I just finished taking the final exam for the Financial Markets course, presented by Nobel Prize winning economist Bob Schiller on the Coursera platform. This was also the first class I have taken on the Signature Track, which cost me $49.
The course is different from most other Coursera courses, in that it was not specifically recorded to be an online class. Rather, it was a series of classroom lessons video-recorded before students at Yale. I believe these videos were from 2011. As a result, the videos over 8 weeks had to be trimmed down to ensure they were not more than 1 hour per week in length causing some noticeable gaps. In fact, these might be the same videos available on the Yale Open site.
In all, it was a positive experience for me because I enjoyed the topic, got a lot out of it, and passed the class (unofficially). That always helps make a class more enjoyable.
The topic was largely a history of financial markets, tracing the roots of the stock market, futures market, mortgage market, and the various U.S. government agencies that oversee these. It also talked about the causes of the recent 2008-2009 financial crisis.
The class was not too math heavy, and rarely did we have to do calculations as part of homework. There were a couple of brief forays into calculating the present value of a bond and such, but there are online calculators available for most of those things.
I would have preferred a class specifically aimed at the online audience, since the professor could be talking directly at the video, benefit from improved audio quality of a studio environment, benefit from technology in terms of slides and graphical demonstrations. As it was, in the classroom environment, anything the professor did project onto a screen (rare) wasn’t readable to the online audience. And he spent a lot of time writing things out on a chalkboard. Since the camera was focused on him, one couldn’t really even benefit from things being posted to the chalkboard as they would go off-screen as soon as he walked over to the side.
But being what it was, it was fairly well done. I was able to leverage my test-passing techniques to take and pass the quizzes with mostly-perfect marks as the professor covered each topic. One important thing to note is that the test only gave you one chance to submit. Whereas some courses offer 3, 5, 15 or more chances to pass, whatever you submitted was your assigned grade.
As for my experience on the signature track, I don’t know what to really conclude with that yet. I did have to submit a photograph along with complete a typing exercise with each quiz submission. But did I get any value from it? It’s hard to judge. Unless I can string a few of these verified certificates together for some type of actual certification, it may not be worth it to sign up for the signature track. I wanted to try it, so it was worth it from an experimental perspective. I also want to support MOOC’s and Coursera for the great value they have provided me.