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Melinda Barber

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Background: Former Marketing Manager, MBA, Stay-home mom for decade -- trying to update knowledge base. I registered for An Introduction to Operations Management, a nine-week MBA course. The professor, a very personable German native from the University of Pennsylvania, conducted weekly lectures from his university office. I viewed them, at my convenience, from the comfort of my laptop. There were periodic Q&A;’s throughout the lecture to keep you engaged – I later learned that they track the responses to these questions. The professor spent an appropriate amount of time on each concept, was upbeat in his delivery, and shared interesting anecdotes. After watching the lectures, there were practice problems with solutions and homework assignments, which could be worked offline but had to be submitted online by the due date. When I had a question, I simply posted it on the discussion forum and a teaching assistant or fellow student would help me through it. The final exam was broken into sections, which could be completed and submitted separately – it was long, but not unreasonable. Midway through the course, our professor offered an optional challenge, which gave us the opportunity to apply our knowledge to a workplace or personal experience. This one-page submission was randomly distributed to at least five other students for peer review. In turn, I had to evaluate at least five papers. The course outline estimated a weekly time commitment of five to seven hours. I probably averaged ten hours per week. However, with a final score of 97.8%, I received a Statement of Accomplishment with Distinction. According to the professor, 87,000 people signed up for the course, about half participated to some extent, 7,000 completed the course, and 4,000 received a Statement of Accomplishment. Individuals from every continent, except Antarctica, participated in this new- age classroom – half of the students live outside of North America. I am the product of a brick and mortar education and have always questioned the legitimacy of online education. This experience has changed my opinion: it really seems to be a quality option for disciplined adults who are committed to learning but limited on time. My Coursera endeavor provided me with new business tools, exercised dormant parts of my brain, boosted my confidence level (not too old to learn), and gave me something fresh to add to my LinkedIn page. I would certainly recommend it – well worth the time, nothing to lose. College students should consider this program prior to taking a challenging course. I will no doubt take another Coursera course.