I recently completed three courses on Coursera, each achieving the goal I set out with.
The first course was a six sigma course that I used to refresh my knowledge on something that I am familiar with. It contained what I wanted to learn but was typical of old fashioned e-learning (and face to face learning). It was a series of lectures, made up of a series of slides, which contained useful information. Then there was extended reading and chat options to go further. I was able to absorb what I wanted but would not say it was awesome. This is how some corporate training is probably still structured – it does the job and you attend it as part of the job.
The other two were actually awesome for different reasons. They were both fit for purpose and achieved their goals with flare.
The first was the Amazon Cloud Practitioner essentials course. In theory, this one had way too much information to absorb because it covered the entire program of information that is needed to understand Amazon Cloud as a user/customer. However it tackled this challenge by doing a great job of introducing the essentials (as promised) with links to the detail. In addition:
- The 3 presenter/trainers were extremely engaging. They were passionate, even about boring technical topics, they came across as humble and friendly and they delivered the training with the professionalism of paid actors. As an experienced trainer I was really impressed with their ability to engage with and communicate the material
- The slick nature of the videos achieved another goal – giving the impression that AWS is clearly the way to go, without mentioning how other cloud service providers might handle the generic content
- Statements were backed up by evidence and further reading but they were also delivered with meaningful analogies and examples to make them easy to understand.
This course is ideal if you want to absorb a lot of technical and “factual” information, such as how to prepare for the related certification in cloud practitioner-ness.
The third course was the first of 4 courses in being effective, personally and at work. It was called Success. This one covered a potentially abstract and very personal topic. It did so by taking a very different path to the other two courses:
- The lecturer was on his own – no swapping presenter each video and he was not as smooth as the Amazon crew. However he presented the information with real credibility. I believe that he did so because
- He was really clear on what was his (carefully considered and expertly driven) opinion and personal experience.
- He linked to credible sources of research and evidence, while keeping it light and engaging, so it seemed like a conversation rather than a guru telling me what the correct answer was
- He framed the lessons with guidance but did not give the answers, rather he asked the questions that caused me to really consider what I thought about the topic.
- Each lecture provided a frame to consider a topic but did not give the answer. This suited the topic of “what do you think success is?” and “how would you achieve your goal?” really well
- Each lecture had self assessment linked to a structured survey or set of questions.
- Each self assessment was followed up with guidance on how to interpret and apply the results and how others might have approached it
- There were opportunities to post thoughts and review those of others. This was a little limited because of the asynchronous nature of the course and the fact that it was both open to all and it was an old-ish course, so the answers were sometimes not well considered.
- However the assignments involved sharing your personal thoughts and then giving others feedback on theirs. This was interesting because it meant that I was both encouraged to really consider my perspective and then surprised by the difference in the perspectives of others.
- The material was presented simply but had room for really complex thinking if you took the time to do it. This meant that the course could be taken by someone young and inexperienced or old and very experienced. I think you could actually do this course every few years and reflect on your growth.
Both the great courses shared some concepts in that they were engaging and simple to absorb, so my cognitive energy was focused on the material and not trying to work out what was going on. Both courses also created a sense of curiousity, both during the course and for further learning after the course.
Both also had very different strengths that suited their purpose. I am not sure if the strengths would have translated as well across courses.
I learned a lot from these courses and enjoyed the journey. They also provided a great reminder that I should keep working on my own craft, to lift my game at both engaging people in learning and in honing my approach to suit a clear goal that can be achieved by those I help, in a way that creates learning, satisfaction and increases curiousity to continue learning.
The practitioners are tough acts to follow, but inspiring artisans rather than intimidating experts. Of course, the courses were also great learning in their own right.