Wednesday, January 30, 2013

My most recent MOOC experience

I just finished a four week course offering in Computing for Data Analysis from Coursera. It was both exciting and challenging. Exciting  because I was learning how to use R in formal manner. I've played with some code in R but I've always wanted to learn it in a more structured way, and this was a great opportunity. Challenging  because  I had to put in the 5 to 6 hours of work everyweek to listen to videos, play around with enough code to do the assignments and  attempt the quizzes. I am glad I was not taking any grad coursework during the J-Term.

The videos were excellent. I love the way Dr Roger D. Peng makes you feel like he is talking exclusively to you. The discussion forums were excellent, and it was a great resource to look at when I was stuck.

The MOOCs I attended earlier were on topics I was doing as part of my coursework, or had taken courses on as a student. So, the learning experience here was different.

The learning process is iterative, you keep going back to the drawing board trying to a new way and then suddenly you nail it. Like any college level course, some parts are very interesting and some not so much.

The sheer amount of self-motivation required to keep yourself going is exhausting. Independent learning and some understanding of the topic are key ingredients to success at MOOCs. For me, I have taken several classes in statistics, so my struggle was with the computing part of the course. If I were not familiar with statistics, I may have stuggled even more or maybe just given up. All the same, there were times I wanted to just walk away and say 'I am not made for this', but I just hung on and I've done it!

My only complaint has more to do with R, than with the coursework. My greatest challenge was decipering the online exchanges and discussions in stackoverflow and other communities.

To finish  off, I would reccomend trying a relatively new topic on MOOC. It is a great way to challenge yourself and make use of the opportunity to learn courses offered by some of the best universities in the world and taught by some of the best minds in the field.


  1. Hey Sona, Well written piece.
    Believe it or not :) I enrolled for a 15 week course in "Introduction to Finance" with Coursera yesterday. Downloaded the videos today. The course material is quite extensive and tough, now I have you for inspiration.... Hugs, Liza

  2. For the uninitiated MOOC = Massive Open Online Course! :D