Friday, March 23, 2012

Made it to Spring Break, things still holding together!

We made it to spring break without the online course imploding!  Woohoo!

We were concerned (especially after Homework 2, which we knew was tough) that we were just going to lose everybody.  But no—over 5,000 people are still with us, comparable to Prof. Jennifer Widom’s database course, which I hold as the benchmark.

Dave and I are impressed with the perseverance of the online students, especially given that most have full time jobs.  The next time around we will probably expand the course by a week or two in order to space out the deadlines a bit.  (We just extended most of the homework deadlines by a week for the online course.)  We are also hiring local help (Berkeley students!) to help further debug the homeworks, improve the autograders, create new assignments and quizzes, monitor the forums more regularly, and fix the A/V quality (we know, we know).

We definitely plan to offer this course for free at least a couple of more times over the summer.  Beyond that it’s unclear what will happen–it’s no secret that Coursera is a for-profit company, and we don’t know how long they will make courses available for free.  However, we’re excited enough about this that we will make sure to find some way to keep getting the material out there, and if we can do so for free, we will.  We’ll even get a chance to meet a few of the online students in person—they formed a study group that meets at a Starbucks close to UC Berkeley!

A big thanks to those who had faith in us and have continued to persevere through the course!  And especially those who bought the book—we have 2 new chapters just about ready to go and they’ll be available as a free upgrade around two weeks from now.  As promised, anyone who bought the Kindle edition will continue to get free updates until the book is content-complete.

So…as we get close to the end of the first iteration…

To those who hung on until the end despite the problems: THANK YOU for your patience, for the constructive feedback you provided via the forums, personal emails, comments on these blog posts, and however else you reached out to us.  You’ve made it worthwhile for us by letting us know you were getting something out of the course!

To Instructors: if you’d like to beta test this material in your classrooms, we’ll even offer to run the autograders for you.  See our beta program description if you might be interested.

To Griefers who tried to poison the forum atmosphere early on: see ya, and don’t let the door hit your a** on the way out.  The smart money says that a whole bunch of companies besides Coursera are about to start trying to monetize courses like this (you can read about it in the latest Wired, in the NY Times, and elsewhere), so next time you’ll at least be paying for the right to complain.

And now…Spriiiing Breeeeaaaaak!!!  Wooooo!!! (For the next week I can work from home instead of going to campus.)

P.S.: I had some technical video difficulties with “SaaS TV #2? (salesforce.com) but it should be posted by tomorrow.  SaaS TV #3 (with GitHub) should be available by April 4.  It’s must-see TV.

UPDATE:  I got an unexpected opportunity to speak with Raffi Krikorian, Director of Engineering at Twitter!  That conversation is the basis of the just-posted SaaS TV #3. Next week we hope to post #4 (with Zach Holman of GitHub) and, hopefully, #5 (Dan Webb of Twitter talking about the present and future of JavaScript)!

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