CLD202x SharePoint Basics for IT Professionals: Yes please

I was planning on posting this a few weeks ago when I signed up for this course, but I’ve only gotten around to it now. I am very pleased with the course offering by Microsoft on edX, and this course is no exception.

Over 2 years ago now, when our GIS team split into Enterprise and Desktop, I was introduced to SharePoint. I had left the City just before they made switch to using SharePoint libraries as storage space instead of My Documents, so I had only dabbled with it briefly (and from an end user perspective).

During the last 2 years, I have had to interact with it in multiple ways – setting up subsites, managing permissions, creating content (such as embedding YouTube playlists, storing geometry in lists, configuring spatial viewers), and generally whatever else came up.

I never received any formal training in it, and simply clicking around in SharePoint while trying to figure it out, as I am inclined to do with other technologies, does not really work. There’s a reason this site exists. This is why I am pleased that Microsoft thought to offer this MOOC – it’s clearly needed.

The notes are very detailed, and explained very nicely in text form. This makes it very easy for me to copy into OneNote, and highlight as needed. The concepts are explained in a way that I would never have gotten from our seasoned SharePoint dev. Not that he doesn’t want to explain – he has shown me so many things on SharePoint – but it’s often the little things that one does automatically that trips up newbies.

For example, one of our clients had recently started using ArcGIS full time after only using it for very basic data capture before. He asked me why ArcMap was complaining about the projection of two feature classes being different when they were both in the same projection. I pointed out that while they were both in LO19, the one projection’s name was “LO19”, while the other one was “Transverse_Mercator_19”. It shouldn’t make a difference, but it does. The central meridian might differ by 0.00001 or something.

Another example is when one runs the Append tool in an ArcMap session, with the target table opened in the map. The tool will complete successfully, but the newly added rows won’t appear in the table even if you click away to a different table. You have to close the table, then open it again to force a refresh. Most of my ArcMap woes are solved this way – closing off whatever I’m doing and trying it again, or forcibly ending the programme. This is something I know after dealing with ArcMap for over 8 years now. It’s the GIS equivalent of

ArcGIS has a seemingly endless amount of this type of issue, and if I were teaching a total n00b how to use it, I would never even think to mention these things, because dealing with them is a reflex now. From what I can tell, SharePoint is similar, except that it probably has even more of it. Nonetheless, I’m just happy that someone has taken the time to lay out the basics in this format.

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Geodesign: Change Your World MOOC: I think I’ll keep my world the same for now.

I was so excited to see that Penn State was offering another MOOC this year, this time about geodesign. It’s been on my watchlist for the past few months, so when I got the email to announce that class was starting, I immediately checked it out.

After my last Penn State MOOC though, I was a bit more wary this time around. A cursory glance down the left pane showed me what I was hoping I would not find:Geodesign_PeerAssessments

I half-heartedly went through the course content after that, but I had already decided not to carry on. The peer assessment assignment is 40% of the grade for the course. I’ve mentioned here before that peer assessments in a MOOC are a dealbreaker for me. I learn best on my own. I enjoy working as part of a team, but on my own as part of a team.

This week I started with the two other modules I need to get into Hons. The one is about software engineering principles, while the other is about advanced database development using an old version of Oracle (why, Unisa, why). I’m quite excited about the SQL one, as it will give me more opportunities to flex my SQL muscles, and to get exposure to a different database platform (something other than SQL Server).

Basically, even if I wanted to do this MOOC now, I can’t. Best of luck to the Geodesign students, and hopefully with the next offering, they will relax the peer assessment requirement.

CloudIntro.X: Recap

I know I mentioned a while ago that I was going to use the time between UNISA modules to go to town on my MOOCs. That didn’t happen. I got distracted by some exciting personal stuff. As I write this, I have another tab open in which I’m registering for my other two modules. Yay!

I joined this MOOC because not only is it offered by the IEEE, but it covers a topic that I’ve delved into more and more this year: cloud computing. The layout of the tabs in the MOOC is very nice, and the notes are comprehensive.

I’ve downloaded the study material for future reference, but I just don’t have the time right now to do it.

EX101x: Final recap

When I signed up for this MOOC, I expected more Python. I’ll quickly summarise the last 6 weeks of the course.

