How to build a MOOC curriculum for yourself

If you are serious about online learning, an organized approach will help you get started. It took me a long time sifting through hundreds of random courses before I focused my efforts. Try the following steps to get on track with learning new skills.

First, find a course that really interests you. Skip the introductory courses and find the more advanced ones. Look for skills and subjects that you’ve always wanted to learn but never had the opportunity. Make sure the course is too difficult for you! This one is not supposed to be easy.

Then audit the course to familiarize yourself with the requirements. Don’t pay for it at this point. Start by watching the course introduction and intro videos to every section of the course. Have a look at some of the written course materials. Throughout all this, make notes of everything you don’t understand and how those concepts relate to each other.

Work backwards from that point on to find courses that will help you understand every concept you need to finish your ultimate goal.

For example

Let’s imagine we are interested in Artificial Intelligence for Robotics -course. Sign up and explore the materials. Then mark down which concepts are hard. Having trouble with calculating probabilities? Write it down. Don’t understand the charts? Make a note.

Then sign up for intro to statistics and intro to probabilities. From your notes, you can build a whole curriculum that takes you towards your target, the one you started from.

For a ready-made Computer Science curriculum

Open Source Society University

Open Source Society has built a 31-course curriculum of freely available Computer Science courses from the best universities around the world for you to study on your own time. Because the courses are from different platforms, they created a website to track your progress.

How many online courses have you taken? Did you have an organized approach or did you just study the most interesting courses you could find?

Going back to school – for real

It’s time for a new adventure! Early December, I will be leaving HERE after more than six amazing years and moving to Finland. I’ll start a spring track of math and physics studies at an open university to gain admission to Aalto University in Helsinki for a Computer Science degree.

A while back I wrote how Massive Open Online Courses are great for those embracing life-long learning. I’ve certainly been active in that area, finishing three courses in the recent months and working on another three computer science courses from MIT on edX.

And now it’s time to go back to school for real.

Why Computer Science?

I’ve been coding for as long as I can remember. The first programming language I tried was QBasic sometime in the mid-90s. I wanted to know what made the classic game Gorillas work behind the scenes. I remember going through some example code and being super proud when I made my computer screen blink randomly in different colors.

When I was fourteen, I had moved on to Visual Basic through some experiments in Delphi. I programmed a converter for resistor and capacitor color codes to numeric values. It replaced the old DOS-based program in the shop class of my elementary school and was used at least five years later when my brother went there. It’s a shame I don’t have the source code or the executable anymore.

Ever since I moved next to Silicon Valley, my interest in Computer Science has grown stronger. I’m working next to brilliant engineers at the HERE Berkeley office. I’ve found tech meetups in San Francisco for every day of the week. I started learning programming in Ruby after years of working in PHP for web development. I created reddit multis to follow all the /r/programming -related subreddits. Sometimes I can’t help but worry about not sleeping enough, it’s hard for me to sleep 8 hours per day as I should. Usually, my nights are all about research or programming, either way I’m in front of a computer screen the whole time. I’ve begun to take a natural supplement from Kratommasters to help with my sleep disorder,

Now, over 10 years after my first published work as a hobbyist, it’s time to get serious about computers and programming. You can follow along the journey here and Twitter.

Back to school with Massive Open Online Courses

Hi, my name is Jere and I’m addicted to online learning. Over the years, I have started over 50 different online courses. I’ve only finished a few. Just recently, I earned my first certificate from Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). I’ve learned a lot and more importantly, had a great time participating in the courses. That’s why I believe MOOCs will – if they haven’t already – revolutionize learning.

Harvard Business Review listed three ways to use MOOCs to advance your career. But it doesn’t have to be just to advance your career. I use them to learn new skills. I enjoy learning. Maybe some of the skills will help me at my job or somewhere along my career.  I do it for that a-ha moment, that feeling when I conquer a challenge.

First thing to understand about MOOCs is that it’s okay not to finish a course.

It’s okay to leave assignments unfinished and to watch only the videos you’re interested in. You’re not learning new knowledge for a teacher or a parent. These courses are first and foremost about you.

I love computer science and software development. I just never officially studied it. Instead, I dabble as a hobby on my free time. I’ve watched hundreds of hours of YouTube videos because there is a 3-minute video for nearly anything you can imagine. That’s how I learned the basics of PHP and then searched Stack Overflow whenever I had more detailed questions.

However, YouTube is limited and doesn’t exactly offer curricula on any specific subject. That’s why I turned to MOOCs by established providers. You probably already have a subject or two in mind that might be of interest. These are the ones I have tried and recommend checking out:

  1. edX – great, university quality courses, no nonsense
  2. Udacity – good especially if going for a Nanodegree, which groups together relevant courses into a comprehensive package
  3. Coursera – The home of the famous Machine Learning course by Andrew Ng
  4. Khan Academy – Aimed at a younger, pre-university audience which makes it great for a recap of calculus
  5. Udemy – Mostly paid courses, taught by people around the world
  6. Lynda (Paid access) – Haven’t found suitable courses yet, mileage may vary

Depending on your area of interest, you will quickly find the site that best suits you. One common thread among these providers is that they have an extensive collection of programming and web development courses.

The first time I tried to study machine learning, I couldn’t finish all the work in the course or grasp all the concepts as the course progressed. I wasn’t ready to jump straight into watching videos about linear regression models and supervised learning.

What I learned was that I really enjoy the subject so I decided to find out what I had to learn first in order to finish the course. And that’s exciting! Now I have completed two Data Science courses with certificates from edX and have a plan on what to study next. Eventually, I will conquer machine learning.

Instead of watching delayed Olympic sports on NBC tonight, how about learning some world history on Khan Academy?