Editors note: We are happy to share this guest post from Sankalp, a student who recently completed Calculus: Single Variable and received a Verified Certificate and completed the College Credit Recommendation Exam. A new session of the course starts on May 24th – You can learn more and sign up here.
Hi, I’m Sankalp. I am 17 and I live in Mumbai, India. I have been learning online, through videos for quite a few years, and have seen almost all the modern inflection points in online education. I have genuinely completed 2 MOOCs on Coursera (lurked through many, that’s the beauty of this platform!), Introduction to Mathematical Thinking (Stanford, Prof Keith Devlin) and Calculus: Single Variable (UPenn, Prof Robert Ghrist – incl. Signature Track and proctored exam for ACE CREDIT). Here is my journey and perspective:
History – “Those good old days – learning begins”
Giving some stress on my memory, I recall that my journey began when I was in 8th grade, more than 3 years ago, I got access to Lynda.com videos. I managed to master Dreamweaver, Photoshop and Flash through these videos. Then one fine day, I was assigned a project in the 9th grade by my teacher to prepare a presentation on the “Pre-Historic Period”. I used Flash, along with animations, complex object oriented programming via Action Script etc. That was the first time I felt that knowledge is indeed useful! That gave me the motivation to learn more, the motivation to go beyond what the school teaches, and that 9th grade motivation still drives me. Later, I came to know of a Khantastic website called as the Khan Academy. Before I realized, I got addicted to the whole concept of online education. By the vacations of 9th grade, I was done with most of PreCalculus, Trig, Probability etc. all the way up to Calculus.
Coursera – “Online Learning 2.0 – nothing less than a dream”
I am a big fan of TED, it has introduced so many things to me, KhanAcademy, Wolfram Alpha and then Coursera! I watched Prof. Daphne Koller’s TED talk and landed up on Coursera. The moment I saw the website, I had a smile on my face, knowing that this is something significant! I had a beautiful experience with Intro to Mathematical Thinking (ITMT). The most striking feature of the course were the discussion forums. Also, math takes time, and the video platform allowed me to pause Prof Devlin several times, I made him repeat several times and that’s how I could catch hold of the rigorous material. Check out my video made for ITMT here.
Due to the effects of my first MOOC, I decided to take my second MOOC all the more seriously. It was called Calculus: Single Variable, offered by Prof Ghrist. Although I had some calculus experience before thanks to the KhanAcademy, I still needed one complete package at a deeper level. And prof/g’s calculus course, I must say, is one of the *best* courses on Coursera. Not only is the material fantastic and tough (ahem! It is calculus after all), but it is presented in a manner like never before. Fully animated, with beautiful graphics. I must say, that’s the closest I have seen art and math to be, not compromising with either. It just bridged the left and right brain hemispheres.
Signature Track + Proctored Exam – “That shiny Verified Certificate”
Signature Track and the credit recommendation exam is the next big step in online education.
I convinced my parents to give it a try. That also on a course whose forums clearly suggested that the course requires serious dedication. The signature track registration process was very smooth and clear, no problems with that whatsoever. The Signature Track does not make any change in the course material, except now you have to take a picture of yourself every time you submit a home work and also type in a sentence that checks your typing pattern, hence confirming your identity. Also I must say that there is something magical about the Signature Track, that makes you do the course work more seriously!
Even more fun lies in taking the proctored Credit Recommendation Exam. It was not a compulsion for me as I had already enrolled for the Advanced Placement exam for Calculus BC, but what an amazing experience it was. The proctor was kind enough to clear my childish doubts like “Can I have cookies while taking the test?” I was asked two photo IDs and I had to pan the camera around my room before getting started. We also lost connection in between, thankfully it was restored in a fraction of a second. The Proctor then checked my browsing history and reestablished our connection (with remote control of my PC), before I could continue. After that exam, I was so excited that I was one of the very few who get to try this in the first slot!
Within a few days, a glittering certificate, verified by the University of Pennsylvania and Coursera arrived in my inbox, and I have placed it (electronically) near my ITMT statement of accomplishment from Stanford, what a rare sight that is! Especially for a young Indian, belonging to a middle class family, who has not even completed his high school. Only Coursera can make that happen!
I can recommend the Signature Track for:
1. Resume Enhancement
2. Motivation to complete the course with all seriousness
Why I think I absorbed more knowledge than a normal classroom setting?
Simple answer – Mastery Based Self-Paced Learning! If I face trouble with sequence operators after watching the lecture, I can give time to sequence operators without worrying that I won’t be able to catch up with the class. Still I don’t understand, try the Practice Problems. Still confused? Rush to the discussion forums. In Calculus:Single Variable there were many brilliant students. Most of them had completed their education and were very willing to help! Plus the staff was very proactive in solving our doubts and keeping us motivated.
If MOOCs didn’t existed, I would have never ever got a chance to interact with great professors like Dr. Ghrist and Dr. Devlin.
Future Plans – “Inspiring others!”
I have recommended Coursera to many of my friends, they love it. I have also shown Coursera to many elder people, who have left education many many years ago. Their thanks especially means a lot to me. Because of Coursera, the idea of lifelong education seems suddenly possible. I also believe that education should be accessible to everyone.
I do plan to apply to universities in the US, but it is a little too early to talk about that!
Due to the influence of the online learning sites, I was motivated to share whatever knowledge I had online. Hence, I personally started making a few small videos.
I have also assembled a group of kids here (roughly same age) and we make educational videos. We are working hard here and after we have a few chapters in Math done + with the help of already available videos, we plan to try out some “flipped classroom” experiments back here in India. These could even one day help solve the problem of a primary-level teacher shortage in India.
I admit that I am young and inexperienced, but I feel that this is how education must be! I have never *enjoyed* it so much!
Calculus: Single Variable is beginning again on May 24th! You can join Signautre Track to earn a Verified Certificate and take the Credit Recommendation Exam at the end of the course to earn an ACE CREDIT college credit recommendation. Learn more with the College Credit Recommendation Guidebook.