Courses, Tours, and Books Online–Many Free
by John Rudy
For the next couple of months, we will all be spending a lot more time at home which gives us an opportunity to do things you might have thought about but not tried. This post is certainly not complete, but it provides some thoughts.
Courses: About 10 years ago, I heard that there was going to be an online course on artificial intelligence taught by two Stanford Professors. Course “chapters” would come out weekly, and the entire course would stay up for some number of months. It was free, and you could watch at any time or even multiple times. There were quizzes (computer graded) and, as I recall, a test at the end. My memory is foggy, but something like 100,000 people signed up to take the course. It was very difficult and heavily mathematical and wasn’t really what I wanted, so I skimmed the last half. About 5000 people finished. Some viewed that as a failure; I thought that 5000 finishing a course was fantastic.
At about the same time, MIT, Harvard, and Berkeley formed a company called EDX and started producing online courseware. https://www.edx.org/ There are now something like 2500 courses available from EDX generated by around 140 universities. Quality varies considerably as does technical depth. Coursera https://www.coursera.org/ is a competitor with, I think, a similarly sized catalog. UDEMY is another competitor. Here is an article that contrasts all three. https://medium.com/@EADCourses/udemy-vs-coursera-vs-udacity-vs-edx-online-courses-176b13f4bb68
In the last few years, some MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) have a charging option where a professor grades papers, and some places (I think Carnegie Mellon is one) even use them within a degree program.
I have taken maybe 20 MOOC courses. Among them, I’ve taken The Science of Cooking from Harvard; Basic Genetics from MIT; Michael Sandel’s Harvard course on Justice; three courses on the Civil War. One nice feature is that you can take just as much as you want. If you know nothing about a subject, you might do the first half a dozen lectures and decide that the itch has been scratched.
TED Talks. www.Ted.com I have listened to dozens of TED talks. They are generally about 15 minutes long and you can easily look for those in a specific category, those put up most recently, or those that are the most popular. The most popular ones have had millions of views. I won’t list my favorites.
MUSEUM Tours. Most museums and other cultural attractions are closed, but a phenomenon of the last few years has been the development of virtual tours. They vary greatly in quality and in the amount of verbiage provided (written or aural). Just start poking around. Travel and Leisure has identified a dozen at https://www.travelandleisure.com/attractions/museums-galleries/museums-with-virtual-tours
Books. There are lots of ways to get books as all of you know, and virtually everything is available through Kindle or a similar system. There are many books that are available free, particularly those who have outlived the copyright. That, of course, includes the “classics”. My friend Steve Isenberg has compiled a rather long list of sites through which one can obtain free on-line books. He has agreed to let me share it: https://wiki.toku.us/doku.php?id=free_ebooks
Let’s keep each other posted on good online activities for us to consider during these days at home.
A long-time technology expert and guide, John provides his helpful hints in this BOLLI Matters feature. In the comment box below, provide him with questions, comments, or suggestions about future tech items to cover.