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  • 30 reviews
  • 18 completed
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The lectures covered some grand ideas, but I did not come away with a good understanding of them. There seemed to be a complete mismatch between the lectures and many of the homework questions. Several key concepts were not covered at all. The TA mentioned that a future iteration might have both a qualitative and quantitative track, so I might check out the next version of the class.
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This class is taught with a distinctive style and is expanding my understanding of debugging techniques, but I still don't feel like I have a comprehensive understanding of the subject. Most of the required programming is pretty straightforward for anyone experienced enough to consider taking the class, but some of the questions seem unnecessarily confusing. Despite its shortcomings, I appreciate the class and the instructor's insights.
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Despite its title, the course does not seem to establish any clear through- line regarding modernity, per se. It instead feels like a loosely connected survey of ideas, suitable for a first-year university course. Students are asked to read a host of famous writings, and the instructor then gives an hour long synopsis of some important points. The writing assignments then ask you to draw some basic links between the points of view of different authors. Nothing too unusual. The lectures are certainly worthwhile, and cast a lot of light on the readings, which are often quite opaque. The in-class quizzes are not used very effectively, and the peer-graded writing assignments don't ask for any interesting analysis. For the most part, the class merely asks students to prove that they didn't fall asleep (admittedly a non-trivial challenge with some of these writings). As a lecture series, though, this class is worth seeking out.
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The class covers a lot of useful material, but it's presented rather unevenly. The course videos are tapes of lectures given at U.C. Berkeley which usually either dwell on basic high-level discussions, or hurry through more advanced uses of a technology. What's often given short shrift is the part where they actually take you step-by-step through the things you must learn to do. As a result, I had to watch each lecture twice: once to get a fuzzy idea of the concept, and then again after I had learned the subject on my own so that I could understand some of the finer points. They do thankfully point you to outside resources to actually learn things like Ruby, Rails, RSpec, and Cucumber. In some cases (like the Ruby track at Codecademy or railstutorial.org) the outside resources were clearly superior to the course lectures in teaching you the basics. In other cases, the outside resources also seemed to presume some basic familiarity with the subject, so I ended up struggling through the material, piecing it together from many different sources, which is exactly where I would have been if I hadn't taken this class at all. The quizzes were a source of frustration. Some of the quiz questions were quite ambiguous or focused on concepts that did not seem to be the focus of the lectures or homework. On one of the quizzes, I missed several questions despite feeling very comfortable with the lectures and homework. No explanation was ever given for the grading, so I didn't learn anything from the experience either. I prefer classes that make very clear exactly what you need to know. My reaction to the class might have been more positive if I had bought the optional book. At a price of $30 for the print edition and $10 for the Kindle edition, it's hardly unreasonable, but they made a point of the fact that you didn't need it. I'm hoping for another version of the course that is entirely self-contained, but in the meantime, I'm thankful for this one.
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I'm enjoying Udacity's Introduction to Psychology, a very gentle overview of the subject. In some cases they've gone out of their way to come up with novel ways of making the material fun. For example, they conducted the Sense Olympics at Udacity HQ to demonstrate the limits of human perception. Like most Udacity classes, the lectures are interspersed with questions to keep you thinking. Unlike most Udacity classes, the homework assignments are just more quiz questions that do not ask you to go further with what you've learned. You don't really get a chance to "do" any psychology yourself. Nevertheless, for a fun survey of a great many topics in psychology, this one is worth checking out.
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This class covered many aspects of ancient Greek life, but it didn't really answer my first and most important question: why should I care about the ancient Greeks? I found the lectures to be slow-paced, and big ideas got a bit lost in a sea of details. I'm thankful for this free course, but it didn't have as much impact on my thinking as I hoped.
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A very basic introduction to JavaScript. Codecademy is great about letting you practice new material enough to absorb it, and it's no different here. Disappointingly, the class doesn't really get into the web-specific uses of JavaScript, which after all, is the bread and butter of the language. To be fair, they do have a JQuery course that goes into the DOM stuff in greater depth. That one also provides you with more visual gratification for your programming. With limited time, that may be a more worthwhile choice. Still, if you want to learn Javascript more fully, this is a good first start, but it should be taken in conjunction with further courses that will let you put your new skills to the test.
