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List of 600 free online courses launched by 190 universities (qz.com)
298 points by prostoalex on Oct 25, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 59 comments

As someone who enjoys learning this is really enticing to me. However with the demands of my busy work/life schedule, my increasingly challenged attention span--mainly due to the number of competing free resources out there--and my wide range of curiosities I have difficulty deciding where to dedicate my precious time to. Do other people fall in a similar boat? If so any tips or tricks to break through?

I tend to make a certain amount of time for something consistent every day (like, usually about 30 min on Khan for the last 6 months trying to level up my math skills) and then a certain amount of time for random playtime (like my safari books only subscription) where I just do whatever I feel like doing for that time.

My life got a lot better when I just committed to doing certain things every day (yoga and making my bed, for instance). So I just added "study" to those things.

Another pro tip-- have kids when you're 23... I'm 40 and now they are mostly grown so I have a lot of free time LOL An hour of yoga a day is a lot less of a commitment than it would have been when I was 28, had two small kids, and was in grad school.

That's a joke, but the kernel of truth in it is: you don't have to learn everything now. With luck you will live to be 70+ years old and so the benefit of even 15-20 a day of study really adds up over several decades.

What strategy are you using to "level up" with Khan? I'm curious because I'd like to do this as well but am not sure where to focus.

Well, I just started with the Algebra II classes cause that's about where my math skills were at... I've had calc I and discrete math in college, plus a lot of formal logic training but that was a long time ago.

I was doing the "mission" style where they give you almost random tasks, and then you do mastery challenges... I feel like that got me a good into understanding a bunch of trig, matrix, and vector things that I hadn't understood before.

However, I just wrapped up my precalc with that and decided to move on because the last couple of topics were boring and they kept sending me mastery challenges of tedious stuff.

So for the calc I switched from the missions style to the lesson style because it feels more directed and "completist", and I've just been doing lectures and exercises. In the last couple of days I've gotten about half way through the material on limits.

When I finish the calc, then I will do the statistics, and the multivariate calculus. At that point, I think that I will be ready to move into college level classes online for linear and whatever else I think I want.

My larger interests are on one hand machine learning and AI and on the other hand, audio electronics for music... my math skills have held me back in electronics and I feel like if I am going to find anything useful in applying

You forgot to add that you also have a level or discipline and you have built the ability to focus on long term goals:-)

Simple but powerful response, btw.

I think the key thing for me is something my dad told me when I was griping about school as a kid: "It's about having options."

Ever since then, I've targeted my educational investments in a way that points me towards the sorts of options that I want to have.

This "gimme options" perspective also helps keep you going when learning sucks, because not having the kinds of options you want sucks more. Having some experience living with limited options can really drive home the fear that serves to get you into the mood to keep learning.

>can really drive home the fear

Instead of coming from a place of scarcity I'd view it from a place of plenty.

"gimmie options" -> Talent Stack

The more wide and experienced your Talent Stack is, the 'luckier' you'll become in life.

Simple advice but difficult to execute: make a plan, follow the plan, only adjust when absolutely neccessary.

I'm in the middle of completely reviewing some fundamental math concepts: linear algebra, calculus, etc. Once I found the resources that I wanted to use I set out an order of execution and use a Podomoro to track my time. I'm doing everything I can to get at least one full Podomoro (1hr 40m) of study per day. I don't have kids or much responsibilities outside of work so I'm able to find the time, but still find it difficult to not get caught up by everything around me.

At the end of the day it's a matter of imposing your will and intent on a specific goal.

To echo some parts of your points:

- logging the things you do that matter to you (via a time tracker) is one thing I've found super useful

- committing to do the thing every day is much easier rather than once a week

Nice!! Thank you, and to 49acres.

Finish one thing before you start the next.

If you cannot do that, have, at most 3 projects at a time.

No matter how small, finish first.

That is the whole secret. If you force yourself to do this, you might even start thinking ahead before you start new stuff. Or you might finish stuff faster because you want to get to the thing you really want and realize how rewarding it was to finish.

Recently I've been trying to "systemize" my learning a bit. In general, my high-level plan is to learn the all major branches of science to a roughly undergrad level (go deeper or shallower selectively), focusing on the fundamental, core stuff.

This probably sounds ambitious, but you can use the Pareto principle (get 80% of the value by spending 20% of the time) and do various optimizations such as taking care to choose the best learning resources.

I have a learn.md file in Dropbox. It contains several sections: math, statistics, machine learning, physics, chemistry, biology, economics, programming. Each section has a list of subfields, for example biology has "molecular biology of the cell" (that's a book) and "brain". Each section also has a "resources" list and a "topics" list, which contains little topics I'm curious about, for example the math sections has svd and wavelets. And there's also a "next" section containing the list of things I plan to learn next.

