My Coursera Experience So Far

I am enrolled in “Critical Thinking in Global Challenges,” a 5-week Coursera offering. The class uses global issues to help participants hone their ability to assess and create solid arguments.

Screencap of my Critical Thinking MOOC. All rights to Coursera.

Screencap of my Critical Thinking MOOC. All rights to Coursera.

I chose this one because critical thinking is a core skill. Starting in Fall 2014, all core curriculum classes at public Texas colleges and universities must teach and assess critical thinking; ideally, it will be reinforced and assessed in every college class, I would think. In English we focus on rhetoric and argumentation in the two-semester Freshman Composition sequence, asking students to judge arguments in their textbooks, create their own original argumentative thesis statements, and marshal a variety of credible evidence to back those arguments. Sometimes they’ve never really been asked what they think about an issue, much less required to provide or cite extensive support.

Basically, I have lots of reasons why I am interested to see how this Coursera class approached the teaching of critical thinking!

Week 1 involved two videos, one of which had an embedded objective quiz over basic concepts. The course started on a Monday, and by Tuesday, the discussion forums were packed with introductions, offers to set up a Facebook study group, reflections on the topic, and observations about the homework. I watched the lectures, did my multiple-choice quiz, and finished my four multiple-choice homework assignments in under 30 minutes. Then I posted three replies to different discussion threads and felt a little like I wasn’t participating enough.

Week 2 had just one video, plus a review quiz and two homework assignments, which sparked a lot of forum talk about “right answers.” I’m not a big fan of black-and-white answers when it comes to encouraging critical thinking; several questions asked us to pick all of the correct answers, which helps, but still…I’m happy to argue five different sides to an argument just for the heck of it. I didn’t make 100% on the second quiz, and I’m cool with that, because I like my answer to the last question better than the “right” one. I explained that reasoning in a forum post and added a critical thinking resource to another thread. I spent probably 45 minutes this week, since the assignments involved examining several research sources for credibility.

For Weeks 3 and 4 the course encourages students to focus on one of four global issues: obesity and human health, climate change, population growth, or infectious diseases. I like this tailoring aspect.

We shall see how it all turns out! I have every intention of completing the entire class (another reason I chose a 5-week offering).


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