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I'm a big fan of Udacity's frequent in-class quizzes, but this course failed to supply all the necessary context to solve those quizzes. Sometimes even when I thought I had understood everything, my quiz answers inexplicably didn't work. Even when I tried to copy the instructor's solution exactly, it still didn't always work. I've programmed games before, so I wouldn't expect to have so much trouble. I did feel there was some useful material on XMLHttpRequests and parsing JSON data, but the class should really be re- tooled to develop those ideas more incrementally . Until the class is revamped, I doubt I will finish it.
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The course covered a wide variety of database formats and techniques, but I found it to be a bit of a slog to get through. I liked the instructor, but the lectures sometimes felt monotonous, and at times I struggled to stay awake. I wish that each new concept was immediately followed by a programming question to give you a chance to practice and solidify the information. I did enjoy and appreciate the homework assignments, but the course lacked any large projects to bring it all together. I can already feel my knowledge of XSLT, OLAP, and a dozen other acronyms slipping away because after a handful of exercises, we promptly moved on to other things. Of course, it's understandable given the number of topics covered. The exams also lacked any programming which made them feel rather anticlimactic. If you want a quick overview of many database topics, this will do the trick, but I think I would prefer a class that gave me a more in-depth understanding of creating a large-scale database for a big website. I hope to see a course on this subject matter taught in the more interactive style of Udacity, Codecademy, or Code School. None of those platforms has a course on Databases, though, so I'm thankful for this one.
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This might be the most directly useful class I've taken online. I'm continuing to use code that I wrote in this course for an actual website. I also enjoyed the opportunity to get some insight from Steve Huffman. He's pretty down-to- earth, so it felt less like taking a class with a typical professor, and more like learning from a really smart friend. On the plus side, that meant he didn't drone on about theoretical subjects, but on the downside, he sometimes quickly moved past topics that should have been explained in greater depth. If you're just coming out of CS101, you may find things a little difficult. Although the intro to HTML is quite slow at first, the pace accelerates. Be sure to read the Google App Engine "Getting Started" documentation because the class doesn't help you enough with that. (Why do instructors never devote much attention to mastering the development environment itself?) You may also want to do some outside study to supplement your understanding, possibly with the HTML/CSS or Python tracks at Codecademy. Despite some notable rough patches, the projects were extremely satisfying. If you complete them, you'll be well on your way to becoming a web developer.
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A great first outing from Udacity. The entire course is self-contained which makes it easy to get started. I love their approach of giving quizzes throughout the lecture, but they should replace some of the iffier multiple choice questions with more programming problems. Codecademy's course in Python might be a good supplement to this one if you'd like more practice. It's really easy to do all of the assignments right in the browser. That said, I wanted to be able to explore a new concept interactively as soon as it was taught. I understand that they want to keep it simple, but I really feel the class should have explained how to download and make use of Python's interactive interpreter, as well as its debugger. I would also recommend pythontutor.com to visualize the execution of programs. Although the class was pretty engaging overall, it did start off a bit slow for my taste. Especially when first starting out, I want a lot of visual examples and lots of feedback to show me the power and joy of computing. I would delay, for example, a discussion of abstract topics like Backus-Naur form until students are hooked. Get them doing and creating right away. The Khan Academy has some interesting ideas on that front and may be worth checking out if you're a newcomer to programming and want some visual examples. Once the class got rolling, though, the material was pretty absorbing. One of the best parts was seeing the search engine we were building take shape, although it was a bit disappointing that we never really put it into operation. I see that they've added new material after the final exam, covering classes, exceptions, and I/O. I really appreciate it, but that material should really be expanded upon. I hope to see a CS102 that helps students create larger programs using a wider range of data structures. Overall, Udacity is my favorite choice for online CS education, because the mix of videos, practice problems, and larger assignments make for a compelling experience. I hope they continue to hone their approach and round out their lineup, because I'll certainly be back.
