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?