After my company announced that they would be shutting down I was in a mad scramble to plan for what was next. And with the airline sector taking a massive hit because of Covid, I was faced with the reality that come “D-Day” I would be left not able to find an aviation job. So I was in a mad scramble to figure out what else I could do until the aviation sector returned. And thanks to a friend I decide to check out Coursera.
So what is Coursera?
Coursera is an online course where a person can learn skills in IT. Backed by organizations like Google, Duke University, Illinois (College), University of Michigan, IBM, Imperial College London, Stanford, and the University of Penn. For about $50 a month, with the first month being free, one can attend basic IT courses and get certified to be able to start an entry level career in IT. Did it do what was advertised?
After you sign up you are given your modules. The first module was Technical Support Fundamentals. This course both covers the basic fundamentals of IT as well as the fundamentals of how to navigate through the course. Each class is broken down into 6 week blocks, which can be done in 2 days if you have two free 8 hour days. You click on the slide and you can either listen or follow along below as each video is transcribed below, something that would prove helpful in the tougher courses. After about 3 videos you are given a quiz to make sure you have been following along. You are also presented with supplemental reading that may or may not be on a test The first class did not have any test questions from the supplemental reading, but the latter classes had a few. After a few more videos and quizzes you will take a test at the end of the week, which is a timed graded test that you get 3 tries to pass. If you do not pass in 3 tries you will have to wait 24 hours before you can take it again. Following the graded test is usually a graded assignment (labs) that consists of coding or building a virtual computer.
Coming from a tech background I found the later courses to just be dense with information. Especially when you get into the networking courses. I left not feeling like I “learned” but more that I crammed in a bunch of information just to pass. I came away actually frustrated at times, especially during test and quiz time. Because the information was just too much to retain and it reflected in the tests. During the later courses it took me several times to pass the test. And twice I came within a few points from having to wait another day to retest. I left the weekly courses feeling discouraged and frustrated by the tests versus encouraged about the few things I did learn. And though you can do the “labs” on a Chromebook, there were times you had to use another device and even two computers. This can be discouraging to someone who only have a chromebook, or do not have multiple devices. Though I’ll admit that many will likely be fine as most households have PCs.
So did this course do what it said?
I honestly left not feeling confident that I could earn an IT job based on the course alone. When I completed A&P school to get licensed to fix aircraft. I felt confident I could start a career and have the basics to be able to learn in the industry. I did not feel that way about this course. If I earned a tech job it would be because of my previous experience with tech. But if my only training and knowlege came from this course alone, I would be the guy that went into the job day one unprepared. I would literally have to rely on my empoyer and coworkers to teach me the basics versus just teaching me company policies. And being an A&P who have witnessed mechanics who have been passed through their A&P, versus making sure they really learned, I know that only sets them up for a bad footing in the industry. Employers would have to be patient. But if you are someone who grew up in IT and already knew how to do many of the things that people are looking for in the IT industry, then this certification could be a cheaper way to get your foot in the door. Very benificial from someone not able to go to a 4 or even a 2 year school. I personally earned my A&P from a 2 year school and went back to school while working an aviation job. This allowed me to earn a 4 year degree in aviation from Embry Riddle without going into a lot of debt.