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I enjoyed the course, but I had mixed feelings about the level of instruction. The class can't seem to decide if it's for people with 7 weeks of programming experience or 7 years of programming experience. There are great nuggets of information throughout, but the instructor will often blow right by some pretty tricky stuff as though it's trivial to us. I also found some annoying bugs in the auto-grader and some unnecessary confusion in a few of the questions. Udacity does need a class on the Design of Computer Programs, but this really isn't it. I think this material would work better as a course in advanced techniques in Python. Lose some of the simpler stuff and spend more time explaining those techniques we're unlikely to have seen before. As it is, I had to pause the videos where the solution was shown because I often couldn't figure it all out by the time he moved on. Still, I did learn a number of new things, and I appreciate the exposure to entirely new approaches.
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My favorite Coursera class so far. Dan Ariely talks at one point about how they tried to push the lecture quality towards television standards, and while he candidly admits that they're not at that level, they're still much better than most online classes. It helps that the subject matter is endlessly intriguing. The reading is less enjoyable, and I found myself skimming the studies just enough to answer all the related quiz questions. The quiz questions generally just make sure you understood the main points, although a few of them were a little tricky. Overall, the class was among the easiest I've taken. The biggest problem with the course is that you don't get enough practice actually doing anything with what you've learned. There is a single peer-graded writing assignment that asks you to consider an application of your knowledge, but that's not sufficient to incorporate all of this material on irrationality into your life. Maybe there could be tasks to change your behavior on some bad habit, or give ideas to redesign a charity website. If I were designing the class, I'd look for at least one real world exercise for each unit of the class. Still, for pure interest and entertainment, this class is right at the top.
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The class has three homework assignments, the first two of which are based on an existing project of about 30,000 lines of code. Unfortunately, the given project wouldn't even pass the supplied rspec and cucumber tests for me. I spent hours trying to track down the problems, but I had to give up. I had no choice but to drop the class.
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A fascinating subject matter, brought to life with many great examples and clips. I'm taking the class primarily for the video lectures, which are full of variety and extremely worthwhile. The assigned textbook reading is not quite as entertaining, but it has a lot of interesting material, and you can easily skim it if you want. The biggest weakness of the class is that the lectures and readings do not adequately prepare you for some of the assignments. It's a bit like being given a tour of an art museum and then being asked to sculpt something. We need more instruction in actually using the techniques we've seen demonstrated. That said, most are peer-graded, and you should be able to muddle through without too much trouble since everyone's in the same boat. Another reviewer made it sound as though you have to join the Social Psychology Network, but you do not. You can instead submit a resume or CV, and you do not have to use your real information in doing so. The same reviewer also complained about "advertisements" for other books, but I haven't found anything objectionable. The instructor does make a point of talking about famous psychologists and their contributions, but it was all perfectly on point. All in all, I'd recommend the course to everyone who wonders why people act the way they do.
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I think this class may have bitten off more than it can chew. It tries to cover everything from awk and sed to the yearly revenue of biotech companies, but it doesn't really succeed in teaching any of it. I've had to go elsewhere to learn how to create a website or start a business. The lecture videos were late and sporadic, so I ended up stumbling through each homework assignment without feeling like I actually understood it. The lecture notes should be in the dictionary under the term 'infodump'. They're filled with lots of great info, but they're in giant PDF files and not structured in a way that allows students to easily digest the material. Concepts should be introduced one at a time, allowing students to master each before moving on. If that means there's not enough time to cover everything, then either make more clear prerequisites, or split some material into its own course. There's a lot of potential here for a great class, but in its first run, it failed to capitalize.
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This course has many fine qualities, but in my view, it is not the one to take to get you excited about programming. The lectures are both monochrome and monotone, and they focus heavily on the mechanics of programming. Unfortunately, they do not capture the thrill of creating new things, nor are you ever given a project of any significance. This class is the equivalent of doing layup drills without ever actually playing a basketball game. I would recommend Udacity's Introduction to CS ahead of this course. That said, this one has a few advantages. For one, it encourages you to use the interactive Python interpreter, which is a very good practice, especially while you're learning. It also introduces and makes use of pythontutor.com, which is very helpful to visualize the execution of a program. Lastly, they put notes in the margin of the video, which are quite helpful as a reference. Because of these strengths, I think this class could make a decent supplement to Udacity's course if you'd like some clarification on the finer points.
