Time to study! Part 2: Beyond MOOCs

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Learning session. By Per Gosche @Flickr
Learning session. By Per Gosche @Flickr

In my previous post “Time to study! Part 1: MOOCs & Certificates“, I covered MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). I presented just 3 major providers: EdX, Coursera and Udacity although there are many more out there, simply because in my humble (totally subjective opinion) these 3 provide an excellent user experience and offer a really massive course catalog from some of the best universities worldwide.

You can find extensive lists of many more providers in aggregation web sites like or a much more well designed Class Central. By their definition: “it is an aggregator of MOOC course listings and continually looks for and bring you high-quality MOOCs from reputable providers (and not just from the major providers)”.

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Time to study! Part 1: MOOCs & Certificates

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Stockholm Public Library
Photo of Stockholm Public Library by Samantha Marx

You have no excuse. Start learning now!

There was a time (before the Internet) when learning new things was actually not easy. The dominating educational institutions, the universities, demanded your physical presence and your adherence to structured courses leading to recognised diplomas and professional degrees. This educational system definitely served a purpose and is still relevant. But it is not the only choice.

Picture by Moyan Brenn on Flickr

Today you have no excuses. You have the Internet and broadband and the web and an endless list of sites where you can learn virtually everything (from wedding planning to salsa dancing). Seriously.

 Do you feel you want to refresh your knowledge on a forgotten subject? Do you feel overwhelmed by the unstructured and usually cluttered and “noisy” information you find in the web? Do you want to learn new stuff or even change your career? Take your pick.

For the last six months I’ve tried most of the services below and I have to admit that I’m quite impressed by some of them. I’ve tried to organise them more based on their purpose and what should be expected. The list is by no means exhaustive but I hope it is a good start. Feel free to add your comments.

Technology at Work, Glasgow Caledonian University
(Technology at Work, Glasgow Caledonian University) Photo from Jisc Infonet at Flickr

Take your pick:

You basically have 3 major choices. edX, Coursera and Udacity:

1. EdX is a non-profit online initiative created by founding partners Harvard and MIT and offers free courses (more than 400) and verified certificates (paid) from some of the best universities in the world including Harvard, Berkeley, MIT, Cornell, EPFL, KUL and many more. As it mentions at the site: “Topics include among others biology, business, chemistry, computer science, economics, finance, electronics, engineering, food and nutrition, history, humanities, law, literature, math, medicine, music, philosophy, physics, science, statistics and more.”

My experience is that it has a great User Interface at its web edition with clear information and top notch quality. Unfortunately not all courses are available in mobile.

2. Coursera is a similar service with an equally impressive list of university (Yale, Stanford, Brown among others) and non-university partners (like the World Bank and National Geographic Society) from all over the world. Apart from the Verified Certificates (paid) you can take a “Specialization Certificate” which brings together related courses and a “capstone project”. You can find some really interesting Specializations like “Data Science” from John Hopkins,  “Business Foundations” from The Warton School of the University of Pennsylvania and many more.

I have already completed a few courses and I have to say that it was a fantastic experience. Pay attention to the way the course is structured and of course who is offering it. Some are more interactive than others. Their mobile app is adequately good and you can download and watch the lectures offline.

3. Udacity is not free, but it is powered by some of the tech giants like Google, AT&T, Facebook, Salesforce, Cloudera, etc. They offer paid certification programs called “Nanodegrees” focused on technology. Web Developers, Data Analysts, Mobile Developers, etc. Our students acquire real skills through a series of online courses and hands-on projects. I found it quite expensive (approx. $200/month) but you can access the instructors videos for free and you can always try it for 14 days to see if it fits you.

These are some of the most complete and well known online courses portals. Whether you want to learn a new skill to enhance your CV or you just want to widen your horizons in a more structured and curated way, this is the place to start.

In future posts I’ll cover less formal learning offered. Stay tuned!