Having an overview/roadmap like this really helps with the anxiety about what to focus on next, it makes me feel organized.

I use "the 30 hour method"[0].

I think carefully about what is worth working on, then write it at the top of a sticky note. A few words will do, something like "Create X MVP" for example. Also write down the start date. As you put in time, write it down in pen on the sticky note. Once you've written down a time don't adjust it later, don't worry about it, the goal isn't to have a 100% accurate time log.

Now that it's written down, you can't get out of it. The only way out is through. Work on it for 30 hours of dedicated work. It's long enough that you can get something done, but not so long that you'll waste your life if you choose the wrong thing.

I used to work on too many different projects, and I think it was because I would switch projects once I hit a small difficulty. It wasn't a conscious thing; your subconscious can come up with plenty of valid reasons you should switch to something that seems easier. That 30 hour timebox will force you to overcome some difficulties, no more running away to another project to avoid doing something hard. But, if you choose something that really is too hard, try for 30 hours, it's long enough, but not too long.

At the end, record what you worked on during that time. You might say "from October 1st to October 15th, I worked on X MVP, I struggled with Y, I learned Z". Think carefully about what is worth working on and choose the next thing. Maybe spend another 30 hours on the same thing. Maybe go back to something you were working on awhile ago.

[0] https://azeria-labs.com/the-importance-of-deep-work-the-30-h...

How to Live on 24 Hours a Day - http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/2274

Also if your hypothesis is that there are too many free resources, then you could try discrediting that by seeing if you focus better when you pay for learning some curiosity instead of trying to bootstrap the learning for free.

Wow. You expressed everything I thought of in a very minimal words. It would have taken taken atleast 3x times to express the same idea. What was your thought process when you wrote the above post. Did you thought in a single pass or did you revise it multiple times. Do you have any techniques to express so concisely. Are you a native English speaker. I don't think that might matter much because even in native language I cannot express conscisely and clearly the same time. I am asking this because I have observed though I am technically (coding) well above average I have found when I want to express an idea I keep rewording(correcting) to express the idea. This increases the cognitive load of the listener and makes both of us uncomfortable. While writing i can do multiple pass to correct and that helps. Any suggestions would help. Thanks

I have on the order of 400 unread kindle books and probably 3x the number of pdfs downloaded I have intended to read along with an f ton of physical books. I'd love some tips on making headway as well.

The big issue for me is most of these courses aren't even full courses in the sense of a college course. Your typical college course will be 16 weeks and cover maybe 15-20 chapters (400-600 pages of textbook material) during the course.

Most MOOCs I see are basically the equivalent of 2-4 textbook chapters worth of material and even that materials is watered down greatly.

If I am going to spend the time learning something, I want to learn it at a high-quality level, not at a basic introductory level.

One trick I use is to not be a completionist. If a course seems to have low information density or contains some modules I don't feel the need to learn about, I'll skip or skim. It makes it easier to get into a course when I have some interest and easier to get out when the interest has run dry. This is counter to how we've been forced to treat education, so it feels wrong, but is actually a powerful self-learning technique.

Any further reading on this? My brain forces me to start every book on the 1st chapter, and read every single word, and chapter in order, otherwise I don't feel like I've completed it.

You're going to have to give it priority over other interests .

So this is just a list of the courses on edX and coursera, via description pages on course-central.com, listed line by line on qz.com. Presumably people get paid for every click, rather than just look at the original sites.

The modern web sucks.

and they all link to course central pages, rather than directly to the courses. so that now course central gets clicks, cookies will be saved for ads and tracking. Plus, they use another site for redirection, possibly for affiliate sales and even more tracking.

The items in list are just added, randomly. For example, Machine Learning with Python: from Linear Models to Deep Learning [0] course actullay starts on June 2019. It's not really 'launched'.

[0] - https://www.edx.org/course/machine-learning-with-python-from...

There are a bunch in French too, handy.

I am already enrolled with it, although it has not started, it's in the Statistics and Data Science MicroMaster by MIT.

Dhawal Shah (The founder of Class Central) releases this list every month. https://medium.freecodecamp.org/@dhawalhs

I guess you meant: https://www.class-central.com/

Yup, the current web sucks. I'm not sure what the future of it will be, I'm not optimistic.

Agree. This looks like spam to me.

Why do so many sites have UX like this one, where after you start reading, the text gets grayed out and you have to click a button "Read Full Story"? It's annoying to the user - if I want to read more, just let me scroll.

It can't save that much bandwidth to send just part of the story. Is it to measure user engagement?