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It has admittedly been a while since I took a Mechanics class, but I found that the limited instruction in this class was not sufficient to make me feel confident with this material. There is very little discussion of big picture concepts; the lectures just show example problems. There are only three homework problems a week, but unfortunately, I got stumped on one that seemed to be clearly more difficult than the simplified examples given in class. There's not even a full hour of lecture a week, so I don't understand why there wasn't time to cover problems of full complexity in class. Given the reviews here, I was expecting a more in-depth learning experience, but it seems just to be a brief overview of some sample mechanics problems. I'll have to go elsewhere to get a deeper understanding of these issues.
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One of my favorite online classes. I had taken a class on compilers and programming languages with Alex Aiken many years ago, but I needed a refresher. My previous course was more intensive, but for my needs, I preferred this course. The instructor, Wes Weimer, was extremely knowledgeable and fun, and the quizzes and exercises kept me on top of things. The class was well thought out and had a number of satisfying problems to solve. The last final exam question in particular beautifully summarized the lessons of the course. The biggest downside of the class is that there's not enough of it. Although it's advertised as "Building a Web Browser", it's really more about writing a lexer, parser, and interpreter. Those are key to the process, to be sure, but I was hoping to have my own browser at the end, and missed a bit of the big-picture motivation for all the regular expressions, finite state machines, et al. that we covered. I would also have liked more material about the design of programming languages themselves, even if it meant losing some detail on things like generating the chart of parser states. I hope they will consider a follow-up class that covers these subjects in more detail. If you're thinking about taking the class, you may want to consider whether this class is important to the work you hope or plan to do. I've rated the class based on the quality of the instruction, which was very high, but in my experience, this material has not been as directly applicable to my work as, say, Udacity's Web Development course. You may also want to consider whether you're prepared for it. The only listed prerequisite is CS101, but I think you would find it easier going if you already had experience writing programs with trees or other large data structures. That said, the course was entirely self- contained and everything you needed was explained. Here's hoping Professor Weimer decides to teach some more online classes!
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A brief but pleasant introduction to Ruby. It seems pitched for complete beginners, but moves quickly through a fair number of topics. Unfortunately, I didn't feel that I actually mastered any of those topics. Codecademy is much better for actually practicing the material enough that you can write your own programs. This is more of a whirlwind tour. I did get hung up on a sequence where I was copying a large chunk of code in order to populate a popup window. I tried to copy the code exactly, but it wasn't working. I'm not sure if it was a bug or I misunderstood something. If this course were supplemented by a more thorough explanation of Ruby, I'd be more comfortable recommending it wholeheartedly. That said, if you just want to Try Ruby, well I guess this will do just fine.
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I hadn't planned to take a physics class, but I got hooked after checking out the first few videos of this one. I love the way the instructor, Andy Brown, starts each unit off with a big question inspired by a historical discovery from around the world. It gives you a great sense of motivation as you learn how the great thinkers of the past made their breakthroughs, and how you too can solve seemingly impossible problems. I already took physics long ago in high school, so for me, this course served to reignite my interest in the subject. You don't need to have taken physics before, but you must be quite comfortable with algebra and fairly comfortable with geometry. Although trigonometry is explained in the course, I suspect you'll find it tough going if you haven't previously been exposed to it. Most of the time, the class seems intended for someone who has never taken physics at all, but sometimes it moves too quickly through various equations instead of reiterating the ideas behind them. They sometimes neglect to give you enough practice with each new technique, particularly later in the class. I found myself stymied by a number of homework problems in Week 5 & 6\. Another annoyance is the lack of notes or at least a list of equations. It takes too long to rewatch the videos looking for a certain equation, so I would end up searching on the web or going to the discussion forums. Luckily, if all else fails, you can always watch the solution videos if you get stuck and then give the questions another try. If you're new to physics you'll probably have to check the answers a few times, but that's okay. I hope Udacity will consider making an expanded version of this course that covers some of the issues in more depth and gives students a bit more practice with each concept. I'm very glad for this quick intro, though!
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A very basic introduction to Git. It just goes through some of the fundamental commands, but you'll need much more practice to master it. Still, you can't complain about a free introduction to a useful technology, so give it a try if you're new to Git.
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Codecademy has delivered a solid introduction to Ruby, assuming you just need to know the basics. The course is suitable for a first-timer and doesn't explore advanced concepts in much depth, but it does give you a solid foundation to build on. You will need to supplement your instruction here with larger projects, but if you're a beginner, this is where I would start.
