourage registering for a MOOC with no intention of finishing, I must admit I am one of the over 90% of MOOC starters who have not finished one. I’m not proud of this, but realities of life called for me to drop something each time, and my MOOC always got the axe. The caveat is, however, that I feel as if I learned a great deal from the weeks I did participate in each course!

MOOCs can offer high quality, rigorous coursework. I took the first few weeks of a course on data analysis and statistical inference (offered by Duke University through Coursera), just to brush up on my skills and see if I could pick up anything new, and before I knew it, we were deep into conditional probabilities, Bayesian inference, and using R! Many offer certificates of completion.

Rad Resources: While Coursera is one of the most popular MOOC sites, look at MOOC aggregators like Class Central or Course Talk to search multiple sites. You’ll find courses on statistics, data analysis, R programming, research methods, writing, problem solving, and much, much more.

So if you see me at the beach under an umbrella with a laptop…

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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5 comments

  • Nicky · September 16, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    I’d love to see specific recommendations of evaluation-related courses.

    Reply

    • Author comment by Sheila Robinson · September 19, 2014 at 8:34 pm

      Hi Nicky! While I haven’t seen evaluation courses, I’ve seen quite a few on statistics and data analysis, and research methods. Check out the links in this post! 🙂

      Reply

  • Aid Leap · September 15, 2014 at 4:16 am

    At the moment, I strongly recommend the course on Research Methods from Coursera. https://www.coursera.org/course/solidsciencemethods

    Imaginatively presented, great exercises and a fantastic grounding in the basics of quantitative research – it will offer something even if you’ve got some experience in the area.

    Adam

    Reply

  • Jen Heeg · September 14, 2014 at 8:59 am

    J-PAL is running an “Evaluating Social Programs” MOOC starting on October 1st. I’m registered and looking forward to it!

    https://www.edx.org/course/mitx/mitx-jpal101x-evaluating-social-programs-3026#.VBWfQEhtjCw

    Reply

  • Admin comment by Susan Kistler · September 13, 2014 at 10:21 am

    Thanks for the tip on the aggregators Sheila! Hadn’t run into them. Super useful.

    Reply

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