Coursera Announces 12 New Project-Based Learning Courses


Coursera has announced the launch of 12 new project-based courses that cover topics ranging from persuasive writing to computer construction.

A blog post on the Coursera website refers to research that finds when people delve into solving real-life problems they tend to have an easier time mastering new content, they improve upon their ability to solve problems, and are better prepared for more difficult tasks ahead.

More research on project-based learning has taken place over the past ten years, with most of it occurring in only the last few years.  The review takes a closer look at the topic, which it considers to be a model that bases learning around the completion of projects that involve complex tasks involving challenging questions. Students are required to solve through activities such as designing, problem-solving, decision making, or investigating, which will result in a realistic product or presentation.  In addition, the process involves authentic content and assessment, teacher facilitation rather than direction, and explicit educational goals.

The research suggests that projects become the curriculum for this model of learning, which allows students to learn by doing.  Coursera says that the projects will focus on questions that push students to tackle the central concepts of a discipline that require them to become involved in a constructive investigation.  These projects are not “school-like,” but are real in that they contain characteristics that cause them to feel authentic.

Project-based courses offer students the ability to master topics by applying new concepts to real-world situations as they learn.  At the same time, instructors provide students with guidance and suggestions. Students have access to an entire community of learners who hold similar goals to themselves, and once the course is completed, the projects that students have completed are then available for them to use and share.

Research has shown positive academic outcomes resulting from this type of learning, including a deeper understanding of academic content and an increased motivation to learn.

Comparisons made between project-based learning and more traditional instruction find that students who participated in project-based learning tend to remember content for a longer period of time and have a stronger understanding of what they have learned.  This method has been found to be more effective for teaching specific topics such as math, economics, language, and science, among others.  Students who have participated in this type of learning have also been found to perform better on high-stakes testing than those who learned through traditional methods.

In all, 12 new project-based courses are currently open for enrollment, with sessions beginning as early as next week.  Interested learners can sign up to take a course on a number of topics, including writing professional emails, designing infographics, building an Android app, building a modern computer, or even writing a comic book or television script.

Three additional courses are expected to open soon on topics including creating an interactive website, writing a scientific paper and writing a resume.