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Interview Meet Hamideh Iraj: An educational journey with MOOCs

Posted in 'Life-changing experiences of learning with MOOCs' started by Carolyn, Jul 6, 2015.

  1. Carolyn

    Carolyn Founder at MoocLab Staff Member

    Suffolk, UK
    The following interview was conducted by MoocLab member @Ankit Khandelwal .
    Ankit Khandelwal has pioneered the UNESCO endorsed “Zero Cost MBA” using MOOCs with a “quest to acquire skills to become a future global manager”. With over 20 completed MOOCs to his name, Ankit is an experienced MOOC-er and is keen to hear about other people’s MOOC journeys and had a vision to take the benefits of MOOCs from the perspectives of as many people as possible.

    MOOC’s are not unknown to many self-learners. Those learners come from different parts of the world, belong to different age groups and engage in different professions, giving this virtual mode of education a totally different flavor. As an enthusiastic MOOC student myself and having invented my entire Zero Cost MBA project out of these online courses, it is always my pleasure to meet and interact with passionate MOOC students across the world.

    So going further in the interview series of bringing MOOC insights from people around the world, in this interview we have spoken to MoocLab member, @Hamideh iraj. Hamideh has been taking MOOC since 2013 and completed many courses. A graduate student in Information technology, she has not just pursued her passion to gain more skills but also spent time in reviewing many courses (on the CourseTalk platform) to help other learners in choosing their desired MOOCs. Read the excerpts from the interview done via e-mail.

    Hamideh Iraj.jpg

    1. Hi! Hamideh, welcome and thanks for coming on-board for this interview series. Can you tell us more about yourself? And how you started to take MOOC courses?

    My name is Hamideh Iraj. I was born and grew up in Tehran, Iran. I have always been a top student in school and I have always loved math. I studied Industrial Engineering in my bachelor's program and I worked for 5 years after graduation. In spring 2012, I left my full-time job and started to study for the master's entrance exam the next winter. Spring 2013 was the time when I noticed MOOCs for the first time. In the meanwhile, I was admitted to study a master's in Information Technology Management at University of Tehran, Faculty of Management (which is the number one management school in Iran). From the very beginning, I knew that studying a master's degree alone would not satisfy me and I decided to follow my MOOCs seriously in parallel. Over the last two years, I passed more than twenty courses formally and I audited some others and the journey is going to continue.

    2. Interesting, can you also tell us how you got to know about MOOC? What was your initial reaction?

    I found MOOCs almost accidentally when I was searching for some video content. I was really excited to discover them. Despite the fact that I was familiar with OCW (Open Courseware) from its early days, it was totally new; a more realistic learning experience to everyone, everywhere. The first thing that I did was to introduce it to my friends. Soon they used MOOCs for their personal learning and job training.

    3. It is not a hidden fact that MOOCs are different to the current format of university education. How were you able to adapt to this new format of learning during initial days?

    In fact, I didn't adapt to it. It came to me very naturally because I am a self-learner. Before stumbling upon MOOCs, I learned many skills by podcasts including Excel from MR Excel and Photoshop from Photoshop TV. I reinforced my English language by ESLPod and these days I am learning Arabic by ArabicPod. So the idea of learning without a teacher was not new to me.

    4. How have MOOC complemented your journey of gaining knowledge? Or how did you use the knowledge gained through MOOC?

    The time I started taking MOOCs coincided with the time I was a full-time student so it took all my life. I learned the concepts that were not offered in my master's program or simply there was not enough time to teach them so my formal curriculum and my informal MOOC curriculum complemented each other. I have two books (The first big data and the first data science books in Persian) and two scientific papers (one about implementing the flipped classroom and the other about data scientists in Iran) under publication in which I used the knowledge I gained by MOOCs. In other words, I used my MOOCs knowledge on the bed of a university program to maximize the outputs.

    5. Any interesting experience in your journey of taking more than 30 MOOCs?

    It was finding friends on discussion forums and meeting them. It was really interesting to see how different people with different purposes were attracted to MOOCs and how they use the knowledge in their lives.

    6. How did discussion forums in these courses prove useful to you?

    They were places for learning and networking. I learned a lot from active students who created a vibrant community of learners. Also, I created a dense network of MOOCers on LinkedIn based on MOOCs discussion forums.

    7. Are there any difficulties you have faced while studying through MOOCs?

    My only difficulty was following both my university courses and my MOOCs simultaneously. I had to manage time to do both and at some times it was difficult. Needless to say, Final Exams days were the only days I was away from my beloved MOOCs, counting the days for getting back to them!

    8. If you had to teach/design any MOOC, what would they be? And what would you keep in mind while designing them?

    I really wish to create MOOCs for high-school students about fields of study in university and different jobs in the job market, helping them to find their interests. In my eyes, nothing can be more useful than this; turning a cloud of vagueness closer to reality and creating a world full of data, insight and idea for them.

    9. What were your favorite courses and why?

    I consider MOOCs to be classified as university MOOCs, industry MOOCs and creativity MOOCs. Each of these groups have their own purpose. University MOOCs are those you can find in universities, emphasizing concepts rather than technology and designed and run by university professors. Of this category, my favorites are Machine Learning, Data Analysis and Statistical Inference , Developing Data Products and Applied Logistic Regression.

    Industry MOOCs are the MOOCs that concentrate on technology and technological skills rather than concepts. Of the industry group the only MOOC I took was Introduction to Linux and finally the third groups includes courses that you cannot find anywhere. Of the this group my favorites are Rapid Book Publishing, 30 Days of TED, Teaching Flipped and Networked Scholars. The point that differentiates this group from others is that they are creative and they teach you what you need and you do not even know that you need them.

    10. MOOCs are not for everyone, do you agree with this statement? If yes, then what qualities must a student possess to get the maximum out of any MOOC?

    Yes I agree. MOOCs work for self-learners. MOOCs are not flawless. They have a lot of problems, very much similar to courses one takes in his/her lifetime. Only those who are passionate learners will be able to fill the gaps by themselves, overcome problems and create a unique learning experience for themselves. Degree lovers do not have a place in MOOCs as long as they do not value learning.

    11. You were also a reviewer on other websites such as CourseTalk, helping other students choose MOOCs. What prompted you to write the reviews?

    I think by writing reviews I can share my knowledge of MOOC usage to prospective MOOC students. Each of us can help in creating a flow of knowledge for ourselves, something that no machine can do.

    12. Any advice you want to give any prospective MOOC student?

    Any of you who has enjoyed and learned from MOOCs, has experienced something different and eccentric for many people. Each of you can be an evangelist to use the MOOCs in order to bring a fresh air to your world. MOOCs are not our goal, they are tools to reach the goals that you define. You can use MOOC for improving your educational system, saving people's lives, encouraging people to philanthropy, helping deprived and underrepresented people, educating people in rural areas and so on. It is in your hands. You have all the power to use it to make the world a better place. Just do it!

    13. Which MOOCs you are currently taking or planning to take?

    I am now following Data Mining Specialization on Coursera. In near future, I want to try a usual MOOC in Arabic language (maybe a management course) to reinforce my Arabic skills.
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2015
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