Monday, August 21, 2017

Some direction on interesting MOOC Websites and Courses for various interest groups


MOOCs: Some Descriptions1
·         An MOOC (massive, open, online, courses)  is similar to a course given at a prestigious university. The similarities include lectures, a syllabus, assignments, exams and a start and end date. The difference is the student can learn from their own home at no cost;
·         MOOCs are revolutionary because they are often taught by renowned professors from famous universities such as, Yale and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and they're provided at no cost;
·         With MOOCs, students pay no tuition to take classes that would normally cost thousands of dollars;
·         A MOOC is:
o   Massive: Large amounts of information are being shared with a large number of people;
o   Open: The information is available to anyone;
o   Online: The course is accessible via the Internet; and
o   Course: It is a class on a specific topic taught by a professor, complete with a syllabus and lesson plans.

Objectives: The objectives of this posting are:
·         To define/describe MOOCs for those newly joining us, and;
·         To provide some guidance on MOOC websites and courses that will serve the need of various interest groups.

If you find something interesting in this posting, note the Reference Number (in superscript). Then click on the corresponding link under REFERENCES below to obtain more details. This posting concludes with a hint of what to expect in the next posting.


For High-School Students2
·         The best MOOC for high school students is KhanAcademy 
·         KhanAcademy has hundreds of short, easy-to-understand lessons at the high school level. Some of the many subjects covered include math, physics, chemistry, biology, computer science, economics, history, civics and test prep for the SAT, GMAT and California Standards Test.

For Rigorous College-Level Courses2
·         Not all MOOCs are designed to simulate real college courses with homework, exams and timetables for completion;
·         The MOOCs at Coursera are taught by renowned professors at world-famous universities.  These courses are made to be as difficult as a real college course;
·         Courses are usually offered at no cost, but they have an enrollment date, a recommended workload  to fill a certain number of hours per week, and a series of exams and assignments to complete. There are no grades, but students who successfully finish the course receive a certificate from the instructor.

For People on the Go (i.e. People who Travel a Lot) 2
·         Don’t be tied down by your computer or your classroom. With iTunes U, you can find lectures and lessons from hundreds of colleges and universities and then download them straight to an iPhone, iPod or iPad with the iTunes U app;
·         Best of all, it’s completely native to iTunes. If you have an iTunes account then you have all you need to get started.

For People Interested in the Humanities2
·         There isn’t a specific MOOC website for students interested in the Humanities, but there are lots of options. Coursera has a wide selection of choices on several topics;
·         For students who just want to expand their minds by watching lectures without submitting to the rigors of a real college class, Open Yale Courses is an excellent resource of classes that cover many subjects.  Open Yale Courses was selected as one of Time Magazine’s Top 50 Websites of 2011.

For People Interested in Computer Science2
·         Without question, the best MOOC for students interested in computer science is Udacity. Udacity has courses for every level of student.  They also allow you to take those courses at your leisure and they are completely dedicated to computer science;
·         If you’ve exhausted your resources over at Udacity, be sure to check out or the computer science section at Coursera.

For People Interested in Hobbies2
·         Do you want to learn how to knit socks, practice yoga and play the electric guitar? Udemy is the MOOC website for you;
·         Udemy’s format is a little different than all the other MOOCs out there. Anyone can create his or her own course on any topic for the whole world to study.

MOOCs For Engineering Students

Fundamentals of Electrical Engineering3
·         Anyone interested in exploring technology will fit right into this course offered by Rice University through The course discusses “the creation, manipulation, transmission, and reception of information by electronic means.”  Furthermore, this course includes topics on both analog and digital signals and how we extract and change the information encoded in these signals;
·         The professor recommends knowledge of both differential and integral calculus as a prerequisite to the course.

