Computer Science, Coursera, Education, Higher Education, Liberal Arts Colleges, MOOC, Python, Udacity

Lifelong Learning: MOOC’s vs Liberal Arts Colleges

In a desire to both learn and experiment, I’ve headed back to the classroom. One of those classrooms is located on the campus of Hendrix College. The other classrooms reside on servers and I access the content through my computer. The other classrooms are ventures by Udacity and Coursera.

At Hendrix College, I’m taking Foundations of Computer Science and we are learning how to program in Python 3.x. The class meets twice a week for 50 minutes and we have two 50 minute labs. We’re well into the semester and class is engaging, fun, and interactive.

Through Udacity, I’m taking Introduction to Computer Science. The class is taught by David Evans from the University of Virginia. Class is under way. Sergey Brin provided a lecture/soundbite on search engines. The other lectures have been engaging, but I haven’t delved too far into them.

Turning to Coursera, I’m enrolled in An Introduction to Interactive Programming in Python and Human-Computer Interaction through their website. The first course is taught by faculty from Rice, while the second course is taught by Scott Klemmer of Stanford. These classes have yet to start.

Excluding Human-Computer Interaction, the courses all use Python to introduce programming and computer science. Redundant? Sure, but what better way to compare learning?

Already, I’ve realized how valuable access to a professor is. What’s a pre-recorded lecture worth versus being able to interact with a subject specialist? Also, how does learning change when one can listen to other students questions? I’m trying not to be too biased, but I realize my preference is for a traditional course. And yes, I’ve taken distance and split distance courses through the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, so I know what traditional distance learning looks like.

One question that really interests me is how can MOOC’s support traditional classroom learning? A lecture is a point of view. Perhaps, students can supplement or expand their learning by hearing another professor discuss a similar topic as one covered in class.

Stay tuned and follow along. If you’re in one of the courses, feel free to share your experiences here or send me an email.