A MOOC or Massive Open Online Course, whatever you choose to call it can be quite useful. But it all depends on what you are using it for. Recently I decided that as part of my 2014 development goals I wanted to learn a new skill. So I thought I'd give Data Science (or more appropriately the combination of Statistics with IT) a go. After searching through the three biggest MOOC providers, Udacity, edx and Coursera, I settled on a course at Coursera. The course is a Data Science specialisation designed by the John Hopkins University in the US. It has nine modules and a capstone project. You have the option of paying for the course and earning a verified certificate, and it cost about £30 per module, or you can do the course for free. I opted for the free option. So far I have completed one module and will be starting the next one on the 7th of April. The course itself is a blend of online lectures through recorded videos, social learning via forum discussions, quizzes and assignments and also peer assessment where you have to mark the work of at least 4 people. The design framework is quite simple and straightforward. What I really enjoy about the course are the forums. The fact that you can ask a question and people will answer promptly is brilliant. Also since students from different parts of the world are doing the course you get to interact with people from different educational backgrounds, cultures and experience.
One of the assignment questions on the first module was tricky for a number of us, and a lot of questions were posted on the forum regarding the question. Soon enough someone came up with an appropriate answer which we all learned from. For me that was a great learning point and the kind of attitude I would love to see replicated in a lot of our organisations. It also clearly spells out the advantages of social learning tools both internal and external to an organisation.
The first module I did titled The Data Scientist's Toolkit was relatively easy to complete, and some even complained that it was not worth paying for because it was too simple. But the next module is R Programming which is as I've heard much more work, but I'm looking forward to it and will be interested in seeing how it will be taught and how students will respond.
So watch this space, I will keep you updated about my progress. Are any of you doing MOOCs? Please let us know what your experience is.