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Roger Leyster

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  • 11 reviews
  • 10 completed
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Summary: A truly excellent first-semester Physics course for those not afraid of a little math. Topics: First-semester Physics kinematics topics including one- and two-dimensional motion, Newtons Laws of motion, circular motion, the conservation laws of energy, momentum, and angular momentum, Newton's law of gravity. Background: To do well in this course you will need to be comfortable with algebraic manipulation. Although calculus is not strictly necessary, it helps if you understand differentiation. (Frankly: you cannot really understand the laws of motion without knowing what a derivative is.) Lectures: Prof. Dubson is an outstanding lecturer, one of the best I have ever seen in my many years of taking college courses. He is enthusiastic, articulate, and has excellent chalk-board skills. There are three lectures each week of approximately 30 minutes each. He gave in-class demonstrations which very much helped clarify many of the concepts (e.g., conservation of linear and angular momentum, moments of inertial, etc.). In-Lecture Quizzes: There are a healthy number of in-lecture concept quizzes which do a good job of making you less of a passive listener and more an engaged participant. The in-lecture quizzes are also given to the students in the lecture hall so you get to see how well you do compared to the other students. Assigned Work: There is a homework assignment for each week's lecture. These do what good homework assignments should do: clarifies the lecture concepts by asking you to think through problems. There were two one-hour mid-terms and a two-and-a-half hour Final exam. Labs: There are no labs. Given that this is an online course, this is not surprising, but if they could figure out some way to pair the rest of this course with a hands-on lab component, this would be the perfect physics course. There are some very helpful on-line lab simulators, though. These can be found by doing a web search for "phetsim". Supplementary Material: A helpful set of lecture notes in PDF format was provided. Also, practice exams and solutions were made available before each exam. Forums: The forum traffic was a little light, but there were several people who were ready to help explain things, and the official course personnel would often post clarifications. IN CONCLUSION: I learned a great deal and thoroughly enjoyed the lectures and assignments. It is astounding that such a high-quality course was made available for free. (Course taken Fall 2013)
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Jazz Appreciation 8.01x at edX is a 10-week course covering American jazz music from its early history through the 1980s. The instructor is a professor as well as a pianist and active part of a jazz ensemble at the U of Texas. Each week he presents 6 to 8 videos of about 10 minutes each. The remarkable thing about this course is that the lectures (and exercises) include recordings of the music discussed, a rarity for a free online course. This makes the course much more enjoyable, especially if you do not have access to a music service such as Spotify or Google Music. FEATURES 1. Several short lectures each week almost of which include real recordings of the performers and composers discussed. 2. To reinforce the information presented in the video lectures this course used Cerego, a quiz system that keeps track of how much you have learned so far and what you are struggling with. 3. The "eras" of jazz music covered are (in this order): hard bop, cool, bebop, swing, early jazz (pre-swing), free, fusion, and new-classical. 4. There are several "Hearing the Difference" lectures describing how you can tell the difference between music from the different eras. 5. There is a focus on several jazz figures including John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and, most particularly, Miles Davis. 6. Lecturer is a performer himself and spends quite a bit of time getting into the details of structure and composition. PROS 1. Real recordings in the lectures and exercises! 2. Lecturer does not assume too much music theory knowledge on the part of the listener. 3. The Cerego exercises gave you quantitative targets to strive for. 4. The professor had several week-end on-line "office hours". CONS 1. The Cerego exercises emphasized repetition and memorization which got a bit tiresome after a while. 2. The course felt rushed. I would have liked to see deeper coverage of some of the more important eras (such as swing). CONCLUSION edX's Jazz Appreciation was an enjoyable, if a bit brief, introduction to the complex and rich world of American jazz music presented by a real jazz performer. The best result from taking this course was that it inspired me to listen to more and more varied jazz.
