Leveraging online courses: Experiences of a 9th grader

Platforms like Coursera and edX provide excellent avenues to students to complement school.

By Soham Bhatt

Knowledge is like a stream of flowing river, rather than silos of subjects. It depends on a student’s motivation to drink and imbibe the most from this ever-flowing river. While schools remain the dominant source of acquiring knowledge, Massive Open Online course (MOOC) platforms like Coursera and edX provide excellent avenues to students to complement school academics, and even go beyond. They provide students with an opportunity to pick and choose courses of interest from some of the world’s best institutions and pursue them at one’s own pace and satisfy the urge to acquire knowledge.

I have experienced the power and benefits of MOOC first-hand, and hope my experiences would encourage students to leverage such platforms. For instance, Special Theory of Relativity is generally taught at undergraduate level, and Trigonometry generally gives goose bumps to high school students. How does a young, curious and motivated mind satisfy its desire to understand such topics?

After having studied Newtonian Kinematics during 6th and 7th grade, I got deeply interested in theoretical physics. My quest to study this topic led me to MOOC. I experienced the joy of understanding Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity through a MOOC course by Cornell University on edX. The course equipped me to comprehend this fascinating and intuitive theory, and gave me the confidence to interact with theoretical physicists and students at prestigious institutions like the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) and Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in India and Harvard and UPenn in the United States. This culminated into a review paper on “Understanding of Special Theory of Relativity.”

Soham Bhatt
Soham Bhatt: Self-study of Trigonometry

As a young boy and a student of Indian classical drums, Tabla, I was mesmerized by planetary motion, changing seasons, circular rhythmic patterns in Tabla, or any phenomena which was uniformly periodic in a circular motion in nature. I figured out a very elegant pattern in all cyclic periodic phenomena — all the periodic phenomena were supported by a framework of seemingly complicated branch of mathematics called “Trigonometry.” While I had controlled my urge to learn Trigonometry, it was in Grade 8 that the “Trigo bug” bit me hard. After completing Grade 8, I enrolled into a MOOC on Coursera named “Pre-Calculus: Trigonometry” conducted by University of California, Irvin, to self-study Trigonometry from basic to intermediate level.  It was another enriching experience and I exuberantly raced through the 9-week course in 10 days!

I would like to recommend aspiring self-learners, from middle and high school, the following five MOOC related to Physics, Chemistry, Math and Biology (PCMB) taught by some of the world’s best institutes and minds:

  1. https://www.coursera.org/learn/trigonometry (Course Name- Pre-Calculus: Trigonometry, Subject-Math, Taught by- UC,Irvine)

  2. https://www.edx.org/course/principles-biochemistry-harvardx-mcb63x-0 (Course Name- Principles of Biochemistry, Subject- Biology, Taught by Harvard University)

  3. https://www.coursera.org/learn/einstein-relativity (Course Name- Understanding Einstein: The Special Theory of Relativity, Subject- Physics, Taught by Stanford University)

  4. https://www.edx.org/course/chemistry-life-kyotoux-001x-2 (Course Name- The Chemistry Of Life, Subject- Chemistry, Taught by Kyoto University)

  5. https://www.coursera.org/learn/genes (Course name – Genes and the Human Condition (From Behavior to Biotechnology), Subject – Biology, Taught by University of Maryland, College Park)

(Soham Bhatt is a student of Grade 9. He is a National Scholar in Tabla, an avid Tennis player, and has keen interest in Mathematics, Science and Sanskrit.)

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