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This class jumped right in to Rails, covering Models, Views, and Controllers. It didn't give me much of a high-level overview at the beginning, and I wondered if I was missing something. The instructor mentioned that you should check out TryRuby if you're not familiar with Ruby, but I don't think that will provide sufficient background. Perhaps try the Ruby track at Codecademy. Also, check out the online tutorials for Rails at guides.rubyonrails.org and railstutorial.org. Once I had gotten a little more background, I was able to make it through the course without too much difficulty. The video stuttered a lot for me, which it does not at, say, Udacity. I also needed to download the slides because each video segment would cover a few different techniques before you got a chance to try them, and I would forget some by the time it was my turn to type. I prefer the Codecademy style of letting you try each new concept immediately. Still, it beats most traditional university courses. The zombie stuff is just set dressing, although it does make the experience distinctive. For my taste, though, I wish Code School would spend a little less time on the decor, and a little more time on explaining the big picture. This course was free, but follow up courses require a subscription. I haven't been persuaded to pony up the cash, but it's worth checking out to see if you feel different.
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A good introduction to JQuery for those who are completely new to it. Being able to see results as you type makes the process more fun and makes it easier to learn. They give you plenty of practice so you actually have a chance of remembering it. I did experience some problems, though. Often when starting a new exercise, it had "forgotten" the code from the previous exercises that should have been carried over. I ended up having to copy and paste, which got very tiresome when I had HTML and CSS and JQuery files. I hope it was just a temporary bug, because otherwise, I really enjoyed the experience. You will want to supplement this course with more extensive projects using JQuery, but this is a fine first start.
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A nice three-hour tour of the basics of JQuery. I had already taken the Codecademy intro, but wanted to bolster my skills a bit. Code School courses sometimes seem to presume that you have some prior knowledge, without necessarily making it clear what that knowledge is. This class was better on that front, though there are a few unexplained areas. Their focus is to help you make dynamic web pages ASAP, and that is very understandable. The video would often stutter for me, and I kept turning off HD hoping to speed it up. The video looked great without it. The interface is also nice looking. At times the windows feel oddly sized though. I would have to move my code window up so I could see everything. It's hard when you're trying to fit so much stuff on the screen. I did appreciate that you could load up the slides from the lecture while attempting the challenges, and it was needed because sometimes several topics were covered before you got a chance to try it yourself. This is probably my favorite class at Code School so far. I would be interested in trying their follow up classes, but those you have to pay for. I'm on the fence about whether it'd be worth it. Still, you can check out this one for free and decide for yourself.
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Codecademy really understands the importance of seeing your results immediately, and of practice, practice, practice. Open that window full-screen and you can watch as your web pages come to life. There's a lot of material, but they give you many chances to try out each new technique, so you have a better chance of remembering it. I did get tripped up a little bit near the end of the track. I couldn't quite understand exactly what was going on with static and absolute positioning, for example. The usually foolproof method of trying out different things didn't seem to have an effect. Not sure if it was a bug or something I didn't understand. Still, a minor issue. Codecademy also gives you some projects, which are nice, but they're not at a scope that allows you to truly master the material. They could improve by adding some larger, structured projects in which they don't tell you what to do at each step, but do give more overarching guidelines than, "Make your own website!" Overall, I highly recommend Codecademy to learn the basics, and plan to check back at their site often.
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A reasonably solid introduction to advanced mathematical ideas. The instructor goes on and on about how it's not about getting answers but about how you think. Nevertheless the assignments do in fact require you to get answers, and at times not enough practice problems are covered in lecture to solidify the ideas. Nevertheless this could be a decent supplement to other courses in, say, discrete mathematics.
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Unfortunately this class made me feel as though time itself had slowed down. I appreciate taking time to cover complex topics, but it took far too long to even get going. I might try this again after drinking a few cups of coffee to help me stay awake.
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The lectures did not prepare me for the programming on the first homework assignment. I'd just have to learn how to do it on my own, defeating the purpose of taking the course. The lectures are just long uninterrupted blocks, and they could desperately use interactive questions to incrementally develop your understanding. I'm going to hope the Coursera class on Machine Learning does just that.