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MOOCs – What’s the hype all about?!?

MOOCs, info, coderbug, education, college

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What is a MOOC? 

Simple, it’s a massive open online course, where major universities make lectures and learning materials available to the public.  Ivy league universities such as Harvard and Yale have offered their courses to the public.  There are programs such as Coursera and Udacity that facilitate courses, allowing the general public to take college level courses, for free in most cases.

What is the MOOC environment like?

Well, I signed up for a course with Coursera at the beginning of this semester.  I was in a “class” with 120k students.  Yes, you read properly, 120k students.  We were learning about programming an Android application.  The structure was similar to any other online course.  There were weekly lectures, reading materials, assessments and projects.  The professor was extremely personable and often posted helpful tidbits that I found personally valuable.  There was a forum for students to discuss different concepts amongst one another.  The response times were almost instant, mostly due to the number of students in the class, as well as the different time zones.  The professor informed us that there were students represented from many different countries and at different levels of experience.  Because of this, the student forum area was extremely helpful because there appeared to be experts that signed up for the class solely to help out others — this concept alone was both amazing and helpful.

MOOOORE on MOOOOCs

There’s buzz around the water cooler that MOOCs are the future of education.  I read an interesting article about MOOCs, which speaks to how MOOCs will change the future because they will allow people who did not have access to education to now have access. The author of the article, Thomas Friedman’s assumption is that people do not go to college because of financial reasons.  He also believes that MOOCs will push educational decision makers to make changes in the archaic educational standards.   He’s been known to speak to the mentality shift in major organizations from hiring people with degrees, to hiring people with a specific skill set.  Companies such as Google and Microsoft have been known to state that many educational institutions aren’t teaching students the skill sets that they need to operate their businesses.  MOOCs can help fill the gap.  Friedman believes that the challenge will be figuring out a system to award credit and/or certification to students that have successfully completed a MOOC.  I agree.

What do I think?

Well, there are both pros and cons to MOOCs, I’ll list what I’ve discovered from my personal experiences with them:

Pros

Free: Let’s face it, we all love to save money, and a free education seems almost too good to be true.

Supplemental Education: Going back to school has led to me scratching my head a few times around concepts that I just simply could not grasp. However, MOOCs have been a great way to supplement my education.  For instance, Yale University’s Modern Poetry MOOC has been instrumental to my learning process this semester.  Coupling what my professor teaches, with the lectures from the Yale University professors has been wildly beneficial.

Working at your own pace: Some MOOCs simply provide the materials for online students to learn at their own pace.  There’s no real follow up, the information is just available for us to consume when we need it. This is very useful for people that aren’t seeking a structured learning experience. Even better for people that are updating a skill set, or using the information for a work project, or even just for the knowledge alone.

Ala Carte Education: Want to learn how to build an app?  Or how to design a website?  Great!  Instead of there being classes that only teach a certain paradigm, there’s complete courses with a “how to” feel.  See it as being “How to setup Quickbooks for your business” as opposed to “Accounting 101”.

Cons

No Credit: When completing a MOOC, students do not receive college credit, so it’s still difficult to use what you’ve learned to gain employment.  Some MOOC programs offer certificates (for a fee) to validate that a course has been complete.  However, with MOOCs being relatively new, not many organizations will recognize the validity in these certifications.  However, the cost of the certificates are very minimal compared to the cost of a full out education, so having these certifications on a resume can only help, not hurt.

Student-to-Teacher Ratio:  For students that enjoy the classroom-like environment, a MOOC can be a difficult transition.  It is impossible for teachers to give individual feedback in a MOOC environment.  A student can quickly feel lost if and when he/she doesn’t fully understand a concept.  Personally, I feel as though this is the cause for the less than 10% success rates that MOOCs have thus far.

Time Management/Self-Motivation:  Just as any online class, the student has to be self motivated or success becomes difficult.  However, this is escalated within the MOOC environment because there’s even less structure than what’s provided in a traditional learning environment.  Simply put, for people to succeed, they need to be already technically savvy and be more than willing to put in the personal time in order to be successful.

“Information is NOT knowledge”: I believe that some MOOC programs (not all), struggle between teaching and simply providing information.  Information help people obtain knowledge, but it’s not knowledge.  Simply making information available cannot replace the teaching process and what teachers bring to the table.  Information is just facts, teachers infuse these facts with experience and give students access to their minds.  Some MOOCs have found the balance between teaching and manufacturing information, some haven’t.

