Coursera, CodeCademy, Code School, Coursera, edX, Khan Academy, Udacity, Udemy….
And those are just the few course providers / platform that come to mind.
It seems like there are more available classes with interesting material to improve on or learn something new than every before. It’s also a bit overwhelming. Not overwhelming in the same sense of loading yourself with a full schedule of classes at a University but rather in the sense of taking up all of ones spare time. Curiosity seems to come in abundance but time is precious and limited. Who has the time to work a full time job and take more than say one class at a time?
One of my goals this year is to focus on a single subject despite my varied interests. (It doesn’t matter if you just watch the video lectures, it still takes up time). That is best accomplished when I plan ahead a few years and try to only focus on those classes or material that keep me on track. But it’s not easy. On a semi-weekly basis it seems I find a new or relevant or intriguing subjects that I’d love to learn more about.
For example my company is does some interesting data analysis and visualizations with health studies for our evidence-based medicine platform. For that data analysis we use the R language which naturally has me interested in the growing number of courses on R Programming and Data Science. Unfortunately there’s no free time.
In college the opportunity costs are high for experimentation. Do you really want to waste time and/or money looking into a class that doesn’t help you progress along the track that gets you out? With MOOCs the cost both opportunity and tuition are much lower. If you don’t like the class then quietly excuse yourself and go back to what you were doing or find something new.
I’m reminded of the Steve Job’s quote from his 2005 Stanford Commencement Address:
The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.
While MOOCs may offer the ability or ease of accessing the content of classes that are interesting, the opportunity cost is still there. I worry by missing out on some interesting class that could have some important relationship to software engineering or what I do on a regular basis. For now I’ll stick to one additional class at a time and only stay in the class for as long as it interests me, challenges me and I can see the value in.
After all, who has enough free time to learn from them all?