On course

I had – actually, I still have – so many things to do these days, since I always put them off until after graduation. Some of them I’ve already started – like this blog -, others not so. Here I share my experience with a couple of the former. Even though both of them are online learning courses they have less in common than you might think.

Semantic Web Technologies, Hasso Plattner Institut, University of Potsdam

As a matter of fact, I had no intention to start a course so soon after graduating. Even though I find the vision of the Semantic Web really exciting, I thought I could do with some time off. The fact that the course wasn’t hosted on the best known online education platforms (Udacity and Coursera) didn’t help either and I can’t say I was familiar with the University of Potsdam. Moreover, I had already studied the subject partly during my time in Uni, although, admittedly, I wasn’t content with what I had learned.

The course consists of six lectures. It starts off with the limitations of the World Wide Web followed by the vision of the Semantic Web. The main part consists of the knowledge representations and logics used to enable the Semantic Web and the course concludes with a peek at existing applications built over semantic data. Heck, it’s as if you only get to see the interesting parts of a generic University course on knowledge representations! I found this refreshing and together with the really helpful presentations and great learning material the course was a great success. The only minor setback was that the homework was focused on the theoretical aspect.

To sum up, even though I have experienced similar courses in person and – admittedly different ones – from some really well known Universities online, I’m really happy to admit that the course was on a par with the best ones.  If the subject interests you, you should definitely give it a try.

Hack Design

And now for something completely different. Hack Design is not a course per se but you get to learn just as much, in a more laid back approach.As the name denotes, its goal is to educate hackers about design.

Here, you won’t be seeing your regular studying material, with blog posts, videos and even games taking an important part. It’s much more a case of having accomplished designers sharing content with you than enrolling in a lecture. As such, it is brilliant and right to the point.

After a much needed introductory lesson, the course deals with typography, UX, UI, Graphic Design and Mobile, covering the most important aspects of design. Thankfully, there is no strict schedule, allowing you to take the course at your own pace.

In my experience, most people (not just hackers) would benefit greatly from such a course. Especially me fellow CS students are found lacking in design matters and it’s a great chance to catch up.

While we’re on the matter, a really interesting thing that came to prominence this week were Mozilla Open Badges. It’s a really great initiative in my opinion and I hope that more and more online courses will eventually adopt them. Of course, the motivation for learning should be independent and impartial but It’s great having a form of certification for things you put effort and time to learn.

PS. I’ve also started learning Python recently although not through an online course. I intended to write about this, too, but I think I’ll leave it for the next post. Besides, it won’t take that long to come.