Online Education: Ready, Set, Learn!

Perhaps as a teacher you’ve found yourself thinking about how great it would be to go back to school and learn more about different aspects of the field of education, brush up on some of your skills, or even learn something entirely new. Or not. Either way, it’s not a bad idea. Let me introduce Coursera and edX, which are both websites that offer free courses from top-notch universities around the world.

They have a wide array of courses and might interest you and even your adult or high school students if you teach content courses in addition to ESL/EFL. Right now, you can’t earn college credit for most of the classes on these sites but you do get a Statement of Accomplishment or something similar. Really it’s about learning for learning’s sake and giving everyone access to quality courses. If you are interested in taking an education course, take a look at Coursera, because they have several.

Now, the class I am most excited about sharing with you is on Coursera and offered by the University of Edinburgh. It’s called E-learning and Digital Cultures and, therefore, directly relates to what I talk to you about in all my posts here on the TESOL Blog. The dates for the course haven’t been posted yet but it’s only 5 weeks long with a 5-7 hour a week workload, and you can enroll already, which is what I did just to be sure I didn’t forget about it. When something about the course changes, I get e-mail updates so I don’t miss anything. It says that for this course there are “no background knowledge or skills required,” but a familiarity with social media is recommended as that is how discussions will take place. You also don’t need to buy any materials since content is delivered via YouTube and readings are provided. There is not a lot of information posted about the course but the content looks interesting and I am really looking forward to it, so check it out. Hopefully I will see some of you in class!

I also wanted to share my thoughts on taking an online course to help some of you who might be taking an online class for the first time. I think it takes a lot of discipline to study online but you can do it! I suggest making sure you learn as much about the class as possible before it begins and deciding whether or not you are interested in the content. Luckily there is no penalty, that I know of, for enrolling and then deciding it isn’t for you, so if you are interested in the topic, I’d say it’s worth a shot. Additionally, I recommend only signing up for one class, at least at first. I know 5-7 hours a week doesn’t seem like a lot of time but you will probably find that it’s harder to make time for your class than you think. Start slow and see how it goes.

That’s all I’ve got for you today so check out some courses and see which one is best for you. Good luck and please feel free to leave a comment below. Next time, I’ll share my new favorite online resource, so come back soon.

About Tara Arntsen

Tara Arntsen
Tara Arntsen recently completed her Master's degree in Teaching-TESOL at the University of Southern California. She currently teaches in the Intensive English Program at Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota. She has taught ESOL in China, Japan, and Cambodia as well as online. Her primary interests are communicative teaching methods and the use of technology in education.
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9 Responses to Online Education: Ready, Set, Learn!

  1. Anne Johnson says:

    This research is perfect on online education system. Online education is good for those students who want to study from a distance and shy. Also it reduce the convince expenses and save time. It is always good to read your blog and subscribed.

  2. Tara Arntsen Tara Arntsen says:

    I just wanted to update this post by saying that Coursera has just announced a new professional development series for teachers. There are currently 28 courses being offered in this area so you can choose what’s best for you. Here is the blog post that introduces the courses.

  3. Melinda Burks says:

    Hi Tara! Great blog! This is great information for me as I embark on my TESOL career. I noticed you are a current MAT@USC student, as am I! I would definitely like to get your take on the program thus far as I start the May Cohort. Feel free to email me. I am looking forward to more blog post from your perspective as our world is definitely advancing at a rapid pace with online education.

    • Tara Arntsen Tara Arntsen says:

      Hi Melinda! Thank you for your comments. I’m happy to share all the awesome stuff I find with others and hope that they can benefit too. I was really impressed by the variety of Coursera’s class offerings and am looking forward to taking them once I’m done with the MAT program and have more spare time. I’ll find you on USC’s LMS and look forward to chatting with you more about USC and TESOL! I hope you find future posts helpful. Please feel free to comment anytime and share your experiences. Fight on!

  4. Carol Kubota says:


    Thanks for the information. I just signed up. I have always wondered what the courses at Coursera were like. I am currently studying to get my MEd in Instructional Design and am very interested in designing online classes.

    • Tara Arntsen Tara Arntsen says:

      Thank you for your comments, Carol! I haven’t taken a Coursera class yet but if they are anything like Udacity courses, I’m sure they’ll be great. Coursera has more variety than Udacity does right now. I was thrilled to see a number of classes related to education and am glad you were able to find something so closely aligned with your specific interests too. Let us know what you think of the class once it gets going!

  5. Tara Arntsen Tara Arntsen says:

    That’s a great question Alexandra! Honestly, since the Coursera class I want to take hasn’t started yet, I can’t be sure but it looks like it will be an asynchronous class based on the fact that the course requires reading articles and viewing YouTube videos and the related discussions take place via social media with Twitter being mentioned specifically. I think many sites like Coursera, edX, and Udacity, which I talked about in a previous post, prefer this approach because it makes the material more widely accessible and appeals to people who want more flexibility when it comes to their studying. I have also studied online with the University of Southern California and they have synchronous classes which means that, living in China and working during the day, my classes are often quite late at night, think 10pm til midnight, or super early in the morning. Both are great for different reasons. If you feel that the social aspect of learning is very important, synchronous classes might suit you better but most sites also have forums or something similar so you can still connect with your classmates. If you are a very independent learner and want more flexibility, then asynchronous classes might be best. I think the important thing to note is that meaningful discussions can take place and personal connections can be made regardless of the format. If you go ahead and take a class, let us know what you think!

  6. Alexandra Lowe Alexandra Lowe says:

    Is this a synchronous or an asynchronous class? Have you taken both? Do you have a preference for synchronous or asynchronous?

    • Tara Arntsen Tara Arntsen says:

      Oops, my reply is in the wrong spot. I think this is a great question Alexandra and responded above. Once the class I am taking with Coursera starts, I’ll let you know for sure whether it’s synchronous or asynchronous.

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