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University of Maryland's "Cryptography" is part of a four-course sequence of cybersecurity courses offered by the University of Maryland, College Park. The course lasts for seven weeks with topics including * Vigenere ciphers * One-Time pads * Perfect secrecy * Pseudorandomness (functions, permutation, etc.) * Security proofs * Block ciphers * CPA- and CCA-security * MACs (Message Authentication Codes) * Collision-resistant hashes * Public-key encryption * Digital signatures Each week there are from five to seven video lectures. There is an untimed 10-question quiz for each week and an untimed 10-question final exam. There are five programming assignments that are only required in order to "pass with distinction". PROs: * Instructor's lecture were clear and accessible. * Instructor was quite active on the discussion forums. * Programming assignments helped cement understanding of concepts. * Quiz questions were mostly well-constructed and relevant. * Course based on Katz & Lindell's "Introduction to Modern Cryptography" so good printed supplement available. CONs: * Only a few in-lecture quizzes; more such quizzes would have helped engage viewer with the presented material * Discussion of identification schemes was thin and unsatisfying Comparison with Stanford's "Cryptography 1" Stanford offers a course "Cryptography 1" delivered by Dan Boneh that is very similar to this one delivered by Katz. The two courses cover very similar material and are roughly the same length. The programming assignments are quite similar as well. Here are some points of difference. * Stanford's course has more detail on how block ciphers are constructed including discussion of the Luby-Rackoff theorem and Feistel networks. * Stanford's course covers different MAC constructions (NMAC, CBC-MAC, PMAC, HMAC) while the Maryland course covers only CBC-MAC. * Real-life attacks and exploits are covered by both course; Stanford's course discusses problems with WEP, MS-PPTP, CSS, padding oracles, and others; the Maryland course covers padding oracles * Maryland's course covers digital signature and identification schemes; Stanford's course does not cover these topics. * Stanford's quiz problems are a bit more difficult than Maryland's. Conclusion University of Maryland's "Cryptography" course does a very good job of teaching the fundamentals of modern cryptography. The instructor, Jonathan Katz, is engaging and involved while the quizzes and programming assignments enforce the ideas and concepts discussed. Recommended. (Course taken Winter 2014.)
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A solid and entertaining introduction to cryptography. To get the most out of this course you should probably have a good foundation in discrete probability and pre-calculus; some calculus would help as well. FEATURES: 1. Six weeks with approximately 11 video lectures per week. 2. Topics covered (non- exhaustive): history of cryptography, one-time pads and perfect secrecy, Shannon's Theorem, PRNGs (pseudo-random number generators), stream ciphers, security definitions, block ciphers (DES, AES), pseudo-random functions and permutations, modes (CBC, CTR), MACs (message authentication codes), collision-resistant hashes, side-channel attacks, Diffie-Hellman protocol, RSA, El Gamal. 3. Quizzes include both math-based and programming questions. PROS: 1. (Close to) mathematically rigorous. 2. In-lecture quizzes had the right level of difficulty: not too hard, not too difficult. 3. Homework assignments very much helped to reinforce the ideas from class. 4. Lectures were edited well to remove extraneous pauses and irrelevancies. 5. Lecturer knew his material well. 6. Many good examples of where cryptographic protocols mis-applied (e.g., WEP, certain SSL/TLS instances, etc.) 7. PDF notes of lectures were very useful when studying for exams and doing homework. CONS: 1. Supplementary sources were not as helpful as I would have liked.
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Let me be clear from the start: I did not get past the first few lectures. Simply put, the lecturer talks too much. A 10-minute lecture might contain 1 or 2 minutes of actual content. The rest of the time is spent saying things that have no relevance to the material. This would be acceptable if this only happened now and again, but this recurred throughout the lectures I managed to finish. Not my cup of tea.
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About 15 years ago I took a Programming Languages class from my university's CS department. The Coursera Programming Languages matches (or exceeds) this traditional course in depth, quality of presentation, and difficulty. This course covers most of the standard topics in an upper-division Programming Languages course including typing (weak vs. strong, static vs. dynamic), functions as first-class objects, functional programming, object-oriented programming, subtyping, and more. The languages covered were SML, Racket, and Ruby. The course took time and the homeworks and exams were sometimes challenging but ultimately very rewarding. The presentation was quite polished and the notes and supplementary material (pdfs, videos, etc.) were of very high quality. I enjoyed the peer-reviews, although sometimes some of the comments made me mad. The teacher (Dan Grossman from U of Washington) knows the material thoroughly and clearly enjoys teaching it. (Course taken January through March 2013.)
