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Alathea

Alathea
El Jadida, Morocco
Bachelors Degree

Completed ( 23 )

Partially Completed ( 2 )

Audited ( 1 )

Dropped ( 1 )

Die Welt der Hanse

Written 4 years ago
1. The title is misleading: a) Half the course dealt with archaeology, mostly in relation to the pre-Hanseatic settlement of Haithabu, rather than with the "World of the Hansa". The subject is very interesting, but merited its own course rather than being included in a course supposedly about the Hanseatic League. b) There was little information about Hanseatic cities other than Lübeck or about overseas "Kontor" - so again, "The World of the Hansa" was not quite accurate.

2. There was no indication that access to the course materials would end halfway through December. I was still completing the final week (having been unable to access the course for two weeks during November) when I found that the materials were no longer available. Strangely, they now seem to be available again, but I have no idea how long this will last.

3. I spent more time on the course than the estimate allowed for because German is not my first language and it took me more time to formulate answers.

4. There was little interaction between learners, or between learners and mentors, compared to other courses I have followed.

My rating
Alathea completed this course, spending 4 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

Heart Health: A Beginner's Guide to Cardiovascular Disease

Written 4 years ago
The course was well-designed, with a good variety of presentation and interesting practicals. I learnt a lot and would recommend it to others wanting to understand the heart and what can go wrong with it. Very good involvement by the educators and mentors.
My rating
Alathea completed this course, spending 4 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

World War 1: Trauma and Memory

Written 4 years ago
I spent longer on the course each week than the estimated time because course content lead me to follow up with additional research/viewing of my own. A very thought-provoking course with information about unfamiliar aspects of WW1. However, I had expected something about the way in which memory of WW1 changed over time (and in different countries), and this I did not find in the course.
My rating
Alathea completed this course, spending 5 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

Ebola: Symptoms, History and Origins

Written 4 years ago
As another reviewer has already said, this course struck the right balance between social, political and medical aspects of the subject. Even though the course lasted only two weeks, I felt that I was much better informed by the end of the course, and almost as importantly I now have a much better idea of where to look on line for reliable information.

Dr Derek Gatherer is indeed a very engaging lecturer, and the discussions with other academics were also valuable.

I was disappointed not to be able to use the free software we were shown for analysing viruses, but that was due to a problem with my computer, which I may yet be able to sort out.

Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in the subject, whether or not you have a scientific background.
My rating
Alathea completed this course.

World War 1: A History in 100 Stories

Written 3 years ago
The course is based on the "100 Stories" project by Monash University, which seems intended to counter the heroic ANZAC "myth" as it is known in Australia, though not necessarily in the rest of the world. As a result, stories appear to have been chosen deliberately to show Australian participants in WW1 as victims, and in particular to portray those who survived the war as victims of postwar Australian authorities presented as callous, penny-pinching and incompetent. In order to support this view, there is bias both in the selection of the stories and in the information which is left out from individual stories: and the aim of the stories seems to be to generate an emotional response based on 21st century norms rather than a deeper awareness of historical context.

Each week 8 stories are presented, then there is an interview with a historian or (in one case) a playwright, then an introduction to online archival resources. I found the interviews (particularly with playwright Wesley Enoch about his play "Black Diggers") to be the most interesting part of the course. The online resources are primarily Australian, so are mainly relevant to learners interested in researching Australian archives.

I had hoped that the 100 stories would come together to give an overall picture of WW1, but this was not the case. There was little background to WW1 or to the part played by Australia in the war. There was also very little mention of the New Zealand contribution.
My rating
Alathea completed this course, spending 6 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be easy.

Causes of War

Written 3 years ago
My rating
Alathea completed this course.

Global Studies: Risks and Threats in International Relations

Written a year ago
This course looked promising, but turned out to be very disappointing.

1. The structure is poor. Individual units of the course grouped together very different topics, skipping from one to another with no clear line of argument. In a single unit, for example, we had a series of maps showing in quick succession: the countries which possess nuclear weapons, the main sites of Iran's nuclear programme, the spread of Ebola, population density in Africa, a diagramme of carbon sequestration, the territorial waters of the Gaza strip, natural gas discoveries in the Levant basin, distribution of the Tuareg in the Sahara, Kurdish zones in the Middle East, distribution of Kipchak (Tatar) languages, Aymara language area, and the distribution of Quechua dialects. That is in one single unit, with barely a few sentences to link one topic to the next: and there are around 15 units per week. Some subjects were repeated in different weeks, and progression from one week to another was not clear. No clear picture emerged of the different processes involved in international relations.

