Within the last few months, Coursera — the online education platform that offers free classes from UCSF and other top universities — released a mobile app for both iPhone and iPad (iOS 7 only). Meant to supplement, not replace, the full desktop experience at coursera.org, the app offers basic features that make it easier to keep up with Coursera classes on the go. Use the app to:
- view and sync video lectures
- take course quizzes and other assessments
- view the course syllabus for your class
- search for and enroll in other Coursera classes
Easily Watch Video Lectures
The app’s main feature, watching video lectures, works very well. You can either stream the video content on the go, or sync the lectures for offline viewing.
There is a handy “next” button so that you can flip through lectures while in full-screen view, and you can even speed up or slow down the lecture speed while you watch.
To avoid heavy data usage via the Coursera app, you can (1) sync your lectures from a wifi connection and (2) turn off the app’s access to cellular data on your phone. To do this, visit your iOS settings page (Settings –> Cellular) and toggle off Coursera, as shown.
Room to Grow
The Coursera app does not currently support discussion forums or peer-assessed writing assignments, two important components in UCSF’s courses. To access these features, you still have to visit the full site at www.coursera.org.
It would be nice if the app integrated quiz reminders and other deadlines into the iOS Notification Center. Similar to the eBay app, which sends a push notification when an auction you’re watching is about to end, the Coursera app could notify you that your quiz is due in 24 hours.
I’d also like to be able to annotate video lectures as I watch them. Since the app doesn’t provide a way to contact the instructor or other students, it would be helpful to enter notes while viewing a lecture. Then, back at my computer, I could post my questions or comments to the class forum.
Lastly, a small complaint: upon searching the iPhone app for the full list of classes offered by UCSF, I noticed that neither “UCSF” nor “UC San Francisco” returned any results. I had to begin typing “University of California, San Francisco” to find the right page.
On the Horizon
Overall, I’m finding this app well designed and useful for watching Coursera’s excellent content on the go. If you’ve tried Coursera for iOS, please share your thoughts in the comments.