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.  It 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).


Fantasy and Science Fiction – Lit Class

Fantasy and Science Fiction

As mentioned in a previous post, I am enrolled in the Fantasy and Science Fiction course offered by Professor Eric Rabkin on the Coursera platform.  This is an 11 week course and we are currently closing out our 6th week. The work load is high. For each unit we have selected readings (which often include full-length novels, or sometimes several short stories and/or novellas). We have a week to complete the readings for each unit, and then every Tuesday we submit a short essay on the previous week’s readings (between 270 and 320 words). We then have to complete 5 peer reviews (anonymously) for our fellow course mates by Thursday of that week.

The experience thus far has been very rewarding. The discussion forum is typically lively and engaging. The videos Prof. Rabkin releases each week are wonderful. I like that he waits until after we have done the readings and written our own essays before releasing his videos for that unit. This allows the students to think through our own views from a close reading of the text(s), arrive at a theme or aspect of the story we want to explore, and then write a short essay on the material without being unduly influenced by the Professor’s literary analysis ahead of developing our own ideas. It works for me, and I see why he does it this way. Professor Rabkin knows his stuff. The videos are always insightful.

Here is the reading list for the course:

  1. Grimm — Children’s and Household Tales
  2. Carroll — Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass
  3. Stoker — Dracula
  4. Shelley — Frankenstein
  5. Hawthorne & Poe — Stories and Poems**
  6. Wells — The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Invisible Man, The Country of the Blind and The Star
  7. Burroughs & Gilman — A Princess of Mars and  Herland
  8. Bradbury — The Martian Chronicles
  9. LeGuin — The Left Hand of Darkness
  10. Doctorow — Little Brother

I missed one week due to being out of town on holiday (Unit 3, Dracula). I have read the novel in the past, yet I plan on returning to it and writing my essay anyway.

** The specific stories/poems for Unit 5 are as follows –
Hawthorne’s The Birthmark, Rappaccini’s Daughter, Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment,  and The Artist of the Beautiful; Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Black Cat, The Oval Portrait, The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar, The Bells, The Raven and Annabel Lee.

Video Editing Software?

Camera Lens

Those following this blog know that I am currently enrolled in the Rhetorical Composing MOOC from Ohio State University. As part of our most recent assignment, we were asked to choose an issue of social concern that is meaningful to us and create a form of ‘visual rhetoric’ about the topic. Some folks made posters, others made postcards, I decided to try my hand at a sideshow-type video. This is the first time I have ever done so. Due to potential copyright issues I will not be sharing the specific video here. However, I really enjoyed the experience and it has got me thinking about venturing into further exploration of creating videos made for public release. I’m not talking about professional Hollywood movies are anything like that, more along the lines of a YouTube video series. For the recent project I used Windows Live Movie Maker as it was already installed on my computer. That said, I am looking for a more robust video editor. I am OK with some complexity as my technical knowledge is intermediate to advanced. I don’t write code (with the exception of HTML, some PHP and some XML) but I do have a background in IT–technical support for eCommerce, software support, some web development and design, etc.

A question to my readers…anyone out there making videos? If so, what software do you use? I am on a Windows system and looking for a freeware and/or open source video editor. For audio editing I am learning Audacity. I am also shopping around for a decent webcam as the only one I have is the built-in cam on my laptop, which is really lousy in terms of quality. So, recommendations on webcams are welcomed as well.

A Fantasy/Sci-Fi Course on Coursera!

Attention all Fantasy and Sci-Fi fans and writers! I learned there is a course coming up in June called, Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World. This looks quite interesting. The start date is 3 June 2013. The course is 11 weeks long. I just signed up. Maybe you will join me in this adventure? This MOOC thing is becoming irresistible. I just need to make sure I don’t enroll in more than I can handle at one time.


More on MOOCs

As mentioned in a previous post, I have enrolled in several MOOCs offered through the Coursera website. At present the only one that has already begun is Writing II – Rhetorical Composing (from Ohio State University). We are in our second week. This is my first experience learning in a MOOC environment (with the exception of a false start with the Introduction to Philosophy course). My impression so far? In one word…gratitude!

Continue reading

Experiments in MOOCing

I’ve taken the plunge. I have entered the world of MOOCs. No, this is not a new type of video game (I’m not a gamer). “MOOC” stands for Massive Open Online Course. There are several providers offering MOOCs. A friend of mine pointed me towards Coursera. I am much more of a humanities guy than a science guy (though I do find the sciences rather fascinating at times) so I was excited to learn that Coursera does offer some classes in the humanities.  My first attempt was with the Introduction to Philosophy course, yet some unexpected obligations came up in my life at the time which prevented me from following through with that. If they offer it again, I will enroll. At present I am currently enrolled in several writing courses – Crafting an Effective Writer: Tools of the Trade (begins on May 13th), First-Year Composition 2.0  (begins on May 27th) and Writing II: Rhetorical Composing (started on April 22nd). In addition, I have also enrolled in Søren Kierkegaard – Subjectivity, Irony and the Crisis of Modernity (doesn’t begin until October 7th). Did I mention this is all for free?

It looks like the next several months or so will be writing, writing and more writing for me. I told myself at the beginning of the year that I wanted to focus more on my writing, to try to write at least a little bit each day, to hone my craft, to sharpen my skills, to continue to improve my ability to communicate through the written (typed) word. Taking these courses will, no doubt,  go a long way towards fulfilling that goal. I needed the push, now I’ve got it.