My first web computer course starts this week at Udacity. I signed up for CS 101: Building a Search Engine taught by Dr. David Evans and Dr. Sebastian Thrun. Dr. Evans is a Professor of Computer Science at the University of Virginia and Dr. Thrun is a Research Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University. Though I can hack the heck out of code, I need structured learning to create something new. My CS background is mostly recreational. I did take formal programming classes back in college: C++ level 1 and 2, Visual Basic 1 and 2. But neither topic areas did much for me other than to make sense of other people’s code. I always wanted to take a programming class that has appliance in the real world so here I am.
Udacity is an effort of providing a university-level education to the public at low or no cost to the user. This is not a new idea. We all experienced the immense wealth of knowledge the open web can offer from the multitudes of DIY (Do It Yourself) projects to defining and exploring new concepts and knowledge. Though the web is a wonderful resource to quickly find solutions or answers to our pressing questions, the experience is relatively sterile, void of interaction and structure. Sites such as WikiPedia and Khan Academy have made attempts to organize and expand subject matter with the later providing an excellent approach to teaching concepts through the use of rich media, however the lack of a structured learning model inhibits an undisciplined user from truly grasping a subject matter at hand. Colleges and Universities are beginning to understand the benefits of sharing their knowledge to the public and efforts have been made under the halo of open access or open educational resources, a subject matter that my employer, NITLE, has explored consistently:
- Open Access: No Longer Parlor Conversation – Sean Connin
- Anya Kamenetz Opens the NITLE Thought Leaders Series – Bryan Alexander
- New Developments in Open Content for Education: a Videoconference Discussion – Bryan Alexander
Some of the more popular open educational resources that I have dabbled in recent years are from Stanford’s Engineering Everywhere (iPhone Application Development) to MIT’s OpenCourseWare (Designing Mobile Technologies for the Next Billion Users). As fun as those courses were, it was more of a voyeuristic approach to attending class, watching and learning what the students and faculty were doing from a distance. I hope Udacity will change that feeling.
I am still a bit confused on when the class will actually start this week but am looking forward to the updates. I will let you know how it goes, I have high hopes of gaining something new and hopefully more interaction with others in my class. If you are taking the class as well, let me know! It would be great to have a study buddy.