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The "History of Rock, Part One" covers the development of rock music in America starting from the early part of the 20th century and ending in the late 1960s. As is usual for MOOC courses focusing on copyrighted content, no music is played during the lectures, so you have to find the music on your own (almost all of the music is available on YouTube). There are four relatively easy quizzes and no peer-graded assignments. I did not participate in the forums so I cannot comment on their utility. PROS \- the lectures are entertaining and of reasonable length ranging from 10 to 15 minutes \- learned about some important figures in the history of rock \- the interaction between white and black music and audiences is well-told \- inspired me to dig further into some music I had only had a passing acquaintance with previously (e.g., The Lovin' Spoonful). CONS \- I would have preferred more scholarship, that is, evidence backing up assertions. Example: when Bob Dylan went electric, the teacher said this "made a tremendously big impact". What does this mean? How does he know? \- the instructor has a tendency of apologizing whenever any comment about race arises; just present the facts: we are adult enough to figure out the moral issues \- too many cute anecdotes (e.g., guy who didn't sign the Beatles) that don't shed real light on the subject In summary, entertaining but rather shallow. The best result of this course is it motivated me to look at a wider range of artists and to expand my musical tastes. (Course taken Fall 2013.)
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"Exploring Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas" is a 5-week course taught by Jonathan Biss at the Curtis Institute of Music. Each week consists of an hour or so of lecture from Prof. Biss. The material covers the piano sonata form starting from earlier composers (Haydn, Mozart, etc.) and continuing on through Beethoven's early, middle, and late sonatas. In each lecture Biss discusses several piano works and plays small sections as illustrations. There were three assignments during the course (none of which I did). These assignments were essays and peer-graded. An example: listen to one of the piano sonatas discussed in the lecture and compare to one of the first sonatas discussed. Biss is fun to listen to and clearly very enthusiastic about the material (he is a professional pianist with several recordings of Beethoven's sonatas). Although I found the material stimulating, my musical background was not strong enough to really understand many of the points the professor made. The course does not provide access to recordings of the sonatas, so you need to find the recordings of the music discussed in class on your own; I used a Google Music subscription for this. One mistake I made was not listening to the sonatas _before_ he discussed them in lecture. I think if I had, I would have been better equipped to follow his comments. The best result of this class was that it made me listen to many of the sonatas, and to listen more "actively". To get the most out of the course, one needs to put more time into than I did. Maybe I will re-take the class at a later time. (Course taken during Fall 2013.)
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This course covers some of the basics of software testing including various types of coverage, regression testing, and fuzz/random testing. The problems were helpful, but sometimes the programs seemed to involve more programming than testing. The instructor is clearly most interested in random and fuzz testing, and that is the focus of the course. That's fine, but I would have liked to see somewhat less of random testing and more on other topics, e.g., mock objects. The video lectures are very well compressed, with pauses and repeats removed allowing one to get through the lectures efficiently (a few lectures had some editing mistakes where the same sentence was repeated three times in a row). If you want an introduction to testing with an emphasis on random testing, this is a good choice.
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Highlights: + Excellent lectures + Good problem sets + Enlightening demonstrations Lectures: Excellent lecturing by Prof. Jason Hafner. He presents the concepts clearly with good examples and anticipates confusions dispelling these before they cause real difficulties. His "signal-to-noise" ratio is high: he doesn't waste time with superfluous comments or unnecessary repetition. Another way to put this is that very little could be removed from his lecture without adversely affecting understanding. His board-work is clear and readable. Most unusually for an academic, his comic timing is spot-on. He does several demonstrations, especially in the early weeks, and these help make real the theory he discusses on the chalkboard. Prerequisites: You definitely need experience with the integral calculus, vectors, and surface integrals. None of the integrals are difficult, but you need to understand how to set them up. Problem sets: There is one problem set per week of lecture plus a final exam. Overall these problems sets are quite good helping to cement the concepts discussed in the lecture. I like the ones that require math, but there should be more conceptual (non-calculation based) questions. Visualizations: There are a few visualizations to help in understanding how field lines are shaped. Lab Demonstrations: Several in weeks 1 and 2 help to solidify the concepts previously presented. None in week 3, but a few in later weeks when discussing DC circuits. A few areas for improvement: * There were no in-lecture questions. * Never mentioned "conservative fields". * Make available optional at-home labs. This would cost extra money, but would greatly aid in understanding. Summary: A high-quality course.
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The "Try Git" course is quite short. If you have no git experience you can complete it in about 15 to 20 minutes. The course takes you through a typical git workflow: create repository, add some files, branch, merge, delete branch, and a push and pull to a remote repository (GitHub). The GitHub step made me a bit nervous as I had to allow the "Try Git" course to read and write my private GitHub repositories. The course consists of typing basic git commands into a real command window. The short course does not really explain what git is all about, rather, it is a (free) gateway course to the longer and (I imagine) more complete (non-free) "Git Real" course. I would suggest skipping to a more complete tutorial such as the free Pro Git online book.