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Gordon Haff

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  • 6 reviews
  • 5 completed
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There was a lot to like about this course including a wide range of fascinating videos from chefs, Harold McGee, Nathan Myhrvold, Dan Sousa (Cooks Illustrated), and others. The instructors were engaging as well and I found much of the chemistry interesting. I also found the approach to self-grading of non-numeric questions against a detailed rubric a rather sensible approach. A lot of online classes tie themselves in knots with peer-grading that doesn't add a lot of value but annoys and even angers a lot of people. One could question re-submitting for a better grade against the answer which you've now seen but I view it as this course providing grades and a certificate as motivating factors while not taking them too seriously. So why not five stars? I guess because I ultimately wanted to like and get involved with the class more than I actually did. This isn't so much a science and cooking class as it is a sort of applied chemistry class against the background of cooking in general and modernist cuisine in particular. That's not necessarily a failing but some of the topics were taught better than others. And, in any case, expect lots of number crunching involving moles, dimensional analysis, and very large and small numbers. I found most of this straightforward enough, if often a bit tedious, but I can see it being very challenging for folks not comfortable with solving equations, working with exponents, and working with various types of dimensions. In general, I find the less math-heavy "science of cooking" as communicated by folks like Cooks Illustrated more interesting and more practical than the equation-heavy approach taken here. (As another reviewer noted--and I agree--I think the issue here is that this is effectively a Harvard undergrad chemistry course for non-science majors (?) and the approach to the material reflects that. If one were to design a Science and Cooking class for adults interested in cooking from scratch, I suspect you'd take a more conceptual approach even if the broad topics were the same.)
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A fun engaging class which makes good use of video from the field and the museum, as well as online tools. It's definitely a cut above the usual Powerpoints and all the instructors were extremely engaging. Even if you know something about dinosaurs you'll likely learn some things and enjoy doing so-- although it's certainly not a demanding course. The class is essentially self- paced. There's an end date to the class but that's about it. This worked pretty well for me in the context of this class. Watching the videos, reading the handout, and taking the short quiz for a given week took me less than an hour so I actually appreciated being able to do 3-4 at a time when I had a few hours to spare. As others have noted, this is ostensibly a 12 week course. However, given the flexibility of the schedule and the length of the individual segments, you could just as easily think of it as a 6 week course with 2 segments each.
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It's obvious that the professor put a lot of work and planning into the course. Assignments were well thought out and the professor's style was extremely engaging. I would have preferred the use of open source mapping software but I understand why the decision to use ESRI was made and it makes sense in the context of this course. Overall, a really nice, succinct introduction to cartography and GIS. My only caveat--but not really a negative given that the course was wholly consistent with its description--is that this is a very basic intro to the subject. If you know anything to speak of about the subject matter you'll probably learn a few things and find stuff of interest (at least I did), but it felt more like a fun diversion for a few hours a week than a full-fledged course that really enhanced my understanding of the topic. As I say, not a negative, but set your expectations realistically.
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I generally concur with many of the other reviews. For me, I still come down on the pro side. However, I had some degree of familiarity with the majority of the topics covered in the course--including a fair bit of programming experience--so I didn't have any trouble setting up the various environments required for the assignments. The only specific point that I found especially frustrating was auto-grader issues for the first assignment--which I assume will be corrected in future iterations. For me personally, I found the breadth of topics welcome as this gave me new insights into a number of different areas, a number of which I just had cursory knowledge of. That said, I can understand the frustration of many. The course was certainly a bit rough in terms of both content of individual lectures/assignments and overall flow. In several ways, it felt as if it petered out towards the end. The Tableau assignment, in particular, just seemed ill-conceived as it required proprietary Windows software. Overall, I think there's the core of a much better course here, albeit one that probably requires a better grounding in programming etc. than is obvious from the prereqs.
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It's a well-organized course--I like how it is explicitly split into tracks-- and both the material and the delivery are engaging. The overall level also seems appropriate given prereqs and the material to cover. A few minor glitches here and there, such as difficulty reading code on videos, but overall A for the material presented. My one real criticism is that, given the necessarily survey nature of the course materials, it would have been nice to have had more explicit pointers to future self-directed exploration. As it is, a lot of the code used in the lectures wasn't even made available for download as of this writing. Of course, the course suggests plenty of jumping off points for future personal exploration but even a fairly minimalist set of further resources would have been welcome.
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This is a fun breezy introduction to the Internet and its history. Dr. Severance is engaging and the course is well put-together. I echo much of the praise that others give the course. It does come with a couple of caveats that keep me from giving it a perfect rating though. The first thing to be aware of is that this is a very basic course. If you're familiar with networking tech and something about the background of the Internet, you'll still likely enjoy many of the historical videos but probably won't learn much new about the tech. The second thing is that the course makes extensive use of interview videos that Dr. Severance made over time. Many of them are very interesting but they sometimes seem to drive the course flow in certain ways that I didn't think was always the most logical. Still, overall recommended.