Continuing Education

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May 08, 2012

Continuing Education

A large fraction of my time these days is spent viewing online courses. Coursera (featuring courses from Stanford, Berkeley, Michigan, Penn and Princeton) and edX (featuring MIT & Harvard) are spearheading free online access to high-quality top university courses. Udacity, founded by former Stanford professor Sebastien Thrun, is also noteworthy, though the content is not as valuable as the other two.

I’ve taken all but one of the Coursera classes. These courses have mostly been computer-science related, though the variety of the subjects taught will soon expand to the humanities and other subjects.

For me, the most beneficial part is the overview refresher to the field of artificial intelligence, taught by the leading professors in the field:

  • AI. This was taught by Norvig (95% of AI courses uses his text) and Thrun
  • Machine Learning
  • Natural Language Processing by Manning and Jurafsky
  • Probabilistic Graphical Models
  • Game Theory
  • Computer Vision
  • Programming a Robotic Car
  • Introduction to Robotics
  • Data Mining
  • Computational Neuroscience

Some are courses I have already taken before, but, since its been nearly two decades, there has been considerable advances in technology that warrant a second look.  

Another site that I spend a lot of time on is PluralSight Training (, which has over 200 hardcore developer videos on a range of technology, mostly targeting the Microsoft platform, but also including other popular topics such mobile and cloud computing. At the current rate that I am consuming these PluralSight courses, by end of this year or next, I should be thoroughly familiar with nearly every aspect of the latest Microsoft technologies as well as the the most common mobile, web, and cloud APIs and services. PluralSight has an annual subscription package costing from $299 for web and mobile access to course videos to $499 (which includes assessments and certificates).

I have attempted various study programs over the past decade. For instance, I collected numerous online textbooks to read, but I find that many texts are difficult to go through without the foundation of an introductory course. Online course lectures require less conscious effort and there is also less chance that I will skip over the boring parts.

I marveled at how students have acquired university knowledge at accelerated pace and sought to replicate their high rate of knowledge acquisition. For instance, Scott Young is attempting an MIT challenge, which is to learn four years of MIT OpenCourseWare material in a period of 12 months. With fourteen courses already completed so far this year, I am well on my way to acquiring another bachelor’s degree worth of knowledge (typically requiring four years) by the end of this year—a feat that I will likely repeat again each upcoming year. I am so excited.


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