Mobile Tech Talk

MOOC: ushering an era of auto didacticism

Only the autodidacts are free.”
― Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Author of “Black Swan

nahi jnAnEna sadRushaM pavitraM iha vidyatE”
— Bhagavdgeetha

Software development is one of the professions where its practitioners need to constantly keep themselves up to date with the rapidly changing field. Robert C Martin (Uncle Bob) in his much acclaimed book “The Clean Coder” has this to say:

“You should plan on working 60 hours per week. The first 40 are for your employer. The remaining 20 are for you. During this remaining 20 hours you should be reading, practicing, learning, and otherwise enhancing your career.”

 

Reading technical books has been the traditional way for programmers to enhance their skills. Recent addition are blogs, forums and Q&A sites like StackOverflow. It is a well known fact is that programmers no longer learn by books. Industry veteran Joel Spolsky has opined that –

“Programmers seem to have stopped reading books. The market for books on programming topics is minuscule compared to the number of working programmers”

This blog post has some interesting insight into programmers’ reading habits – Programmers Don’t Read Books — But You Should

The thing that is facilitating the self learning in this time of ubiquitous fast internet connectivity is MOOC – Massive Open Online Course. A MOOC is an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. In addition to traditional course materials such as filmed lectures, readings, and problem sets, many MOOCs provide interactive user forums to support community interactions among students, professors, and Teaching Assistants (TAs).

In a typical MOOC platform, the courses are taught by top instructors from the best universities and education institutions. World’s top universities like MIT, Stanford, Harvard etc. are involved in the production high quality courses that are available online. Usually a course contains, along with recorded video lectures, auto-graded and peer-reviewed assignments and community discussion forums. Most MOOCs provide a shareable electronic Course Certificate that one can use to boast in one’s social media profile and professional network page.

Some of these courses have tie ups with universities and amount towards credits for university recognised degree. MOOC platforms work with university partners to offer flexible, affordable online degree programs in fields such as business, computer science and data science. This goes a long way in allowing today’s professionals to earn additional academic qualification even while working on a full time job.

MOOCs are not limited to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields only. For example, the flagship education collaboration between Apple and world’s leading universities, iTunes U, has courses in as diverse fields as, Humanities, Law, Philosophies, Music, Literary Criticism etc. along with courses for STEM fields.

Leading MOOC platforms like Coursera, Udacity, Udemy, EdX etc. have companion mobile apps so that course material can be accessed on the go on mobile phones and tablets. This makes consuming the course material and learning very immersive and engaging. Courses are usually designed for a diverse global audience, including video subtitles in many languages.

MOOC can be effectively used as an additional training material augmenting the traditional training material. For example, we at Robosoft Technologies, while training fresh engineers use courses for Android in Udacity along with traditional class room teaching. Android courses in Udacity are prepared in collaboration with Google Android engineers, have engaging course videos, that are interspersed with interactive assignments and also have pop quizzes. Videos of these courses are freely available and only a subscription for the certification needs to be paid. So, trainees can hone their skills at their own pace in this excellent learning platform. What better way other than this to learn from Android engineers. Trainee engineers at Robosoft vouch for the efficacy of these courses.

Author Thomas L. Friedman has proclaimed that “World is flat” in 21st century. MOOC is proving to provide a level playing field by making high quality education available to developing nations also. With the availability of reasonably fast internet one can learn on one’s own, anything from machine learning to existential philosophy. Indeed, we are living in interesting times, seeing modern day Ekalavyas!

H N Ramkumar
H N Ramkumar is a Technical Architect at Robosoft and has led the design & developments of many projects across Mac, iOS and Android.
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