For National Distance Learning Week and the Meet the Courserians blog series, we spoke with Andreina Parisi-Amon who is the manager of the Teaching and Learning team at Coursera. After receiving her PhD in BioEngineering at Stanford, Andreina knew she wanted to work in education and joined Coursera to help create engaging and effective learning experiences for students around the world.
When did you start working at Coursera?
I started at Coursera 4 and a half years ago and I became a Partnership Manager working closely with our university partners as they developed their overall online education strategies. As we grew and specialized, I’ve helped build and lead the Teaching and Learning team, which is a group of pedagogy and education specialists who work with our partners on the development of their online learning experiences. Our mission is to help create learning experiences that enable learners to achieve their goals, ensuring content is developed in a way that is ideal for online learning while reducing some of the challenges that can come with working in this newer space.
What initially sparked your interest in working in education?
I’ve been fascinated by teaching from a young age — there’s nothing quite like the feeling of helping someone unlock their understanding of a challenging concept. Throughout high school I taught the rockets session of a weekend engineering program for middle-schoolers and still vividly remember their awe as they applied their new knowledge to fly model rockets, far surpassing what they thought were their capabilities.
Finishing my PhD at Stanford, I initially wanted to go into the ‘traditional’ side of education: teaching, doing research, etc., but eventually realized that wasn’t the path for me as it felt somewhat limiting in terms of the number and scope of students I would reach. I wanted to focus on figuring out how to help more diverse students unlock their potential. I expanded my network and was looking into companies that were truly innovating in the education space, and that’s when I discovered Coursera. I knew it was the place for me.
How have you seen MOOCs change and where do you see online education going in the next 5-10 years?
One of the things that has changed in the last few years is how educators are approaching teaching and learning. There’s much more of an outcome driven mindset – what do learners need to be able to do after this learning experience; how does it integrate or apply to the work they’re doing today, or want to be able to do tomorrow. There is also more diversity when it comes to who learners are interacting with in the digital classroom, both geographically and background wise. They’re able to learn not only from professors whom otherwise they may never have been able to access, but also from each other, bringing together experiences and expertise at a global scale.
In terms of where we’re headed, the online setting and the interconnection between educators, learners, and employers opens the potential for a much tighter feedback loop – as we get more information about what works and what’s needed for success in different environments we’ll be able to create more individualized plans to help students achieve the specific goals they have in mind.
What is the importance of distance learning?
All of us that are in education whether it’s online or traditional, are in it because we recognize the opportunity for learners. We know that learning opens doors to what people are able to achieve in their lifetime. There’s a subset of the population who is able to go to on campus institutions and interact that way, but not everyone has that opportunity. We should not be limiting access to education to that subset of the population. With Coursera, the technology that’s being developed, and the efforts of educators to create online content, we’re now in a position where we’re not only saying that distance education can open doors, but it can be just as good if not better than an on campus experience, when the right learner and program are paired. For example, if you’re trying to integrate new learning into your current career or if you have a family that needs your attention – online education can make that possible. No matter what stage you are in life, if you have the dedication, drive, and focus you can take courses online and open new doors for yourself.
What’s the best part about working at Coursera?
The mission that we are driving towards. Seeing how each day we are working towards that outcome of making it possible for people to transform their lives through education. Also, the people at Coursera, who are passionate about creating opportunities for people all around the world, provide an endless supply of energy, excitement, and opportunities to learn together.
Interested in becoming part of the Coursera team? Check out our Careers Page to learn more about available positions, company values, and perks and benefits of working at Coursera.