Staff spotlight

Interview with recent Penn grad Peter Barna

July 21, 2018
By Online Learning Initiative

Image of Peter


By Megan Doyle

Today we are proud to feature recent Penn graduate Peter Barna, who just started working at Coursera!

Megan: Let’s set the scene. What did you focus on while working with Open Learning?

Peter: When I started at Open Learning in the summer of 2013, MOOCs were a really new thing so I started by exploring what the first courses looked like and how they were structured. That helped a lot when I started to outline the production process for creating Penn’s MOOCs. I also worked with TAs and some instructors of these courses, showing them “best practices” for using Coursera and for converting their traditional class to an online setting.

Megan: Tell us about the new gig!

Peter: I am officially I am a Specializations Associate on the Community Operations team at Coursera. That means I work specifically on Specializations — bundles of 3 to 5 courses with a central theme on anything from software development to music to video game design. My team is in charge of setting up the necessary milestones and checklists to produce a Specialization, and then executing them through the entire process. It’s great because I am in contact with so many teams and I get to understand the different aspects of Coursera, and startups in general.

Megan: What made you stick with MOOCs?

Peter: Looking back, it seems like a natural transition to go from Open Learning to Coursera. But in the moment I was exploring different paths that it didn’t really jump out to me until Amy Bennett (my awesome boss at Open Learning!) recommended I seriously look into it. I didn’t know what I wanted to do after college exactly, but I knew I was sold on the idea of these online courses and how they can change people’s lives. So I applied, and things have worked out great!

Megan: What has been your most favorite MOOC experience so far?

Peter: It was definitely analyzing the data on who were taking Penn’s Coursera coursesall across the globe, and trying to figure out ways to increase Penn’s global reach. I got to clean and organize the raw data myself, and make sense of over a million data points. It may sound nerdy, but it was really rewarding at the end, like I had built something from scratch. And it was great for me because I studied globalization as part of PPE(the Philosophy, Politics and Economics major), and this gave me a view of globalization in action.

Megan: Thanks Peter! Best wishes on your new endeavor.