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Ask HN: What is the best online course you've ever taken?
211 points by gymshoes on Nov 30, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 56 comments
Doesn't exactly have to be a MOOC. YouTube playlists and any other way of learning is fine too. Paid ones are fine as well.

The sadly-discontinued Udacity CS 253 (Web Application Engineering) with Steve Huffman. Partly because of the accessibility of the material and Steve’s sometimes puckish delivery (learning sick MongoDB burns in 2012 put me way ahead of the tech curve). Learning how to build and deploy a web app in Python with the super-lightweight webapp2, rolling your own salted-and-hashed account system... so many good tidbits that gave me a good intuition about how web apps are put together.

The timing of the course also couldn’t have been better for me personally. It was released about 2 weeks after I quit my job. I wanted to learn how to build digital products, and after struggling with scattered tutorials, CS 253 was like being thrown a life preserver.

Thanks, Steve.

Are we sure it was discontinued? It is still listed on Udacity[0] and another course titled "Intro to Backend"[1].

I enjoyed that course by the way.

[0]: https://eu.udacity.com/course/web-development--cs253 [1]: https://www.udacity.com/course/intro-to-backend--ud171

There it is! Thanks for finding — somehow all my Googling ended up on Udacity 404 pages...

Want to point out that Steve Huffman, also known as /u/spez, is co-founder and (once again) CEO of reddit.

I have not taken this course, but have watched the excerpts particularly about reddit. I was definitely impressed with the presentation and have no difficulty believing the entire course is quite good

Pretty sure it was already the “hip” thing to make fun of mongodb before 2012. Who doesn’t remember this classic?



The only online course I've undertaken, so of course it's the best one. But it's exceptionally well made, it's up to date, teaches about a wide area of machine learning and AI field. Not just the theory, but about Kaggle, how professional AI designers work, what they do, "what it's all about", and so forth. The community is helpful, the forums are active. All free btw. Very good!

I have spent a lot of time taking online courses. Here are my favorites.

CS50 (https://www.edx.org/course/cs50s-introduction-computer-scien...) - Best Intro to Computer Science

Nand2Tetris I and II (https://www.coursera.org/learn/build-a-computer) - Build a computer from logic gates up to a compiler, this is the best class I've ever taken.

Agile Development Using Ruby on Rails (https://www.edx.org/professional-certificate/agile-developme...) - Great introduction to web development and software engineering principles

I've also been reading some technical books. Would definitely recommend

Modern Operating Systems - Tanenbaum Designing Data-Intensive Applications - Kleppmann

Functional Programming Principles in Scala https://www.coursera.org/learn/progfun1 on Coursera. It's taught by Martin Odersky, one of the language's creators. Very well organized, highly automated assignment testing (you submit via CLI). I went in wanting to learn Scala, but what I learned about FP has stayed with me for years. Even though I've moved on from Scala I'm a much better programmer for having taken that course.

From a previous comment of mine:

Barbara Oakley's Learning How To Learn class [0] was immensely helpful for understanding how brains work and how I could learn efficiently.

I made it through college with a combination of cramming and bad sleep habits, but focusing on spaced repetition, the diffuse/active modes, and sleep has made classes I've taken since feel like easy mode.

[0]: https://www.coursera.org/learn/learning-how-to-learn

Dr. Oalkley's book


Added a lot of clarity to my process of thinking. Highly recommend as well (I did not take the course, though, just found the book by accident).

What is the youngest age you think could handle this book?

I am not an expert by any means. But asking child at, say, age 13 to read portions of it and explain back to parents, what she/he picked up from there -- will work well.

Probably a type of 'self-awareness' of own's thinking process does not start before 11.

I felt that the course was too long to cover just a few topics like spaced repetition and diffuse mode. Besides those key takeaways are pretty intuitive.

There is a lot more to it than those two, and the whole thing's like 5 1 hour sessions.

[cs50](https://online-learning.harvard.edu/course/cs50-introduction...) is the reason I am a software engineer today.

I took this course with someone I was teaching webdev. It wasn't the best course for me by any means because I already knew the material.

But it WAS the best introduction to software development I have ever seen, and I have seen quite a few.

I did see a couple of people quit the course because it was "too complicated" - in reality, it's just complicated enough, and the progression is natural and well-presented.

RR Buildings How to Build a Garage https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVwUl4cm8fQ&list=PLvo-lhQgsI...

This YouTube series (in fact his channel in general) makes construction look simple, accessible and rewarding. He explains theory while demonstrating practice, and the end result is not abstract knowledge but a real building that can house all manner of other physical (and digital) projects.

I've taken quite a few online courses, but none better than JS30 from WesBos. Really good stuff - a set of 30 videos where you create 30 small JavaScript projects. Great for people already familiar with JS and trying to get more comfortable!

I've converted all 30 videos into blog format (with live code samples) here https://www.discoverdev.io/blog/series/js30/

Learning how to learn from coursera is my all time favourite. I have gone over the course material a few times just to make sure I don't forget all the things the professors talk about.

Definitely Eric Lander's Introduction to Biology - The Secret Of Life class (MITx 7.00x)

Firm grounding in the Central Dogma. Covers the entire history of genetics. From Gregor Mendel's peas. To Morgenstern's Fruit Fly Lab. And right up to the present day Supreme Court BRCA case and CRISPR/Cas9. Essential background for understanding the coming century of New Biotech.


I took this course recently. I Iove how he took you back in time and let you experience the importance of each discovery.

Thank you, this looks like just the kind of thing I've been looking for!

