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August 6, 2012

Massive Open Online Classes With Udacity

One part of my first 30 day challenge was doing classes on Udacity. Now, after I finished CS101 and created a search engine, I decided to blog about Udacity and the experience I made.

About Udacity


Udacity is a kind of online university, where you can attend to classes and learn new things. The main topic is computer science, but they also offer some classes about math and physics (see here). According to Sebastian Thrun, it all started after he saw this TED Talk from the founder of Khan Academy.
Udacity evolved from the online AI class, which is/was basically the same class that the students at Stanford University took - just online, available when you want and for free.

Even though I'm not a teacher or professor, I can feel Sebastian's excitement too. Imagine you could educate and therefore help thousands or even millions of people around the world.
People, who do not have free higher education in their own country. People, who are running away from war. People, who want to make their own and the life of their families a better one.

How It Works


The classes are based on YouTube videos, which are mostly between 0.5 - 5 minutes long. After you learnt a new concept, you are asked to answer questions about what you've just learnt.

Many people might think that teaching in a real class room is much better, because there is an interaction between the students and the professor, which can't really happen in those YouTube videos. When you're one student in a class room of 200 students, do you really have an interaction with your professor? The professor can't pause or explain things over and over again to each student. But you can pause and rewind the video of a professor.

And you're not totally lost on your own. There is a community of students inside Udacity, in which you are encouraged to participate. This not only allows one to ask questions because he/she didn't fully understand a concept, but also let's the more experienced students help other students. The result is a deeper understanding for everyone.

My Experience


I'm really interested in education and I do like new and different approaches, but Udacity is definitely not for everyone. Here are some of the reasons why I enjoyed taking CS101:
  • Feeling of being tutored one-to-one (which leads to best results)
  • Python as the programming language (very simple to read, suitable for beginners)
  • Lots of quizzes (keeps you going)
  • Start, stop, pause, rewind and forward whenever you want
  • No deadlines - learn at your very own pace
Even though I didn't learn a lot of new technical things in this class, since I'm Python programmer who developed a few web crawlers already, I learnt a lot about myself and I want to encourage everybody to sign up at Udacity and give it a try.
You won't regret it.

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