In the River Again

Posted: March 29, 2013 in Uncategorized

You can’t step in the same river twice, but that doesn’t necessarily stop me from trying.

Like a lot of people in the software industry, I’ve been tentatively dipping my toe in taking courses on Coursera. I’m a bit dubious about some of the claims that are flying about that massively whatever online courses are going to change the world — they remind me of the Segway, for one, and also seem to completely ignore the use of education as a gatekeeper — but I do think the courses have some merit. Particularly for people like me who have credentials which are slightly, but not entirely, askew from the standard background in their current field. So I’ve signed up for a few, and mostly dropped a few. It’s a work in progress.

Up until today, my current set of courses was a non-technical course and a fairly elementary-level programming course. The thing about that latter course is that it seems to be roughly equivalent to some of the early coursework I had in my undergraduate degree, plus some elaboration that one picks up from reading certain classic software books — I know this, because I read the books. One might ask, “why are you taking that course, then, if you’ve already been solidly exposed to all the material in it?”

One might ask — I didn’t. At least not until the course actually started, and I actually looked down the barrel of spending some weeks watching lectures and doing homework for something I learned ten years ago. Then I finally figured out that I was looking at the problem all wrong — looking for proof (that I actually already had) that I had achieved a a lower level of knowledge, so that I could then later do things that would challenge my ability. Thing about this is, obviously taking a course the first time didn’t solve the fundamental issue of self-confidence involved, so why waste my time doing it again? Why not just skip ahead to the challenging bit?

So, thinking that, I went and dropped the basic programming course and substituted one that I’d been looking at longingly for a bit that has likewise just recently started. These courses may not save the world, but at least they’ve got an easy add/drop process.

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