The bare bones… 

Bottom line, MOOCs are a powerful tool that give a glimpse into the future of education.  My school has already started to incorporate MOOCs into the curriculum and I am grateful for my school’s leaders understanding the benefits to these programs.  However, I don’t believe that MOOCs are developed enough to withstand as an only means of education.  MOOCs are great for people who want to hone and develop their skill set.  They are great for students who need another means of learning what they are learning in school.  They are great for a person that want to learn one concept on their own. Finally, I believe they are a great gap closer between what companies need students to learn in order to have the skill set the companies need and what schools have been teaching.

 

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Posted by on April 15, 2014 in Programming, Self Improvement

 

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Programmer vs. Designer…

imagination, programming, education, learning, life, school, coderbug

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“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” – Albert Einstein

Recently, I have been thinking about the differences between designing and programming.  I suppose this is a typical thought process considering we have just started really getting into GUI within my studies.  I have a passion for both design and programming and that puts me in a position where I am starting to contemplate how in depth I should pursue each.

Currently I have a double major in Comp Sci and Graphic Design, so my courses are aligned to put me on the proper path.  However, in my free time, I find myself being drawn to learn more Graphics and design concepts than coding.  I have a great passion for both, but it seems as though my creative side wants to take over during those times that I am learning new concepts during free time.

Should I choose just one?  I’m thinking… no!

I am in the process of thinking should I stick to one path?  Each path will give me a lot of practice and study since, in my opinion, there is no “mastering” either.  Designers get better and better, but there’s always things to learn and the same goes with being a great programmer.  With all of the different paradigms to learn, 20 years in and I there will always be something more to learn.  However, I love each so much that I don’t want to let go of one.

You may ask, what’s the big deal, just do both!  Well, simply put, I am.  But there’s an underlying fear that if I do both that I will end up mediocre in both instead of great in one.  One major point in me dropping everything to return to school was to ensure that I did make the very best of it and that I put 200% into everything I do.  There is a tangible fear that splitting my focus will dull my effectiveness in both areas of study.

And then I remembered that I have no life!

The one thing that will help me pursue each with the tenacity that I am accustomed to is the fact that I don’t really have much else to do LOL.  When I’m not doing my homework and assignments, I am reading and researching everything I can get my hands on about programming and design.  I spend my free time watching Lynda.com tutorials and read a ton of design an programming blogs.  Quite possibly, my unique situation will lend a hand to me having my cake and eating it too, with ice cream to boot!

Welcome to the dark side, we have cookies…

If forced to choose between the two at the moment, I would choose to pursue programming.  Luckily I don’t have to choose, however, knowing that if push came to shove I’d choose programming, makes my path a tad bit clearer as I look towards my future.  There is something about programming that not only intrigues me, but invokes a since of pride with each concept that I learn and begin to understand.  I think back to the first week and that first project this semester that I sat and worked over for hours and hours.  I lost so much sleep that week and I was beginning to believe that I was in way over my head.  To understand the progress that I’ve made so far really motivates me to keep pushing towards my goals.

 

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2013 in Programming

 

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My Intermediate Programming Class: Makes me feel a little more like a programmer…

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No one ever uses semi colons properly anyway… 

Before I get to talking about my experiences in my new class, I thought I would share a semi funny story.  I had to do a mini research paper recently and I completely blanked on how to properly use a semi colon.  It looked out of place within my research paper and I stared blankly at my computer screen for a second before I started to giggle.  I have now turned one of the most underused symbols into something I use a million times a day now.  Talk about programming nerd problems LOL.  

I feel a lot more like a programmer… 

After completing my first Java course with an A+ I felt a tad bit victorious.  Considering I have never programmed anything prior to this class, I finished this course with a clearer understanding of programming and what it means to the world.  Programmers are essentially magicians with the capability to create any digital tool that they please.  I am not at the point that I am able to implement any of these magical things, but I have a level of confidence now that did not exist before.  After losing nights of sleep over my final project in my last course, and receiving a 100 on it, I realized that I will be successful, not because I am awesome, but because I am dedicated to learning whatever I can get my little hands on.  

Introducing Intermediate Programming… 

I just started my Intermediate Programming class and despite of the confidence that I gained after completing Introduction to Programming, I have to say I was intimidated by my professor.  He has some really high expectations, and although I am excited about his outlook, I also have a tiny voice in the back of my head that reminds me of my background and the fact that I am truly a fish out of water when it comes to programming.  My fear was recognized when I received an 80% on my first homework assignment.  In my mind, I felt the walls crashing down (right alongside my 4.0 GPA).  As usual, I slapped and reminded myself that the first homework assignment was just 3% of my final grade and that I am not out of the game yet.  The first assignment sets the standard for the professor’s expectations and I just had to dissect my feedback and move from there.  So, after dissection, I learned quite a bit about my professor and his expectations.  I say this only to report that on my second assignment, a project that was worth 15% of my final grade,  I received a 100! 

