Alexandra Urban is a Teaching & Learning Specialist at Coursera. She also holds the record for most courses completed by a Coursera employee—more than 22 so far! Below, Alexandra shares her reflections on her Coursera learning experience, along with a few course and career recommendations for our global community.
One look at my Coursera course dashboard, and it’s clear I love learning: tons of courses started, finished, and enrolled in because the title sounded appealing. It’s beautiful chaos: an incredible array of knowledge and skills, all at my fingertips.
Throughout my education, I’ve discovered that the topics that scare us the most are often the most important for us to learn. I feel lucky that Barbara Oakley’s “Learning How to Learn” was the first course I took on Coursera. Barb offers optimistic evidence of how we can all progress further than we believed, along with concrete tactics to make that progression a reality. Her course is the perfect starting point for lifelong learners everywhere.
From there, I went on to build my data analytics skills and supplement that with new programming knowledge. Dr. Chuck’s encouragement and thoughtful explanations in his “Python for Everybody” Specialization are a true introduction to a subject that far too often requires prerequisites. If you have heard about coding and want to try it out for yourself, this is the perfect chance to get your feet wet, building up from the very beginning to gratifying, complex projects. I felt daunted to begin but was put at ease by the clear instructions of the first assignment and peers’ kind discussion forum comments. These courses truly set you up for success.
Since then, I’ve spread out into business, philosophy, and art classes, always amazed by the similar threads that weave their way throughout these varied disciplines. I listen to the videos and complete the projects because of the awe that comes from constantly learning about our world, and because I know that in the future, I might need any or all of these skills—my company is not standing still (neither is yours!), and it’s nearly impossible to predict what knowledge will be relevant and valuable tomorrow. I learn to discover connections across seemingly disparate topics. You never know when a new skill will pay off down the line. Whether it helps you land a new position, contribute more to your next meeting, or better understand your friend’s dinnertime explanation of her new tech job, you will never regret the time you spent learning.
With each course, I’m more thankful for the experiences that Coursera provides for me and for millions of others around the world: parents, private and public employees, refugees, full-time students, and so many more who’ve taken the leap to learn something new. I’m reminded that higher education has in the past been a privilege held by only an elite few, but we’re getting much closer to making it accessible to anyone, anywhere. It’s such a joy and honor to be a learner in this bold community – I encourage you to join us so you can start a learning adventure of your own!11