Introduction to Engineering3
·         Due to the nature of engineering’s many applications, there aren’t many courses that act as a survey of the entire field. If you wanted to take a basic engineering class at a college or university, you typically had to pick an intro course to a specific discipline;
·         To fix this, Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering created this course as “a broad overview of what is going on in the school.” Now you don’t have to chose between chemical, mechanical, biomedical or nuclear engineering. You can learn a little bit about all of them and decide which you are most interested in pursuing.

Introduction to Chemical Engineering3
·         If you’re just getting started in college and think chemical engineering might be right for you, consider trying this introductory course taught by a professor from Stanford University;
·         In addition to engineering topics, the course also discusses applications for chemical engineering, which can be just as important in the oil industry as it is in diagnosing disease and innovating in organ donation.

Civil and Environmental Engineering3
·         This iTunesU course from the University of California, Berkeley, deals with civil engineering;
·         Civil engineering focuses on the design and construction of roads, buildings, bridges and other manmade physical structures.

Introduction to MEMS Design3
·         This MOOC, also taught through UC Berkeley, introduces a specialized topic pertaining to both electrical and mechanical engineering called MEMS (Microelectromechanical systems);
·         MEMS are the technology behind devices that generally range from the incredibly small size of 20 micrometers to one millimeter. Printers, microphones, gyroscopes, accelerometers and pressure sensors are all devices built or improved upon by MEMS.

Engineering Statics3
·         Statics refers to “the study of methods for quantifying the forces between bodies;”
·         Students who aren’t quite ready to tackle tough engineering courses, but aspire to become an engineer in the future can benefit from Carnegie Mellon’s MOOC on statics;
·         Statics is an important prerequisite for branches of engineering like mechanical, civil and bioengineering that  can be taken before getting into more specific engineering topics. It does not require any calculus and only basic physics courses are recommended as prerequisites.

MOOCs For Students Who Like Science

Introduction to Solid State Chemistry4
·         This is a first-year level course taught by a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology;
·         In this course, the student will learn about the real world applications of how chemical bonding and electronic structure relates to the field of engineering;
·         According to the professor, understanding the connection between chemistry and its applications is “the most important tool…to come up with new inventions.”

Quantum Mechanics and Quantum Computation4
·         The University of California, Berkeley, teaches this MOOC through  The course requires no previous experience with quantum mechanics but still maintains a rigorous level of work;
·         Quantum mechanics is one of those courses that sounds intimidating, students either love it or cringe at it;
·         Topics covered in this course include the fundamentals of quantum algorithms and the building blocks of quantum computers.  This is a cross-disciplinary class that students from math, physics and computer science will find engaging and challenging.

The Atmosphere, the Ocean, and Environmental Change4
·         For those interested in environmental science, Open Yale Courses from Yale University has a course on the processes that control the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans and climates;
·         The course topics include: storms, ocean currents, seasons, atmospheric conditions and global warming;
·         The course discusses “the physics in how the atmosphere and the oceans move.”

Autism and Related Disorders4
·         For any science major interested in learning more about the autism spectrum and related disorders that affect human socialization this course is for you. This MOOC is taught through iTunes U with Yale University  and is a seminar course that covers diagnosis, assessment and treatment of children and adolescents with autism;
·         Each lecture is given by a different medical professional, so students are open to a variety of opinions and research.

Exploring Black Holes: General Relativity & Astrophysics4
·         MIT’s OpenCourseWare has selected lectures and course materials and uses the study of black holes and how they affect the physical world around them to teach concepts in general relativity, astrophysics and cosmology;
·         This class discusses well-known physics concepts, but gets into very theoretical territory. The professor even suggests, “You might be able to use certain black holes to travel to another universe.”

This posting has presented a summary of what's available in the MOOC world to generate awareness and interest regarding MOOCs.   What has not been mentioned, is how MOOC students need a higher level of self-motivation compared to "regular" campus-students, in order to succeed in their study. For this reason, the next posting will focus on tips and advice to assist MOOC students in successfully completing their courses.

To search for your first or next MOOC from a list of over 7,600 courses arranged under 13 subject areas, please click here.


Posted by Dr. Nat Tuivavalagi

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