2. The course relies heavily on subjective judgements and sweeping statements: examples are "the world is falling apart", "criminals are no longer afraid of punishment", "Hardly anything ever comes out of [summit] meetings except despondency [...] and this discredits any attempt at diplomacy". In other words, everything is getting worse. More objective analysis would be useful.

3. Presentation is uninspiring. Each video consists of a "talking head" presentation in French by the same lecturer, in front of a slide show combining text, maps, graphs and photos. The maps and graphs in particular are very blurred, so if you want to study them in detail you have to find the originals. Most of them are available on line, but it would have been nice if the course team had either provided links to the websites, or clear images (eg a set of slides to download).

4. The course is supposed to be in English, but was obviously prepared in French. English transcripts and subtitles are provided for the videos, and French texts of the soundtrack of all the videos and articles are also provided. On several occasions I referred to the French because the English was incomprehensible, and I found that there were quite a few translation errors. These included failure to quote correctly from the English text of official documents. The text in the slide shows which form part of the videos is exclusively in French, as are many of the maps and tables used both in the videos and the articles.

FutureLearn seems to have greatly expanded the number of MOOCs that it is offering recently: it looks as though it is not checking their quality as carefully as it should before releasing them.

Note: the Certificate of Achievement costs $94, rather than $49 as currently shown by Class Central.

Update: to judge by the end of course email, the team are taking account of the criticisms that were made by several participants in the comments sections, and plan to improve things for the next run of the course.

My rating
Alathea audited this course, spending 10 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

Introduction to Norwegian

Written a year ago
This was a nice course, well structured and engagingly presented. Built around the activities of a group of foreign students at Oslo university, each section started with a couple of videos with dialogue presenting new vocabulary and grammar, followed by explanations of the grammar introduced, language exercises, a video demonstrating pronunciation of particular letters, and finally a "chatbot" where learners could chat - supposedly with one or other of the students featured in the course, but in fact with a program which generated more or less relevant replies to what you said to it. In other words, there was a good variety of approaches used throughout the course, which kept it interesting. I particularly liked the way that any new grammar introduced was explained immediately, so that I wasn't left wondering "why are they saying that?" through several lessons. I think the course provides a good basis for anyone wanting to learn Norwegian: if you don't take it all in at once, you can go back and consult it later. My sole caveat is that it may be a bit daunting for absolute beginners: I'd already started learning Norwegian with another course, which helped, and clearly quite a lot of the other learners were either foreigners living in Norway or at least people with some knowledge of the language.
My rating
Alathea completed this course, spending 6 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be hard.

Understanding Ramon Llull: ​Philosophy, Arts and Science through the Ars Combinatoria

Written a year ago
This is a short but intriguing introduction to Ramon Llull, a medieval figure whose name I heard but which meant very little to me before taking the course. Llull was a 13th century troubadour who after a series of visions decided to devote himself to religion, and to writing the best book against the errors of the ‘unbelievers’, ie Jews and Muslims. In the course of this he produced intricate drawings and tables which were supposed to enable one to decide what was true, and what not. He also learnt Arabic and was influenced by Islamic thought. He wrote his works in Latin, Catalan and Arabic.

The course was produced to accompany an exhibition in Barcelona presenting both Llull and modern works inspired by his imagery (ladder, tree, wheel..): as a result quite a lot of the course was taken up by the modern works of art, and I never figured out how Llull intended his "Ars combinatoria" to be used in practice. Nevertheless the course was interesting, and rewarding.

Note: videos were in Catalan but English subtitles and transcripts were provided. I don't speak Catalan, so I could not assess the quality of the translation, but it never seemed as though anything had got lost in translation, and there was no problem following the course.
My rating
Alathea completed this course, spending 4 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be easy.

Strategies for Successful Ageing

Written 10 months ago
I found much of the course simplistic. Obviously a lot of people found it inspiring, but for me it raised a lot of questions for which no answers were forthcoming from the educators. For instance: advice was based on research which has shown a correlation between healthy ageing and exercise, or healthy ageing and mental activity: but we were not told whether or not the relationships are causal, or whether targetted intervention would be effective or not. (A quick look on the internet suggests that increasing physical activity is effective, but that the jury is still out on how to improve mental activity.)