I am learning so much about myself that I did not know before.  

Primarily, this change in my life is more than just following my dreams, although that was the purpose for me doing so.  I learned that this change is huge in me readjusting what I think I am capable of doing.  I have had to push myself past preset mental boundaries in order for me to accomplish these new tasks in my life.  What happens in these moments however, is a dynamic that can not be ignored: 

The more I push myself, the more I know that I can do anything and the more I feel like a programmer and less like a spectator.  

 
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Posted by on November 4, 2013 in Programming

 

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Project Euler – Enhancing My Problem Solving Skills

project euler, programming, coding, education

Versatility comes at a price…

Today was the first day that I decided to try out Project Euler.  I was told about this site a while ago and I hadn’t taken the time to try it out until today.  My goal is to create a program for each problem to help me figure out problems using programs.  It took me longer than I would like to admit to complete the first problem (an hour), but my issue wasn’t in figuring out the answer, it was manipulating the code to display the correct answer.  I was on the verge of frustration knowing the answer but not quite being able to get my code to display the proper answer.  The culprit was a simple word “static”.  I will not get into details of the simple mistake that I made in Java, but maybe that dirty word can give you an idea.

This project makes me happy…

Why?  Because it forced me to ponder what I wanted to accomplish.  I didn’t feel special knowing that over 300K people had already figured it out, but I did feel great knowing that I was added to the long list of names of those who at least tried and succeeded.  For me, I can’t expect to be a pioneer… just yet.  I have to be happy to mimic those that have come before me.  Because even mimicking someone else is far greater an accomplishment than I have been able to achieve so far.

What is Project Euler?

If you have never heard of Project Euler, it’s problem solving system that people can choose a problem to figure out and submit their answers.  You get achievements based on how many problems are answered correctly.  The problems vary in difficulty and the difficulty level increases throughout the problems.  Personally, I think this is an awesome resource for people to practice problem solving and to keep practicing different programming methods.

I will be focusing on attempting a couple of these a week maybe, at least one every week.  I think it’s another way to keep my mind on programming through yet another resource.

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2013 in Programming

 

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Developing an Android App – My new hobby

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Time is precious… I’m not wasting any of it… 

A few posts ago, I mentioned that I had coded my first app.  However, I did this using App Inventor and it was very simple and basic.  However, now that I have grown comfortable using git/GitHub, I have become inspired to work on my app and make it look like something that I would not mind putting my name on.  To do this, I am in the process of watching the 8 hours of Android SDK/ADT tutorial on lynda.com.  My app is pretty simple and I already have the Java coded out for it, so right now my existing App will be my guinea pig for using the Android Developer Tools.

At first glance…

Everything is super intimidating.  There are so many things to click on that my mind is swimming with all of the options to click on.  But as any other thing I do in my life, to learn/master something big I have to take it one day at a time and start at the very beginning.  Therefore, I am starting with the lynda.com tutorial.  If anything, my App may not be Play Store ready when I’m finished, but it WILL be far better than what it is now.  I’ll be happy if I simply have a useful tool for myself to use!

Ideas are swimming through my head…

I’ve spent the last few weeks in search of a Productivity App that has specific features and every one I stumble across, they have some of the features but not all of them.  In the very back of my mind, dwells an idea of a long term project that I can build upon, which will be a productivity app that fits all of my random criteria.  I am not ready to take on this task yet of course [especially considering that this app will need to be on iOS for me to personally take advantage of all of the benefits].  However, it is great to wrap my head around the fact that one day, I will be able to simply write the codes for something that I can use personally.  Before embarking on this adventure to change my future, I only daydreamed about working on some big project or game for a big corporation.  It finally clicked that one day I will be able to simply work on a project/app/software that I can use solely for my own enjoyment, customized just for me.  This prospect makes this endeavor even more rewarding… imagine that.

First git… next up, the world…

I will use my new found git powers to track my progress and keep me accountable to working on my projects every day.  My ultimate goal is to keep learning and to improve and get better.  The sky is the limit and as long as I put forth the effort, I know that I can obtain each of my goals [which seem to be changing each day that I learn something new].

Shhhhh…

I chose the picture above for this post because it is indicative of how dirty I feel coding android on my Mac lol.  I’m kidding of course, but when I saw this picture on dribble.com, I had to use it today to talk about my experiences with the Android Developer Tools.

Until next time, BE positive, BE unique, BE excellent!

