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Online_Courses VS Texts/Manuals

  1. Feb 5, 2015 #1
    I seek some guidance and probably suggestions regarding one/more of my afflictions.
    I am currently studying for my Bachelors in Computer Science. The problem I have is that I feel I haven't learned enough, so I keep revisiting the basics pretty often. I am currently taking few on-line courses. One is LAFF offered through edX by UT Austin. It is an introductory Linear Algebra course( I had previously taken my own college course on this subject plus followed through the MIT OCW materials). But I am already bored just at the end of the first week, I feel I have understood the materials just fine but still have that fear of missing out. Another thing is that I think I won't be able to handle the on-line courses along with my college workload plus a few extra hobbies. I think I should just find relevant manuals for technologies I'm interested in and learn along the way. So what do you people thing is better: on-line_courses/courses_in_general OR learning through whatever you find along the way[in pet projects]. Also I've never seriously attempted a substantial project, some pointers on this matter might be helpful.

    L;DR -> Who wins online_courses vs books/texts/manuals?
    How to get your feet wet on 'real' projects[CompSci. specific]?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 5, 2015 #2


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    Everyone learns differently.

    One thought is that just because you've completed a course doesn't mean that you've mastered the material. It means you've been formally introduced to it by someone who is more familiar with it than you. And if you've done well in the course, it should mean that you've understood the material that you've been introduced to. It doesn't necessarily mean that you're skilled in the application of the material.

    It sounds to me like you've had an introduction to this subject, but you just haven't developed any skill with using it. Taking another course, or reading a manual, is just going over the same material again. That's why you're bored.

    The key, in my experience, is to work with the material after you've studied it. That doesn't just mean using it to solve textbook problems and comparing your answers with those in the back of the book. You need projects. You need something to challenge you, where you don't know the answer and have to go back to some concepts you vaguely remember from your courses and figure out how to apply them in a real, practical situation. Doing this repeatedly is what develops skill, and with adequate feedback, eventually leads to mastery.
  4. Feb 5, 2015 #3

    Stephen Tashi

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    Missing out on what? Are you afraid you "don't really" understand the material? Are you afraid studying the material makes you miss out on some other topic?

    If you take technical subjects and study diligently, you won't be able to do much besides your college workload.

    Do you have a particular pet project in mind?

    If not, you might start up a project and lose interest in it.

    You should investigate whether your current or future courses will require you to do a project.

    If you aren't focused on a particular project, then taking up a project will involve the lengthy process of defining the project you want to do. You may never finish that part of the task!

    My advice is to do some self-analysis about what motivates you. Are you motivated enough to finish the online course? Maybe you accomplish more when you are assisting other people do some project than when you are working alone.
  5. Feb 5, 2015 #4


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    OP, I never got the point of online courses. To me it seems like a very involved method to accomplish the same thing a textbook does.

    Regarding you being bored and looking for projects: In order to become proficient in the use of some techniques, it is generally required to use them. Doing small projects, for example, as you mentioned. If you are in CompSci and looking for something involving linear algebra, you could do some graphics programming, large-scale data analysis, or signal processing, for example.
  6. Feb 5, 2015 #5


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    If an online course involves some good videos it may be pretty useful. A well done set of videos on a subject can make it much easier to follow. Learning from more than one pathway into the brain is often much more efficient and produces more retention. This can be especially true when you can pause, rewind, replay, etc.

    If it includes scheduled online contact with an instructor it could be nearly as good as an in-class course.

    But in any case, it is important to do the homework questions and get them graded.

    Of course, it all depends on how well done the online course is. But then, that is true of any course or text. A good one helps, a bad one wastes your time.
  7. Feb 6, 2015 #6
    That hits home.
    Yeah it is.
    In my case our college course didn't teach us the applications part. But skimming forward in the on-line course I discovered some material on image processing using the Singular Value Decomposition. And that wasn't even taught in my college. I learned the basics of it in the MIT OCW series. Yes I feel like I am missing out this and that here and there.
    But again waiting through the course seems less efficient than just firing up a search engine and searching 'SVD Image processing'.
    Isn't it?
    Thank You people for your suggestions. :)
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