Get Yer Code On…

Have you ever thought you might want to learn some programming, but were hesitant because you didn’t have any of the prerequisites (or the funds for outrageous tuition)? If so, this course might be for you:

Programming for Everybody

I just completed a different course by the same professor, Dr. Charles Severance of the University of Michigan. I liked it so much I have enrolled in this one as well. Dr Chuck (his preferred moniker) has a way of taking really complex ideas and breaking them down into understandable chunks without sacrificing the integrity of the information.

The textbook for this course is offered under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License, which means it is free, and can be adapted by anyone as long as it is not for commercial purposes (which is cool, IMHO).

The course begins on October 6th, and is 10 weeks long. This is being offered on Coursera (the best platform for MOOCs that I have found).

Introduction to Linux on edX


I am gearing up for the Introduction to Linux MOOC being offered by the Linux Foundation on the edX platform. Since I am currently studying for the LPIC-1 certification, I feel this course will be useful as supplemental training. The course begins on August 1st. Enrollment is still open. There is no fee. That’s right, this is free (who says there is no such thing as a free lunch). The course has the support of Linus Torvalds, the principal developer behind the Linux kernel (He released the initial kernel back in 1991, and it continues to be developed, along with many other tools and utilities, by the ever-growing community of GNU/Linux enthusiasts). As its name implies, this particular course is an Intro course. It promises to give a solid foundation to build upon. From the description on the edX site:

Upon completion of this training you should have a good working knowledge of Linux, from both a graphical and command line perspective, allowing you to easily navigate through any of the major Linux distributions. You will be able to continue your progress as either a user, system administrator or developer using the acquired skill set.

So, grab a distro of your choice (a good place to look is here), install it on your system, or run it through a Hypervisor like VMware Player or VirtualBox, and sign up for the course. Perhaps I will see you in the discussion forum?

A General Note about MOOCs
I have been exploring several MOOCs since last year and have found them to be helpful in terms of continuing education. Now don’t get me wrong, some MOOCs are better than others. It really depends on several factors. First and foremost is the mindset of the student. Are you a self-motivated learner that doesn’t need a lot of hand-holding? Are you disciplined? Does time management come relatively easy for you? If so, you might be a prime candidate for a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course).

Another factor that comes into play is the platform offering the MOOC. My favorite so far– hands down–has been Coursera, where I have successfully completed four courses as well as auditing several others. I am currently enrolled in several courses there at the time of this writing, and will continue to go back again and again as long as I keep finding subjects of interest. They have a wide selection, not just technology, math and science either. They are one of the few I have found that also offer humanities courses.

I have also tried Udemy. This platform is alright, but not really what I am looking for. It has a mix of free and paid courses. What I have found is that the free courses are often very general, to give you a taste in hopes that you will then be willing to pay for the higher level courses. There is not much of a discussion forum to speak of, and that is important to me (see below). Though if I want a general overview of a topic and I can’t find it on another platform, I’ll check Udemy to see what is available. I have never paid for a course because I haven’t been all that impressed with the free courses, so I don’t know if the paid ones are worth the cost.

Lastly, I have tried edX. To be fair, I only attempted one course with edX, so my experience there is limited. That said, the course I took had some technical issues that ultimately led me to discontinue the course and write off edX as a lost cause. One of the driving factors behind a MOOC is the discussion forum. This is where most of the action happens. In a sense, one can think of the discussion forum as the virtual classroom where students, instructors and TA’s gather to discuss the lectures, exchange ideas, and engage more fully with the coursework. Without a stable and active forum, a MOOC is little more than a series of video lectures. My first experience with edX was that the discussion forum kept crashing. ┬áIt is possible this was just an issue with that one course. That is my hope, because it was very frustrating. I know it was not my system. I have plenty of RAM, a large hard-drive, and a fairly powerful CPU. My Internet connection is fine as well, and I have not experienced any similar issues on other platforms. This all adds up to it being on edX’s side. Yet I am going to give them a second chance. They are offering a course on Linux, so they got my attention (I’ve been looking for one on Coursera with no luck).