TDLC's First MOOC Yields a Staggering Number of Students on Coursera!

Terry Sejnowski and Barbara OakleyTDLC's Dr. Terry Sejnowski and Visiting Scholar Dr. Barbara Oakley have put together a Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) for Coursera on "Learning How to Learn." TDLC's first venture into the MOOC arena with Coursera generated tremendous worldwide interest; when the MOOC launched in August 2014, 197,000 “learners” from over 206 different countries joined the month-long course. Due to its success, this MOOC was offered again in October 2014 with over 125,000 learners! According to Class Central, "Learning How to Learn" is currently the most popular MOOC of all 253 MOOCs from major universities around the world. Mark your calendars – it will be offered again in January 2015.

When reading the course description, one can easily see why the course has such broad appeal; it offers strategies to help improve the way anyone learns:  “Whether you are an outstanding or a struggling student, ‘Learning How to Learn’ will give you powerful mental tools that will help you learn more effectively in tough-to-master subjects. You will discover practical, immediately useful insights that will help you to more deeply master your studies.” 

The idea for the MOOC germinated after a brainstorming session between Dr. Terry Sejnowski, TDLC Co-Director and Head of the Computational Neurobiology Lab at The Salk Institute, and Dr. Barbara Oakley, Author and Associate Professor in the School of Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Oakland. In March 2013, Barbara Oakley gave a presentation at a TDLC-sponsored event celebrating Brain Awareness Week (BAW).  In her Webinar, “How to Learn More Deeply and Creatively: Concrete Tools from Neuroscience and from Zombies,” she captivated her audience with a discussion of the brain and different ways of thinking about thinking.  Using the latest research about how the brain works, she shared strategies on how to learn optimally, improve test-taking, combat procrastination, and better retain information. (Click here to watch the Webinar).  It was clear that Dr. Oakley had key ingredients for a great MOOC, and TDLC possessed in depth research on learning and the brain.  Thus was born the idea for a MOOC that addressed “Learning How to Learn.” Dr. Jeffrey Elman, who organizes MOOCs at UCSD, was of great help in the launch with Coursera. The work that went into creating “Learning How to Learn” is now paying dividends.

Although “Learning How To Learn” is immensely popular, the MOOC has the potential to reach an even broader audience. “One problem,” Dr. Sejnowski shares, “is that we still are not reaching high school and college students. Only 3% of those who attended were under age 20,” he continues, “and the largest demographic is in the 25 – 34 age group: these are professionals who want to learn new skills to compete in the marketplace. 75% have a bachelor's degree or higher.”  Dr. Sejnowski hopes to incorporate additional strategies to reach high school and college students in the future.  He, like Dr. Oakley, realizes that this popular course – and others like it – have the potential to have a significant and transformative educational impact.

About Coursera

Coursera is an education platform that partners with top universities and organizations worldwide. They offer free online courses, and share a vision of offering everyone access to a world-class education. The goal: "To empower people with education that will improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in." Coursera has had a remarkable impact already, logging over 22 million enrollments, into 571 courses, from students representing 190 countries, and with 240,000 students participating in their most popular class.  Click here to read more about the course!

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