There are some reasons on StackOverflow. There's an answer by someone from QZ specifically, who says it's only shown when you visit from an outside referrer and it's so you can skip all the content if you're not interested and jump to other interesting articles.


Something that works well for me is disabling javascript and making use of Firefox's read mode. Tends to let me get straight to the content in a legible way without much of the cruft getting in the way.

Only reason I could see it being done is to improve loading time. Most users these days will bounce back if the page takes more than few seconds to load.

I always figured it was something about ad views. Seems you could charge more for an ad view right after that break than if the break didnt exist. You've now confirmed that user is actively reading and will actually see the ad.

But maybe ads are click based anyways?

I thought it was about being able to see the footer if you wanted to.

You could say it is good, since most web site visitors tend to stay in a site less than 30 seconds, imagine how much bandwidth is being saved.

Some should do degree accreditation based on online learning to give people a lower cost option.

As online learning takes off, there will be more providers offering exams/certifications for certain topics/courses.

Or... There should be less emphasis on whether or not someone has a degree, and more emphasis on what they can actually do.

Which is quite hard to measure. Hence the need for credentialing, such as certifications, portfolios, etc, testing, prior experience, and yes, degrees. What's odd about a degree is that it's the learning coupled with the credentialing.

True. Usually a degree these days has inflated value, but it says something though, and that's fact that one has made an effort at finishing something.

Thank you fir this great comment! Made my day :-)

My Dad often talks about "challenging" a course, where you take the final test, and if you pass you get full course credit. I've never heard of a school offering this in any kind of usable capacity. At what point did this stop being offered?

You can still do it. CLEP [0] is one standard way. You can also request credit by examination for courses not covered by CLEP...this requires departmental approval and paying for a custom exam to be created.

[0] https://clep.collegeboard.org

CLEP hands down. I was able to graduate in less than 3 years because I started taking CLEP exams while I was in high school. I also took AP exams as well. Saved me tens of thousands in tuition fees, no joke.

People ask me how I was able to graduate so quickly and with no debt. All thanks to CLEP and AP exams.

Wait, isn’t this list a ripoff from freeCodeCamp?

He is actually that guy who compiled this list, I don't know why every month freeCodeCamp founder shared his article on the Facebook page

Ah, I didn't do my due diligence before commenting.

Had to dig through my inbox to find it (originally published on Oct 10) https://medium.freecodecamp.org/190-universities-just-launch...

There is no such thing as a free lunch. How much of tuition, endowment, tax, and other funds paid for these?

I'm not sure what you are getting at. The mission of universities is to educate. Besides supporting their core mission, there could be ancillary benefits, such as promoting the university, testing new teaching methods, etc.

If i’m not mistaken—using MIT’s OWC as an example—these courses are basically carbon copies of lectures they give their students. The instructors are still teaching on the campus to IRL students. The only difference is that these are then put online for easy access a la open source projects.

So, to answer your question, the money spent to produce online (o) lectures is equal to campus (c) lectures—without taking into labor hours to upload and edit. Therefore, O + C = $T.

Also I think MIT OWC did some fund raising through donations and grants to pay for the online lectures.

This could be the product of sharing course materials they already mostly had, at a low additional cost.

What is wrong with endowments, taxes and other funds being used to produce online content?

The problem is people are forced, basically at risk of imprisonment/fines/jail/seizure of their property, if they don't pay their taxes. The problem is the taxes are inflated to outrageous levels to pay for these type of stuff which isn't even benefiting the local taxpayer.

It is the same reason BBC restricts their content to UK only (for online services).

Before we worry about that, lets stop all the tax concessions and handouts given to corporations which hardly benefit the public at large.

I think you are vastly overestimating how much in the way of taxpayer dollars were spent on these sorts of programs, particularly in the case of private universities, such as Harvard.

This reminds me of foreign aid, which the public perceives as being a large part of the U.S. federal budget, when it's less than 1%.

Yes and no.

Yes, someone was paid a modest salary to put together these course materials. They were not free to create. In a university setting with just a few students per teacher and layers upon layers of supporting infrastructure, these courses are expensive to deliver. Possibly even more expensive than the objective worth of the material to the students.

No. We are on HN, where "does it scale?" is gospel. MOOCs scale wonderfully. Millions of people could learn Calculus or Accounting from the modest effort of a single talented teacher. With that level of scale you do not necessarily need to charge every person who takes the class and free can be a business model. We can't lock our basic professional knowledge up behind a paywall that only the rich can penetrate. In fact this is the perfect thing to spend tax dollars on, a public good with a massive potential ROI. There's a reason the govt still pays for libraries.

And before my optimism gets skewered, yes MOOCs don't seem to work for everyone, but surely they suit some people's learning styles better than textbooks which is really their only low-cost competition for most knowledge domains.

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