UC San Diego’s LHTL Course

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I took a detour from the technical online courses I was planning to take for the year and embarked first on a mentally light but very useful course from UC San Diego via Coursera’s course offerings. The best part was that they offer financial aid for learners coming from developing countries so I got my certification from them after I finished it. I managed to finish the 4-week course despite my other commitments and it was really one of the best investments of my time that I have made this first quarter of the year. I now call this LHTL or Learning How to Learn course as the glue that holds all my other online course learnings together.

These days, it’s quite unimaginable for me to live my digital life without these online courses at my ready disposal. I am not aimlessly gallivanting my mind with the exercise; in fact, I sort of designed my own curriculum for learning the subjects that I am genuinely interested in. And to have the freedom and flexibility to do so is one of the perks of my present situation.

The LTHL course is currently taught by a pair of multi-awarded neuroscientists who are really awesome at understanding how the brain works especially when mastering tough subjects. I was really fascinated at how the course work was presented. It did not feel like a chore to watch through the videos week in and week out, plus I got a lot of insights on how I can improve my online studying habits. I already knew about some of the methods discussed such as the Pomodoro technique, but they provided the rigorous explanation that really nailed down the reason why Pomodoro technique is super effective.

Certainly, this is not going to be the last time that I will take an online course; this is the fourth I have successfully finished since I dabbled with online courses in 2012. It’s pretty slow compared to other people who manage to finish college-equivalent course work in a year or so; my mother is pretty addicted to these and I think she already has seven or eight finished courses from Coursera! Haha! 🙂 She was really happy when I introduced this platform to her and it really expanded her knowledge on culinary arts and gastronomy.

Right now, I am working on three course work series with Coursera: a photography course series, something about user experience, and the long-standing one on data science. It’s really interesting stuff that has taken up a lot of my time. I think that being a cavewoman or hermit of sorts is a huge advantage when you are trying to pursue non-traditional paths such as this. I genuinely believe that there is a lot of potential to online courses and it will continue to grow. I totally support it because it makes education accessible to everyone in the world, even if they don’t have enough money to spend on tuition fees.

 

One-Third of the Track

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Prior to my decision to temporarily suspend all simultaneous and unrealistic activities for 2015, I got to reap a bit from my hard work through this certificate. It really means a lot to me that I managed to crawl through this course during January. It was super challenging to balance it with other things but somehow I knew that this is really something that I want to accomplish.

Tidying data is not exactly a glamorous course. It had this rigorous coursework that I had to spend hours and hours trying to make sense of. I already have some basic ideas on where to use what I learned from this course. Just the potential of the knowledge learned to mix with the other things I know from my other intellectual pursuits fills me with excitement beyond words. It is a lifetime of exploration. I may not necessarily leave my computer for a long time for this, but it’s worth it.

Somehow, the pursuits I have laid out for myself for the last two years are taking shape slowly but surely. I know that I started from a completely different industry professionally, but recent events have shown me that this actually might work for me and it’s worth giving a second look. Heck, I really gave it more than a second look! I am transitioning into whole new realms altogether, a joint output of circumstances and my personal preferences. A lot of people look down on my decisions for work. I met one of them before Christmas and I swore not to subject myself to that kind of company again. Since the year kicked in, I have relieved myself of the need to “CONFORM” to what people call as acceptable or normal work. I am carving out something new and if it doesn’t work, I can just wing it til I make it.

There are so many things I realized about life since last year and one of them is that time is a non-renewable resource. I keep writing about this because it can never be emphasized too much anywhere.

So with three subjects down in this signature track course of John Hopkins, there are six remaining demanding subjects that will claim for my attention in the latter part of the year. I am psyched! I am really looking forward to doing more of my adventures in Python and R this 2015. I cannot see myself thriving in any other way. 🙂

 

 

 

FREE Education: Coursera and Khan Academy

One of the things that make me really happy as a freelancer is the fact that I have a good command of my working hours. And in the middle of the writing grind, I decided to spend a fraction of my time in upgrading myself academically without leaving my house or paying for any expensive tuition fees. Guess what I discovered in my first month as a freelancer?  Two websites offering free education! It’s Coursera and Khan Academy. I am sharing this because these websites deserve to be known especially to those who never get tired of learning new things.

(Many thanks to my friend RK for telling me about Coursera on Facebook. And thanks to my other friend Ernest for telling me about Khan Academy via Twitter!)

Thanks to the window of time that my schedule has provided me, I am learning a lot of new concepts from a professor from University of Michigan for Finance class and a professor in Princeton University for the recently concluded Intro to Sociology class. The frontiers of education has now expanded from Ivy League schools to commoners like me because of the courses offered in Coursera. They have a lot of courses on just about anything.

 

And mind you, it’s not a wishy-washy type of FREEBIE that you just download and let rot in your hard drive. It takes hard work to achieve. There is a syllabus, a series of video lectures, a mid-term, a final exam, and weekly homeworks. At the end of each course, there are required grade point averages in the assignments that will eventually lead to a certificate signed by the professor. It’s really awesome! Never have I imagined that I can experience this kind of education at the comforts of my home.

I sleep less to meet the assignment deadlines but it’s all so WORTH IT! Here is my virtual scratchpad for accomplishing my first accomplished assignment for the Professor’s Gautam’s Finance course. I got a 100 even if this spreadsheet is super messy, so it’s all cool:

 

Sure, it does not resemble the typical classroom experience. But this is actually what gives the setup more charm to people like me. When you have no time to attend classes in an institution twice to five times a week, you can replay the professor’s videos and just make sure that you submit the assignments on time. There are virtual classmates from all over the world who are interested and enrolled in the same course. In fact, my Coursera Finance course already has an all-Filipino study group page on Facebook with over 100 members. When I was about to give up on catching up on all of Professor Gautam’s videos, I was deeply moved by the enthusiasm that I saw in them there and it pushed me to really make time to meet the requirements during the first week.

While Coursera offers a very rigid school-like structure in the course, Khan Academy is another website that contains isolated lectures on anything. The website is also filled with different academic topics that are discussed via various video tutorials and webinars but they are often stand alone and single, not constituting an entire series or producing certificates of accomplishment.

These days, OPEN SOURCE is no longer a buzz word. It’s actually happening. I used to think that I cannot have an Ivy League education because of my socioeconomic constraints. But at least I got a whiff of it now. There are professors in those universities who want to give back and share what they know to the whole world. And their passion to disseminate and promote learning in the way they do now is super inspiring. Nobody with a computer and Internet connection can say that they have no access to education because it’s all there already.

I am still amazed, and I don’t mind being a Coursera and Khan Academy fan girl. I really am fangirling right now.

I hope these two websites last for generations and generations to come.

And to the Coursera and Khan Academy team, thank you so much. You are enriching so many intellectual lives with this venture of yours. 🙂