Every time someone asks this question -- and it gets asked here a lot, several people mention Learning To Learn. I always rolled my eyes.

Then I decided to check it out.

While the production quality is out of the 1990s and it starts off pretty dry, there is a lot of great content and applicable techniques here, if you stick with it a little bit.


https://learngitbranching.js.org/ - this was posted recently again. it's not perfect, and isn't going to completely de-mystify git. but it's a great exercise and seems to clear up a thing or two.

if i worked in a team again, i would probably make this a required course for new hires, no matter how much experience. it isn't hard, but i've seen the occasional experienced engineer complain it's too easy and beneath them, and then fail badly on the later stages - hmm, maybe they're lying about the experience. come to think of it, it'd probably be great in an interview, too.

I tried this a while back, and I am so confused by the rebasing part I figured I'd find something else. As someone who knows some git, but only has to used it every once in a while, this website does not help me..

I really enjoyed the famous Andrew Ng's machine learning course on Coursera. That was my first exposure to MOOC and I was amazed that such great content was available for free.

Yes! 2013 was such a good year for mooc, andrew's ML course on Coursera, Sebastian's AI course on Udacity. Dan's AI course on edx.

Acloud.guru AWS cloud architect course, I did it through udemy, but they also have it through their own website. Well maintained, well presented material. Price can drop to $10 sometimes with free lifetime updates.

Making Data Count, from NHS Improvement:



This makes a statistical tool accessible and useful to people who have no stats training. It explains why SPCs are usually better than the widely used RAG charts.


This is a real Caltech course, not a made-for-online offering. When I took it, we shared the online forum with undergrads taking the class on campus, and Professor Abu-Mostafa was incredibly responsive to all kinds of questions.

The course covers the theory and mathematics behind various machine learning techniques. It's not a practical course that just teaches you to use some particular library.

It’d be between fast.ai and javascript30.com

Fast.ai has an incredible library built on PyTorch and it’s amazing when he talks about the latest research and already has it available for free there. The teaching style is super nice too, very practical and without skipping the bits that get you to world class results.

Javascript30 is 30 free short modern JavaScript lessons with no libraries or builds or any of that stuff. Great way to get back on track and catch up with what vanilla is can do, and Wes Bos is exceptional as a teacher.

the Startup Engineering MOOC on Coursera taught by Balaji Srinivasan (CTO of Coinbase now, Stanford prof back then) was extremely valuable to go through, both from a technical and non-technical standpoint. It was kinda like the "How To Start A Startup" course going on right now except slightly more preparatory for the technical challenges involved

course page: http://online.stanford.edu/course/startup-engineering and http://startup.stanford.edu/

course videos: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL58C6Q25sEEFVyISrZc80....

HBX CORe, Online course from Harvard (actually more like a few courses bundled into one) that I expected to be high level managerial focused but was pleasantly surprised to be very hands on with spreadsheets and whatnot https://hbx.hbs.edu/courses/core/. Close second is Living at the Nuclear Brink by Dr. Perry (Former US Secretary of Defense) which was incredibly informative https://online.stanford.edu/courses/fsi-y0002-living-nuclear...

MIT's 6.00.1x on edX, it is a quality introduction to programming and python. I took it almost 5 years ago and would highly recommend it for motivated beginners. The most recent session seems to have just concluded so there may be another one coming up soon.

Fast.ai probably. And MIT 18.06 linear Algebra with Gilbert Strang is also pretty awesome

"Science of the Solar System" by Michael Brown is a great introduction to the topic. It has a 4.9 star rating :-)

https://www.coursera.org/learn/solar-system - i think it's still free, right?

Unit 1: Water on Mars - 3 weeks

Unit 2: The insides of giant planets - 2 weeks

Unit 3: Big questions from small bodies - 2 weeks

Unit 4: Life in the solar system - 2 weeks

Google analytics course from google (https://analytics.google.com/analytics/academy/)

This opens the curtains to what happens behind a website and provides data for every discussion in marketing/product/etc. Taking this when I was 18 years old literally kickstarted my career.

Dan Boneh's (Stanford) Cryptography I on Coursera.

Excellent course; he is a fantastic teacher.

+1 - Looking forward for Cryptography II

I've been waiting five years for that, I suspect it isn't coming.

We had this question earlier this year, but for MOOCs only:


A Life of Happiness and Fulfillment https://www.coursera.org/learn/happiness

Thanks for this suggestion! I did The Science of Happiness https://www.edx.org/course/the-science-of-happiness. Not sure what "the best" really means, but I think it had the biggest impact on my life.

Database lecture series by CMU DB group - taught/managed by - twitter.com/andy_pavlo - just amazing.

I've been working on a course recently [1] on Building an App from Scratch Using Ruby on Rails (not revolutionary I know, but needed to start somewhere).

Building a truly great course is pretty difficult.

[1] https://www.nimblehq.com

I really love the new CS50 on twitch series, love the way they explore many stack and tech as it is basically help me to understand the many

https://m.twitch.tv/cs50/profile Cs50 - Twitch

That link didn't work for me. Did you mean:


https://course.elementsofai.com/ Offered by the University of Helsinki optionally for credit and to be followed with another course using Python programming.

I found very useful the "How to Start an Startup" series: https://startupclass.samaltman.com

Since we are on the topic of online classes, do you folks know any good advanced music theory/counterpoint courses?

Does anyone know a MOOC on procedural generation, or generative art?

I have taken C programming course by Shibaji from udmey.


I’m currently taking udacity’s AI for trading class. It’s a little pricey ($999 for the first term), but damn, it’s so good. Best class I’ve ever taken, online or otherwise.

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