So for this latest course I took I jumped ship yet again onto another platform, that of the rather pretentiously named MRUniversity. I’ve been following the Marginal Revolution blog for ages now, which I understand is that most popular economics blog on the net, so I’ve known that they’ve set up an online university of their own a while back. But this is the first time I went poking into what’s available from them and I was pleasantly surprised by how much of it there is. It looks like I’ll have plenty to occupy myself with for a while, starting right here with the Principles of Economics.
As promised, I’ve been slowly making my way through Rice University’s online AP Physics 1 course on the edX platform. WIth sixteen weeks of content and three separate exams, this is probably the longest single course I’ve taken. It’s so long that they were adding portions of the course even while I was taking it! (I know they actually had it all ready since this used to be on a fixed schedule before moving to a do-at-your-own pace format.) It’s mostly taught by the same professor Jason Hafner but joining him are teachers Gigi Nevils and Matt Wilson who are responsible for walking students through example problems.
One thing this course never really explains is what AP Physics actually means, maybe because it’s intended for American students and they should all already know what it is. As far as I can tell, this means it’s a college-level course who students who aren’t going to major in physics or engineering. Basically it’s as much physics as possible without having to resort to calculus. Apparently calculus is so verboten that Hafner secretly whispers to the camera that this is really calculus but he’s not supposed to tell us that. It works for me though since I found this to be much more accessible than the Electricity and Magnetism course. It’s still difficult enough for me to be reasonably challenged but I had no problems completing all of it.
I’ve long wanted to take a course about electricity since it’s one of the most mysterious parts of physics to me despite it being essential to everyday life. There doesn’t seem to be anything available on it on Coursera. I’ve been aware of the competing edX platform for a while now but hadn’t taken the time to explore it. So when I saw that it does indeed have a course on this topic, I immediately made an account.
This one is taught by Jason Hafner of Rice University and consists of five weeks worth of material. Being part one of a two part course, the coverage only stretches from the concept of charge to circuits, so don’t expect to be fiddling with complex electronics here. I consider the course to be quite difficult, especially because of the mathematics involved. There is plenty of calculus in the later weeks. Due to this, I could only follow along so far and eventually just settled on watching the lecture videos as I had no hope of completing the weekly exercises, let alone the final exam.
After the last Coursera course I took, I felt up for something in the hard sciences and something more mathy. Ideally I wanted something about Physics but none seemed available. This one however caught my attention, a fundamental Chemistry class offered by the University of Kentucky. Chemistry was always one of my weakest science subjects because I always felt like it consisted of memorizing lots of details about specific reactions. So I guess taking this to brush up my knowledge of it is a pretty good idea.
This is obviously the second half of the huge history course that I wrote about a couple of months ago. This second part is, if anything, even larger, comprising as many weeks and with videos that add up to a significantly longer duration. Naturally it’s also the part that will be most familiar and perhaps most exciting for people, including as it does in its scope the two World Wars, the Cold War, the Vietnam War and even everything up to the 9/11 attacks.
This is the first online course I’ve taken on history and it’s a huge one, covering the entire world for the period stated over the course of seven weeks. Roughly speaking, its focus is on the transition between the ancient world and the modern one. Offered by the University of Virginia, it is taught by Philip Zelikow, a fairly prominent diplomat and foreign policy expert in the U.S. government, notably serving as the executive director of the 9/11 Commissioner. He’s probably more of a public policy expert than an academic scholar of history but it still means that he a major heavyweight.
I’ve been ramping down my participation in the Coursera MOOCs of late, mainly because I’ve taken just about all of the introductory courses that I can take and because what’s left that I have any interest in is a bit too in-depth for a casual learner like me. But it’s also because as I get older I’m more set in my ways and getting lazier about truly exercising my mind and getting very involved in tricky subjects. This course, the follow-up to the Introduction of Philosophy course from the University of Edinburgh that I took earlier this year, is an unfortunate example.