A few months ago, I enrolled and flunked in a course for Statistics from an IVY league school in the US. Fortunately, it didn’t cost me much since the entire thing was for free. Coursera.org, the provider of the internet education service, is already up with millions of students registered in various subjects. What separates it from wiki-courses like Google Code University or a collaborative service like udemy.com is that the teachers are from Harvard, Stanford and other little-known tertiary schools in America. Ranging from Python to Robotics, the subjects are not walks in the park (trust me I’ve seen it). Thus giving no added value and prestige to the graduates of the programs.
All is not lost though for my erratic academic learning. Right now I am enrolled in a Massive Online Course along with 2,000 people – a number smaller and immediately more intimate than Coursera’s- for Information Visualization. Yup, those shiny graphs found in the New York Times, Time and National Geographic. So far the course has taught me that using 3D pie charts is a stupid excess that should be removed from MS OFFICE altogether- something about the effective perception of data and whatnot. I should probably thank my teacher, Alberto Cairo, who draws cool presentations for papers.
What grinds my gears though is that the online courses are either too difficult or too easy. The good ones in between are either paid tutorial services from PSD tuts or crappy near-useless guides on making headers. Thus reminding everyone how education the world over is increasingly commercialized for the interests of for profit institutions. The difference is they can do it a lot cheaper than traditional ‘brick-and-mortar’ institutions.
In the Philippines, many institutions such as UP’s Open University system already offer remote internet course but then you’d still need pretty high grades to get accepted. Which naturally has led me into one of my half-baked ideas: Filipino Online Courses. Yes, I know it’s just ripping off from Wikipedia and TESDA – whose offerings are decisively subpar. Yet as the great writer TS Elliot once wrote “Great artists steal”. Aye and why not?