Editor’s note: Khadija Niazi is a Courserian living in Pakistan. She and her brother are turning 13 this year and have each completed over 6 courses already. They recently posted about their experience. Now, along with their mom, they are going to share their perspective on MOOCs for young students and families!
I believe that I represent everyone who has a passion for education – someone trying to learn under many different circumstances. But I’m also just like any other 13-year-old student you might come across in your daily life. When I started taking courses on Coursera, the only thing that mattered to me was gaining knowledge. Studies were never a burden; I love learning – at school, or even while watching TV. I learned very early on that education doesn’t need to be confined to a classroom, holding a book in your hand. Education is out there, everywhere; all you need to do is go find the right key for the door.
That’s why I turned to MOOCs. Coursera courses have built the bridge that connects me to the whole world, and that’s what I need. The beauty is that I am able to explore different teaching styles and different learning techniques with different teachers. It’s that unique quality about MOOCs that I think allows younger students like me to acclimate themselves in higher education courses – courses that are not easy to find in our local education system. The fact that we get to choose our courses – that we are not stuck with one math or science course, but have access to many options – means that our performance is driven by our own interest.
But there are also challenges that come with being a younger student on Coursera. Here are some of the most important lessons I’ve learned that I’d like to pass along to the Coursera community:
Tip #1 – Choosing Courses
Some students take courses to explore new topics, but other students choose to take courses aligned with their current interests. I believe what makes learning fun is to have a combination of the two; when you’re choosing a course, don’t be afraid to try something new,
really! You might find a new passion that you didn’t know you had. Exploring new courses along with the ones you know you’ll like is always a great experience and saves you from the monotony of learning only one subject. You can use the Coursera course browser to find lots of cool stuff by language, subject, school.
Tip #2 -Time Management
Young students between the ages of 13-18 can manage their time very easily while balancing MOOCs with their other schoolwork. When I come back from school, I do my homework, relax, and then manage my time according to the courses I’m taking on Coursera. I prefer to listen to the lectures daily. The quickest and shortest way is to take a snapshot of the important parts of the lecture using a snipping tool (on Windows) or take a screenshot (on Macs). This helps me solve the homework without the need to re-watch the lecture. I also try to do the quizzes as soon as possible, because if you wait too long, the deadline will come up quickly. Then, if you’re stuck on a problem, you won’t have enough time to get help from the forum. Most of the quizzes require critical thinking, and if you delay taking them until the last day, you won’t be able to complete them successfully. If you’re tired, take a break! Go outside, breathe fresh air, and relax yourself – it’s what I do when I’m stuck on a problem, and it always helps.
Tip #3 -Take a Course With Your Family
There are many courses that you can take with your family. Luckily, I have a twin brother who shares my interests, but I also loved it when my father watches the videos with me. Even though he is unable to complete courses due to his full-time job as a pilot, we still enjoy watching lecture videos together. I even show my forum posts to my parents, who always encourage me to help other students – whenever I help someone in my own capacity, I end up increasing my understanding of the topic.
Younger students have so many great things to learn, and through MOOCs they can interact with all kinds of people – it’s a real inspiration! I’ve seen people older than 70 taking a course, while some students are under age 13 like myself. I take my inspiration from these people, from their will and passion for learning. They are the ones who have talked to me, encouraged me, and even helped me with homework. And you can find these people all over the world!
I am honored to be part of a community where I can share my thoughts and my experience of MOOCs with all of you; I hope that younger students always strive to learn something new. MOOCs can help all of us to have a better life. I don’t know what the future holds for me, but one thing is for sure – I’m on the right track with Coursera.