Many of the "strategies" are characteristics which will have been present in a person's life long before retirement, eg social engagement, creativity, interest in learning… This raises several questions, eg:

- Do people with these characteristics age better anyway, ie do certain personality traits, eg extraversion, creativity, make for longevity independently of conscious effort: and if so, is there any point for the rest of us in trying to change our personality as we get older?

- Do people with different traits have the same needs? Is loneliness a greater problem for extraverts than for introverts?

There has been a lot of research into personality traits, and surely someone has carried out research into personality traits and ageing: but if they have, none of it seems to have made its way into the course materials.

There was a one-size-fits-all approach which ignored diversity. A number of learners raised questions about individual differences, particularly with regard to social engagement and extraversion/introversion, but there was no response from the course team to these questions - or indeed to any others.

The course could usefully have included at least a couple of units on the psychological aspect of ageing. In fact the course is so determined to be resolutely upbeat that it ignores the whole area of coming to terms with the fact that life is gradually drawing to a close, and focused on staying young as the measure of healthy ageing. We were asked questions which were presumably intended to make us aware of stereotypes about ageing, but which actually reinforced those stereotypes. The tutors reinforced the same negative stereotyping by urging us to "think and behave young" and by making dismissive comments about people who "act old".
My rating
Alathea completed this course, spending 5 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be easy.

Ageing Well: Falls

Written 10 months ago
A straightforward and very practical course, both for elderly people who are at risk from falls, and for family, friends and carers. It looks at health issues, at the investigations carried out in falls clinics, at ways of changing one's environment to reduce the risk of falls, how to stand up after a fall, exercises to improve balance, and so on. Lots of useful information and links.
My rating
Alathea completed this course, spending 4 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

Hadrian's Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier

Written 10 months ago
One of the first MOOCs I took (2015), and still one of the best. I'd visited various sites along the Wall (Vindolanda, Housesteads, Birdoswald...) before taking the course, but having taken the course I was able to appreciate them far more. I'm planning to take the course a second time to see what new discoveries have turned up, and what new thinking has emerged about the case studies.
My rating
Alathea completed this course, spending 6 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

Shipwrecks and Submerged Worlds: Maritime Archaeology

Written 10 months ago
One of the best MOOCs I've taken, this course is wide-ranging and covers a timespan from prehistory to the present. It packs a great deal of information into 4 weeks, and would probably be better spread over 5 or even 6 weeks. I couldn't keep up the first time I took it (having enrolled for too many courses at once when I first discovered MOOCs, since they all underestimate the amount of time you need per week if you want to read around the subject and look at other online resources) so I took it a second time.
My rating
Alathea completed this course, spending 8 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

World War 1: Changing Faces of Heroism

Written 10 months ago
I did not complete the course. I had expected to learn about the ways in which the concept of heroism changed during and after WWI, but it seemed to me that the course was projecting a modern understanding of heroism back onto the 1914-18 period.
My rating
Alathea partially completed this course, spending 5 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be easy.

Deciphering Secrets: Unlocking the Manuscripts of Medieval Toledo (Spain)

Written 9 months ago
This was my fourth MOOC in the Deciphering Secrets series, which is an indication of how addictive I have found these courses. They are based on the premise that MOOCs can be used to teach learners paleography skills which can then be used as part of a crowd-sourcing effort to transcribe manuscripts dealing with inter-religious relations in medieval Spain: so in completing a course you are not just satisfying your own curiosity, but hopefully also adding to the store of shared knowledge about a fascinating period and place in history. Working on a shared project creates a real sense of online community. And as an added bonus, the skills learnt in deciphering manuscripts can be transferred to historical documents from other periods and in other languages.

The first part of this course, as with the previous ones in the series, presents the historical background: then there is an introduction to paleography, and finally a project to work on. Dr. Roger Louis Martínez-Dávila's enthusiasm for his subject is evident in the work which clearly goes into preparing each of the courses, and he expands the historical section with interviews with archivists, curators and other specialists.
My rating
Alathea completed this course.

Brain and Behavior: Regulating Body Weight

Written 8 months ago
The course is well designed to give a very short introduction to a very complex topic. Week 1 looks at environmental influences and learned behaviours which influence eating patterns. Weeks 2 and 3 look at biological factors: the role of hormones, the nervous system, genetics and epigenetics. As someone who last studied biology in school years ago, I found these two weeks challenging but very interesting, and look forward to following up this subject in the future.

A couple of minor problems could be ironed out to improve future courses, eg making the various diagrams available as slides to download rather than simply displaying them behind the lecturer.

