By: Talia Kolodny, Partner Community Manager
In a heartfelt speech at Coursera’s annual partners conference hosted by Arizona State University, Andrew Ng, Coursera Co-founder and Co-chair, announced the 2018 Outstanding Educator Award recipients. Addressing the educators in the room, he said:
“I don’t know any other group of people in the world that is doing more important work than the people in this community. There are a lot of people in the world who are struggling to make rent, a lot of people whose jobs are going away. More than anyone else, you give them hope. For that, I thank you.”
With this message of optimism, we wanted to provide the Coursera community with a window into the success of our outstanding educators and share their insights on effective online teaching.
Dr. Alan Kazdin from Yale University was awarded with Coursera’s Learners First Outstanding Educator Award for his course “Everyday Parenting: The ABC’s of Child Rearing”.
The Yale Parenting Center has been training parents for more than 20 years. While they have made a significant impact within the local community, they realized that the online format will allow them to reach a much broader audience.
“The inspiration behind the course was to help as many families as possible with the everyday challenges of parenting. This can be accomplished by applying some very helpful scientific findings about what we know about child rearing and parenting,” says Dr. Kazdin.
Below are 3 things that stand out in Everyday Parenting as putting learners first.
#1 Learning by doing
Practice is pivotal to developing habits – with parents, children and online learners. This course highlights practice and implementation in every step. Dr. Kazdin quickly moves from abstract concepts learned from science, to concrete and useful techniques. He focuses on the applicable aspects of the material, encouraging learners to try the techniques at home. Common child rearing challenges that parents see often are at the center of each lesson. The concept of learning by doing refers not only to the learners, but to the instructor as well. Dr. Kazdin not only describes the technique, he models it and shows the learners exactly how to implement it. As an example, in a lesson about simulations, he first explains the concept – “Simulation means engaging in a behavior in game-like or pretend situations”. Then, he continues to show parents how to do this step by step: “Go over to your child, and tell him – Billy, there is a game I want to show you. It’s called the tantrum game.” This way, parents are shown a concrete example of how to implement the technique.
#2 Structure supports learning
Everyday Parenting was designed with a consistent structure in mind. The material is presented in small units, and each video includes a series of components: introduction, parenting steps, common questions and summary. This clear outline appearing within each video makes it easier for learners to navigate the materials and know what to expect. The structure of the course is supported by the following logic:
- Saying – stating the technique
- Showing – modeling what the technique looks like and how it is used
- Doing – practicing the technique, applying it repeatedly, getting better at doing
- Enjoying the results – seeing the changes in the child
Dr. Kazdin describes the course design in musical terms: “The material progresses and builds one technique at a time and then combines them. It is almost like teaching parts of a musical piece little by little that produces a song.”
#3 Design for diverse learner needs
“Creating the online course made me consider how a learner experiences teaching in a way I had not considered”, says Kazdin. He recommends focusing on application and making sure the materials are accessible to individuals from a variety of backgrounds. In developing Everyday Parenting, the course team made an intentional effort to use everyday language and inclusive visuals. As an example, the cartoon family in the course features aliens instead of humans, in an attempt to create a universal depiction of an average family. The course team used A/B testing to test the alien cartoon with a small sample of 70 parents, who responded positively to the images. Dr. Kazdin was hesitant at first, but the test results were reassuring and allowed the team to use this approach with confidence. Scripts were also reviewed to ensure diversity and inclusion in language and imagery. In terms of format, the course uses multimodal methods to reduce cognitive load. Parenting technique steps are presented in multiple channels: audio, text and visual representation [see image below].
With a 4.9 average course rating from more than 200 reviews, learners are truly appreciating these strategies. Here’s what one learner shared:
“I am a teacher from Indonesia….I love how this course is easily understood, using relevant examples in our daily life. The instructors also explained all topics articulately. Thank you very much for creating this course.”
Everyday Parenting is impacting families around the world with effective online teaching strategies. We look forward to sharing more stories of success with our broader educator community and supporting transformational learning experiences on Coursera.3