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Alison Scott

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  • 5 reviews
  • 5 completed
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Well, this is a right old curate's egg (a culinary term there for you). I think this course was conceived at Harvard as a way of pressing some scientific concepts into non-scientists who don't cook much. The catch is that many of the people taking the MOOC version are keen home cooks with a science background, hoping to apply more science to their cooking. So the material splits into four parts: 1) Amazing videos from a range of professional chefs, and America's Test Kitchen, about preparing specific foods. Some are instructive, some fascinating, some bizarre; every single one is worth watching. The sous vide egg video is worth enrolling for this course alone. 2) Scientific exposition explaining in some detail what the course designers think is going on in the cooking, and introducing an 'equation of the week'. Some of this is good (Harold Magee's audio spots are consistently interesting), some rather dull, and, unfortunately, some is are simplistic or misunderstands the cooking techniques being demonstrated. 3) Homework exercises -- mostly very simple arithmetic exercises in dimensional analysis, made harder by using imperial volume measurements instead of SI units. These also have numerous errors, though some of the bugs have been worked out over time. 4) Labs -- where a simple cooking task is undertaken in a scientific fashion. The cooking bit of this has been quite interesting; some of the labs have been better designed than others, but mostly they've illuminated the topic under discussion. On the other hand, writing the 'lab report', self- scoring it against a hidden rubric, re-writing to cover the items in the hidden rubric, and resubmitting, is just plain tedious. Overall, it's worth doing if you're interested, but this is the first course I've done where I think the 'audit' option is likely to be the one to go for for most people. Will it improve my cooking? Maybe; I think knowing the equations for dispersal of marinade and thickening of sauces and emulsions might, yes.
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This course is now self-paced and described as 'advanced'; I took it as a paced follow-up to CS101. Unlike the person who gave it 1 star above, I managed to complete it, without prior coding experience. I do have a maths background. I found it interesting, engaging and well-taught. I also found it very, very, very hard, and I put a great deal of time into it. But I'm doing other coding classes now and I keep finding that the things I learnt in CS212 are applicable to a whole range of problems. Is it the best course to take immediately after CS101? No, probably not. Is it worth doing at some point? Definitely.
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A wonderful course, best for people with some previous programming and a little previous biology (I had MIT 6.00x and MIT 7.00x which was fine). The material is presented in two different ways; through face to face lectures, and through an online textbook (stepic.org) that presented the information step by step, inserting the coding exercises right into the text at the relevant point. I used mostly the textbook with only a little lectures; others did it the other way around. The entire grade is coding exercises. I took about ten hours a week on average, but a couple of the weeks were nearer 20 so you need to factor that in when considering doing this course (they doubled the length of the course part way through because it was obvious that people were struggling). Deadlines are reasonably long so you can pace this. Staff were responsive and the forums were helpful and constructive. We had some downtime on the grading server which was frustrating, but deadlines were extended. By the end I had learnt a ton about coding algorithms in Python and runtime, and quite a lot about how algorithms are used in bioinformatics. And I loved every minute of it, except for the times I couldn't get my code to run in less than five minutes (the grader timeout). I also loved the feeling that I was working with up to date science.
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A fantastic course which ditches much of 'elementary biology' in favour of focusing firmly on molecular biology and genetics. Every part of this is good. First, very little is assumed; I had last studied biology at only a very elementary level thirty years ago. I did have rather more chemistry, and some comfort with chemical structures and notation is quite handy for the first part of the course. Second, Eric Lander is a brilliant and inspiring teacher; these are some of the best lectures I've seen on a MOOC. He doesn't resort to gimmicks and cute demos; he just explains the material in a very entertaining way. Third, the problem sets are very well thought out, using various viewing and analysis tools so that you feel you're really getting an understanding of the material. Fourth, the course was well-supported by the TAs. Thoroughly recommended; if you were looking for a first MOOC to try out MOOCs, this would be a great one to pick.
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I struggled with this course. Although it requires programming experience in "an object oriented language" (I had Python), it takes you through Ruby from the point of view of someone who knows C and/or Java. Once I was through that I still felt at sea with many of the exercises; new tools were introduced before I was familiar with the previous ones. Although I completed the course (with an 'A' in edX terms) I didn't feel I understood the material thoroughly (and was sunk in part 2 of this course).