My rating
Alathea completed this course, spending 5 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be hard.

Why Do People Migrate? Facts

Written 8 months ago
I would probably give this course a higher rating if the title actually matched the content. As it is, it focusses mainly on a couple of high-profile refugee crises (Syrian and Rohingya refugees) and on the ways the EU and Australia seek to deal with people arriving at their borders, but says very little about why people migrate when they are not in immediate danger, apart from some general references to poverty. There is no serious examination of the countries people migrate from, demographics of migrants, what migrants expect and whether or not their expectations are met, almost nothing about legal migration and migration policy in either the countries of emigration or the receiving countries, nothing at all about the economic or social impact in countries of emigration... Modules on migration within Latin America, and Mexican migration to the US were interesting, but why was there nothing at all on migration in and from Africa, in and from Asia, or to the Gulf states?

It doesn't even examine asylum policy in the sense of what the criteria are for obtaining asylum, what happens to people while their claims are being processed, and so on.

Videos had been recorded in early 2016, but the course was running two years later and the situation has evolved. Something said to have taken place "a week ago" actually occurred in January 2016. Reference articles were similarly out of date.

One of the most disappointing aspects of the course was the minimal input from the course team. They could have taken the opportunity to engage with the ambiguities and challenges of migration policy, but instead fell back on platitudes.

The European University Institute has five courses on FutureLearn, all apparently running concurrently, and almost all with the same lead educator. In addition there are courses on iversity with the same titles (Why do people migrate? Facts and Why do people migrate? Theories) with very similar content. This is presumably part of the reason why there was so little input from the course team: it is unreasonable to expect one or two people to monitor and respond to comments on so many courses at the same time.
My rating
Alathea completed this course, spending 5 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be easy.

Introduction to Dutch

Written 7 months ago
I enjoyed the course and I certainly gained a lot from it. Each week of the course starts with a couple of dialogues which bring in the vocabulary and grammar which will be studied during the week. At the end of the week you listen to the same dialogues again, and realise how much you have learnt, which is encouraging.

Input from the course team was good.

A couple of things stopped me giving this course five stars:

1. Three weeks makes for a very short introduction. In particular I felt that the course could have benefited from some units explicitly dealing with pronunciation, as in FutureLearn's Introduction to Norwegian (which is spread over four weeks). Simply repeating four short phrases in the "Listen and repeat" units did not seem adequate.

2. There are short, and very easy, tests in the course itself, but the course team have also created a series of exercises on Quizlet. Unfortunately Quizlet only recognises one correct answer for any question, which is too restricted for effective language learning. In the first two weeks I didn't find this to be a problem, but in the third week, as the questions became more complicated, I found it very frustrating to be marked wrong because I had typed "je/jij - u mag" instead of "jij/je - u mag", or "hij - ze/zij - het" instead of "hij - zij/ze - het". In the end I was spending more time trying to remember exactly what answers Quizlet wanted than focussing on vocabulary and grammar. If Duolingo can accept multiple correct answers, why can't Quizlet?

My rating
Alathea completed this course, spending 5 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be easy.

The Birmingham Qur'an: Its Journey from the Islamic Heartlands

Written 4 months ago
A very interesting, well-designed course. I was expecting the course to focus more on the Birmingham Quran itself, but in fact the Birmingham Quran was used as a way into other, related subjects, including Arabic calligraphy, book design and production, methods of dating manuscripts, resources for accessing Middle Eastern manuscripts online, and the ethics of collection. There was good feedback from the educators throughout the course (including the two weeks after the course officially ended).

I wasn't sure whether to say that the course is appropriate for beginners or intermediate. Judging by the other students' comments, the course seems to be equally interesting to people who were completely new to the topic and to those already familiar with it.
My rating
Alathea completed this course, spending 6 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

Introducing Humanism: Non-religious Approaches to Life

Written 4 months ago
The course focuses on modern humanism as a philosophical approach to life and ethics which does not rely on religious belief, rather than looking at the history of humanism. The mixture of articles and lectures from different sources led to repetition. I found the amount of time needed to watch/read the various modules was out of proportion to the amount learnt. Halfway into the second week, I bought myself a book on humanism (by one of the authors cited in the course) and found it more interesting, and more informative, than the course. For me, a six-week course is far too long to spend "studying" the issues involved in humanism.

There was no input from the course educators, which didn't help.
My rating
Alathea dropped this course, spending 4 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be easy.

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