Saturday, January 31, 2015

Online Learning For The Self Taught

To begin with, I am a self taught person.  I spend most of my downtime trying to learn or read about something new.  I am always of the mind that I don't know everything and that there is always something that I could be learning.  If you ask my wife, she will tell you that whenever I go someplace, I typically have a book with me, or have my nose in a website trying to learn something.  You should never, ever stop learning.  It keeps your brain young and you on the cutting edge (if that is where you yearn to be).  For my field (I am a Systems Engineer), there are so many changes every day, you can never truly keep up.

Now don't get me wrong, I am not slamming or advising against a formal education.  If you have the opportunity afforded to you to go to college, by all means, go.  You will not regret it and it will benefit you in the long run.  There are some organizations where they require a college degree or they won't even look at you as a candidate (yes, I have run into these).  But, if you are like me and you either don't have the chance, or were not able to finish college, then you will need to seek your knowledge elsewhere, and today that is the online world. 

Online learning takes many shapes.  You can find tutorials on a large number of sites, usually blogs, that will guide you step by step through a particular task or in learning a programming language.  Then there is a slightly older technology called a CBT (Computer Based Training).  You won't run into this much online, but you may find it at large companies that have an internal training department.  You sign up and take courses from their internal learning website.  Its one way, they feed you the information and you write it down.  There may even be a quiz or two. 

Then we get to one of the latest things, the MOOC(Massive Open Online Course) or also referred to as Open Courseware.  This is a system that has now been employed by universities and websites alike, allowing people to take their courses either for free, or for a fee.  Some of these even offer a certificate as proof of passing the course.  

You will find that there are many universities that you have heard of that have MOOC available to the public, but also some you may not have.  A couple of names that stand out are MIT, Stanford, Yale, Johns Hopkins, Harvard, Duke, and the list goes on.   You may find that while the colleges have a page on their site to inform you about their open courseware, their site actually links to something like Coursera, or EDX.

When I first started looking for online resources to learn from, I came across some of the typical "Hey, come here and take our course on ", only to find out that it was either misleading and only gave a very small, a lot to be desired intro, or they got you to a point and they hit you up for money to continue the course.  That really burned when I ran into that.  There are still those today, believe it or not.   I am big into Data Science, and discovered a site called  I started off with the first lesson or two, but was soon prompted to sign up for their premium service if I wanted to continue.  I was disappointed as there was some aspects of the site that I was interested in, but I just don't have extra funds to pump into something like that at the moment.  I have to keep things on the cheap.  So if you are interested in something like that and have the funds, but all means, check it out.  
So in my further quest, I decided to try and find if anyone had compiled a degree curriculum or syllabus, listing the courses needed to fulfill that degree, with links to said courses.  It took me a bit of searching, but I finally found a couple of links to what I was looking for.  

The first one I found was that of a Bachelor's level curriculum in Computer Science.  This was great, exactly what I was looking for.  What was better, was that that page was already updated to include a link to their Intensive Bachelor's level curriculum in Computer Science.  This was fantastic.  I looked through both lists and was amazed to find such a complete curriculum list, compiled and with links.  

While I was blown away by what I had found, I wanted more.  I still have an interest in Data Science.  There has to be something out there to satisfy that need, and there was.  I bring you, the curriculum for the Open Source Masters in Data Science.  This filled a void, and a big one.  This had an awesome set of courses and links to books as well.  

As you can see, I was able to find 3 different resource that provided me a full curriculum, with links to courses.  All that's left now is to take the courses.  Ah, to have that much time available.  If you do, that's awesome, have at it.  I, unfortunately, only have so much time, but I do my best.

In all of my perusing of the internet learning resources, I have come across a few and made some notes on them.  I provide those for you below, with some of my comments on each.  

Online Learning Sites

- All free
- Beginner learning tracks
- git (source control), web dev, iOS, misc electives, ruby, javascript
- Also has screencasts giving overview or tutorial on specific topics  (ie:  they have a 4 part screen cast on docker)

- Computer related
- courses are free to take
 - You can get a certificate for some courses, but that costs money

- A large number of courses in a bunch of different categories
- free
- all link to free courses at schools that have the courses online

- Tons of courses
- Free
- Not always current teachings, but within a few years.  Material still quite valid.

- large array of courses
- math
- languages
- computer science
- web development
- all free

- tons of courses
- all free
- great for kids

- 10K free, online courses

- Lots of topics
- Degree related studies
- Free

- Lots of topics
- Free

- Lots of courses
- Free
- Large array of topics

- Free
- All technology based

- Costs $$
- Technology based

- Free
- Each topic shows places on the web to learn

- Laern to code
- Free
- A few different tracks

- College
- Free online courses

- Free
- Online Educational courses in a variety of topics

- Course software offered by from multiple online sources

- DevOps approach
- Free

- Learn data science in your browser
- Misleading initially.  You can only take a few 'missions' for free, but then are required to pay a subscription of $35 or more a month to continue.

- Online curriculum
- Lists where to take courses
- Lists resources for online learning
- Also lists book price, if available

Well, that is the list which I have compiled thus far.  Its not complete by any stretch, but instead is meant more as a taste of what you can find via your favorite search engine.  There are so very many sites that you can find, hopefully you will find the courses that are right for you and further your knowledge.  

So go forth, and learn ( and have fun doing it ).  Master your craft and be the best that you can be.

Not to be all cheezy, but I leave you with a quote from the movie "Drumline":

"And if you don't have the honor and discipline to learn you craft... then quite frankly Devon, you don't deserve to be here."   - Dr. Lee to Devon Miles


Unknown said...

Great post, Jeff. I'm going to check out these sources.

Numberwhun said...

Thanks, Maria!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this awesome article

Numberwhun said...

You're welcome! I am glad you enjoyed it.

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