Sunday, 27 January 2013

Python & applying knowledge gained in an MOOC

I recently saw this at a school biology lab here in Berlin. When I read the (very) old label and noticed that these were two pythons, I took my blackberry and snapped the photo above. There was a teacher next to me so, rather apologetically, I explained that I had recently finished a programming course and that the name of the language was Python! She smiled at me and probably thought I am nuts. Maybe. Maybe not.

But I actually wanted to write about something else today. There is a lot of hype about MOOC´s and all the stuff that can be learnt these days for free. But learning without applying your knowledge later is sort of useless. OK, you get a certificate (and apparently mine from +edX will be ready tomorrow!), but that is not the whole point of doing a course, is it? In contrast, most of what I read about Raspberry Pi´s are actual applications of what people are doing with it. You don´t buy a Pi just to tick a box of cool things to own, but because you have a project in your mind and you are itching to get started with it. It should be the same with programming. 

I am happy to say that I have already applied some of what I learnt on 6.00x at work. I have developed a simple search tool which actually makes life in my department a bit easier. It allows to search a huge repository of documents from an old system in a way which was not possible before. It is not rocket science, and surely many a professional programmer would find ways to do this in quicker and more effective ways. But it works and it reduces search times from hours and hours to a few minutes. And I have the feeling this is just the start. I recently came across this book and, time permitting, I already have something else in my mind. Again, it is not about learning Python for the sake of learning. It is what we can now do. And I have a feeling it is a lot that we can do!

So how are you applying the knowledge gained from whatever latest MOOC you took?

PS: I know, Python did not get its name because of the animals...

Friday, 18 January 2013

MIT - 6.00x

Quite predictably, I passed the exam and the course. Actually, I got an A, which is sort of nice thinking which institution is behind the course. From the stats I´ve seen, literally thousands of people did drop half way through the course. So finishing it and passing is, by no means, a given. Even less getting the top grade. 

So thank you to my wife for this wonderful birthday present. And now it´s time to apply the newly gained knowledge...

Thursday, 10 January 2013

MIT - 6.00x Final Exam

Just got the e-mail that the exam window is now open. In my case, I have been in bed for the last few days with a persistent cough and I am late with reviewing, which now looks like it will mostly happen on Saturday. I have already passed the 55% line anyway, thanks to my scores on the mid term exams and the problem sets, so it is really a matter of honour to try and get a nice grade (the final is worth another 40%), but knowing I am already through definitely takes some pressure off (which maybe also explains why I am so late with reviewing). I am currently planning to take the 6.00x final exam on Sunday morning, for which the instructions say I should plan four hours. That´s a full morning and leaves me Sunday afternoon to relax. And probably to start thinking which course to do next...