Online courses in the past have been little more than long lectures simply posted online for students that could not get access to a university education. However, this concept has now been revamped with material developed specifically to interact every student at home. One of the most popular Massive Open Online Courses (often referred to as MOOCs) is offered by Coursera, a consortium involving several universities worldwide covering a wide variety of courses. "The courses are excellently produced, and all you need to follow them is access to the internet", says Dr Stephan Hartmann from LMU´s Department of Philosophy.
Signing up for a course only takes a few clicks of the mouse and all the information needed is easily accessed. And for most cases, no previous knowledge is needed. "Everything is explained carefully and slowly and if it was too fast, people can watch a clip again", says Dr Hartmann, who teaches how to solve challenging philosophical problems with only a little bit of mathematics.
Although each course may be slightly different, usually lectures comprise five to 10 clips of about 10 minutes each, after which there's a quiz. There's also a final assignment at the end of the course, that the students need complete successfully. "Taking the course requires some serious work", advises Dr Hartmann. "To get the most out of it, you have to think matters through carefully, and work hard on the problems".
LMU was the first German university to join Coursera and Dr Hartmann sees his involvement as a positive experience. "It would be nice to add other lectures to the course", he says, and "I also hear that other colleagues show an interest in developing a Coursera course".