In short, one of my personal wishes came true this spring when enrolling at Coursera in Human-Computer-Interaction. The class offered by Stanford University – short HCI – is well hosted by Scott Klemmer, Associate Professor of Computer Science. All courses offered on Coursera are free and have a wide variety of topics. They seem to be working with many different Universities and anyone can register. Classes are held online, contain quizzes and assignments. Of course, you won’t get a official university degree. But you will receive a certificate for different successful participation types. But that’s not the point anyway.
The course already paid off for me, as it reintroduced me to the satisfaction of learning again. It also relates strongly to my professional life at Bigpoint in Hamburg, where I am responsible for user interface development across our game portfolio. I did enroll a year before, just when I learned about this exceptional project via Twitter. At that time I was not aware that a certain level of sincerity was necessary to meet deadlines, take quizzes and create assignments. So after 1 month I realized it won’t work with the amount of time I was able to invest. This year I had an idea what to expect – and what to invest. I am clearly going for the highest possible certificate. But I also decided to be as honest as I was at the real university. Everything should be my own work, no shortcuts, no copying and no cheating of any kind. Failing and in general making mistakes along the course has more educational value than cheating your way to an amazing number on paper. And I did a few mistakes, answered wrong questions, had flaws in my work. And I am thankful for them.
In the past couple of weeks, I am about at 2/3 of the course; I already experienced many challenging thoughts. I took notes for my daily work, and even plan to share these nuggets of wisdom among my fellow colleagues. For anyone working in the user interface business, in mobile development and games, this course is really valuable!
Sure, it has its ups and downs. For example the concept of peer grading is a very emotional concept that has both yay- and nay-sayers (not sure if that’s even a word). There are downsides to peer evaluation. But there are even more chances for your learning experience. Just by evaluating your peers work and after that evaluating your own again in controlled steps gives you an entirely new perspective on your own work. This is a concept that I didn’t experience at any school or university. It’s a fountain of epiphanies. On the other hand you might get ratings for your work far below your expectations. This may be because the evaluator doesn’t take this part of his involvement serious enough. Nevertheless, its amazing and I will enroll in another class after this one again.
This course takes about 9 weeks. I am doing about 4 quizzes, 6 assignments and many video lectures. I am building prototypes, creating storyboards and getting to the real core of HCI in its purest form. I receive suggestions for the right literature to extend learning and use new software tools. It takes me 1-2 hours a day to stay on top of things, which will pay off in the end. I will post the result to my portfolio when I am done. Let me know your thoughts.