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2013 in Programming

 

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git + me + octocat = <3

github, octocat, coding, learning, programming, education, life

My adventures in ‘git’…

First of all, I love doing anything command line.  It takes me back to the old versions of Windows and me as a 16 year old typing in random things just so that I could feel like a computer geek. 

Anyway, a part of my personal development plan includes me taking the initiative to learn new computery things on my own.  The first on my list was git.  I powered up my tablet and got cozy on the couch and watched 6 hours of git tutorials on my lynda.com account.  I took screen shots of things that seemed important.  I then went back through with my laptop and followed step by step. 

Let’s just say, I’m in happy land.  I even changed my ‘terminal’ to a friendlier color for my eyes and I started by practicing uploading committing my homework assignments from my Java class. 

Validation…

The fact that I sat in a coffee shop over the course of two days, learning git to the extent that I felt super confident that I didn’t need the tutorials again — made me feel validated.  I wasn’t frustrated, I enjoyed the 12+ hours I spent learning git to the extent that I could teach someone else (a beginner of course).  What makes me know that I am truly following my dreams and passions is that at the end of a long day coding/learning, I look up and realize that my day has gone by.  I find myself not being able to sleep because my thoughts are full of ideas and things that I want to check out. 

OctoCat rulez…

Well, the GitHub OctoCat makes me happy because he’s adorable.  He makes repositories worth learning lol. 

One ring shall rule them all!…

This has absolutely NOTHING to do with my Git/GitHub experience.  I am just going to reward myself with a LoTR marathon tonight =^.^=

 

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2013 in Programming

 

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My Final Project – My attempt at speaking “computer”

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Down to the wire… this is how I roll…

I completed at the absolute last moment that I could… okay, I actually had 4 hours to spare and felt pretty darn good about that.  It was not until early that morning however, that I finally figured out a specific code for a major portion of my Final Project.  This alone made Saturday night a very sleepless night for me, for I spent the entire night worrying about the status of my Final Project, which is 25% of my grade.  I even had a nightmare that I forgot to submit it and work up in a panic Sunday morning, with the realization that it wasn’t even due until that night >.<. 

The great divide… between me and my classmates…

After I submitted my project, I couldn’t help but compare myself to my classmates.  I had thoughts of them having extra bells and whistles to their program.  In essence, they coded the next Facebook, while I “played” a simple instrument LOL.  I am not completely sure why I do this to myself… correction, I know EXACTLY why I do this to myself.  I come from a VERY competitive environment, if you are not first, then you are last… dead last.  I find myself comparing myself to my classmates and feeling god awful afterwards. I forced myself to stop comparing myself long enough to take an Ibuprofen for the massive migraine I had and I allowed myself to sleep soundly for the first time since the professor posted the requirements for my Final Project.   

That’s when the emails started…

OUTRAGE, is what some of my peers displayed.  Apparently, one classmate sent out an email to the entire class chastising my professor saying that he was an awful teacher and that she did not pay $900 to take a class where she had to teach herself.  Then immediately after there were a string of “reply all” emails of students saying that they STILL had no clue of what the professor was asking for in the Final Project.  Some even stated that they submitted their projects with compile/syntax errors and a world of squiggly lines (that’s what I like to call them).  I was shocked.  Here I am thinking I am comparing my project to the next Facebook when many of my peer’s programs did not even run.  As for me, my project was running seamlessly and I felt pride swell in my chest.  Maybe I should have felt bad for my classmates, complaining to each other far too late to do anything about it.  But instead, I felt great about myself.  Because, yes, the project was bear, but I approached it as I approach every problem in my life, by asking myself… “How do you eat an elephant?”… one toe at a time!

Victory is Sweet — but ice-cream is sweeter…

After I wiped the silly smile off of my face, I went for ice-cream.  My highly basic, n00b-tastic coding was far from what any normal programmer would consider as being worth celebrating.  But hey, my project is MY highly basic, n00b-tastic coding and I am super proud of it.  For one, I did NOT give up, I read, researched, GOOGLE’d, pestered my professor, and did all that I could in order to wrap my mind around what it was that I was supposed to accomplish.  100% of my extra time was devoted to this project and I’m extremely happy with the outcome.  The smile returned with the ice-cream cone [it was chocolate if you must know].  Thus a new tradition has began.  I will close out every successful class with a celebratory ice-cream cone. 

I would be lying if I said I could care less about the grade I get…

Honestly, deep down, I don’t care.  I accomplished so much more this session.  I completed the first REAL class towards my new career.  I know a TON more than I knew just 8 weeks ago. 

[Commence Victory Dance]

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2013 in Programming

 

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