Friday, May 3, 2013

Coursera Review part 0

In this series of posts, I will share some experiences from the on-line learning platform

1. What is coursera?

A on-line learning platform of a company founded by computer science professors Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller from Stanford University. It offers on-line university-level courses in engineering, humanities, medicine, biology, social sciences, mathematics, business, computer science, and other areas.

The courses include video lecturing, discussion groups, test quizzes, programming assignments and sometimes peer-reviewed test cases. The courses are delivered professors from by leading universities. For students successfully passing the assignments, an informal certificate is issued by coursera.

Similar platforms include: EdXStanford Venture Labs, Udacity, Khan Academy, and MIT Open Courseware.

2. Who should use it?

2.1. University students who wish to enhance their education, in particular in cases in which the student does not have the opportunity to get comparable high-quality course at his home institution.

2.2. Working professionals seeking a more mentally beneficial way to relax (in other words, an alternative to sweating in a gym or some other sport, which is also my personal motivation).

2.3. People looking for a potential career change, but uncertain about the direction which they would like to take (back-to-college attitude).

3. Who should NOT use it?

3.1. Self-learners should be careful not to place their entire plans on Coursera. Coursera cannot replace a college / university education.

3.2. People looking for purely career-enhancing options should avoid coursera at all. First, coursera offers academic courses, meaning that in the usual case only a very small fraction of what you learn will ever come in a real application. It's NOT a place for hand-on, vocational-type training! Second, the certificates issued by the platform are really silly, including all of the paid alternatives around it.

3.3. People who have difficulties in learning independently, without high degree of personal interactions.

4. What is the best thing about coursera?

It's free, high quality education!

5. What is the worst thing about coursera?

It is difficult to compose an equivalent of a bachelor degree in, say, computer science, by taking the courses offered solely on the platform (at the very least, people who are self-learning should try multiple platforms). At a graduate level, the courses offered are basically 'self-contained' for 6 to 10 weeks, which means that they cannot cover a topic in the necessary depth, but rather should be viewed as 'introductions'.

6. Would I hire somebody because he did courses at coursera?

It depends. If he is just posing with 'certificates', I would easily sort him out. If she has taken some really challenging courses there as a way of self-improvement, I would consider that a big advantage.

7. What are the best courses to take?

I guess most of the courses are excellent. I will review these in detail:
1. Foundations of Business Strategy (University of Virginia).
2. Financial Engineering and Risk Management (Columbia University).
3. Computational Finance and Financial Econometrics (Washington University)
4. Natural Language Processing (Columbia University)
5. Probabilistic Graphical Models (Stanford)
6. Start-up Engineering
7. Unpredictable? Randomness, Chance and Free Will (NU of Singapore).
... more to follow.

1 comment:

way2 college said...

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