Highlights:

  1. Learning how to correctly use the Data Model introduced in Excel 2013. The way Felienne explained how to use it was quite simple, and realising that one uses a join between two ranges to create the model was an eye-opener.
  2. Double click the value field in a pivot table to get a new sheet with a copy of that data filtered on it: I can’t remember why I wrote this down, but I know it’s useful.
  3. More uses for named ranges
  4. Data checks: definitions and different types
  5. Using wild cards in COUNTIF: Seriously, I don’t know how I didn’t know this.
  6. DataNitro exists: This would have helped me about 2 years ago.

Lowlights:

  1. I was quite disappointed that Python only appeared in Week 7. More Python please!
  2. I was also disappointed that DataNitro was used, instead of accessing everything through the command line.
  3. Language barrier: I know the course coordinator is not a native English speaker. This created many ambiguous questions in the quizzes, as well as some weird phrasing in the videos.
  4. Fellow MOOC-ers not being constructive: I’ve mentioned on this blog several times that I don’t understand the need for many MOOCs to have peer assessments. One in particular took it a step further with mandatory forum posts. While I’m glad that EX101x did not do this, just opening up the “Discussion” below each quiz reminded me of why I don’t like the forums on these things.
    Many of the comments were about the way Felienne was dressed, or her “strange look”, or the way she spoke. Yes, the videos could have been better – maybe she didn’t have to take up almost half the frame, leaving the spreadsheet off to the side and hard to look at. What do her piercings have to do with that? Good grief.
  5. Not enough Python: I cannot stress this enough. I appreciate that I learnt some new things about Excel, but as a power user, I think I was expecting more analysis out of the course.
  6. Bringing in neo4j: What an interesting programme, but to bring it in at such a late stage (basically at the end of the course) did not make sense. I tried to run it but after getting errors I just abandoned it. I already had 81% so I chose not to complete the neo4j exercises. I feel like after they introduced Python to the people crash-course style, the different commands needed for neo4j was needlessly confusing.

Suggestions:

  1. More Python. More Python. More Python.
  2. The videos need to be redone in a clearer way.
  3. The course needs to be structured differently. Python should be introduced much sooner.
  4. Neo4j seems like a nice tool on its own. It should also have been introduced earlier in the course, to allow for more time for the people still getting to grips with Python.

Overall, I did enjoy this MOOC. I enjoyed it enough to pony up for a verified certificate:

EX101

If DelftX offers a follow-up course, I would definitely take it.

Networks Illustrated: Principles without Calculus – Week 1 & 2 recap

I’m on a bit of a mission to get a taste of what all the legendary colleges I hear about in movies have to offer. This is why I was quite pleased to find out that Princeton is offering a MOOC on an area of computer science that I really feel like I don’t know much about – networking.

The course has been very interesting so far – I like the way the topics have been constructed around questions like:

  • When can you trust an average rating on Amazon?
  • How does Google rank webpages?
  • Why is WiFi at home faster than a hotspot?

To be honest, I haven’t really watched the videos. I skimmed through a few of them. I think that’s more to do with my aversion to watching online videos than anything else (even though I’ve downloaded them). Also, for the first homework questions, I randomly guessed the answers and got them right. Multiple choice FTW. I also discovered that question 1 of Homework 1 is Question 3 of the Polytechnic of Namibia’s second exam paper from November last year (???)

I’ve been sick for the past week as well, just as I was planning on catching up with all the MOOCs (funny how that happens). I only have about 3 weeks or so before I have to register for the other modules I need to do to get into Hons. After the experience with the 1st module, I will definitely be laying off the MOOCs for the next 6 months.

Web Application Architectures: Final Recap

This MOOC ended almost 3 months ago, and it took them super long to grade it, but they did.

Web Application Architectures

I got 97.8%, mostly because just by following the videos and retyping the code in the correct files, one could get 100% for the assignments, and the quizzes were not particularly hard either. The lack of an exam also made this a bit easier for me.

I do see why Coursera is now phasing out free certificates. On the other hand, it’s not like the MOOC would have been harder if I had paid for a Verified Certificate. I still did the work.

While I doubt that I will carry on with Ruby on Rails (not really my scene), the other concepts I learned while trying to do this MOOC is far more valuable to me. These include:

  1. Learning to use version control correctly (Github, BitBucket)
  2. Using PaaS (Heroku, Nitrous.io, Google App Engine)
  3. The difference between developing a local application vs web application
  4. Security concepts, like when to use SSH etc

As part of a team that provides enterprise GIS solutions, I’m very eager to learn more about networking and the enterprise part, so this MOOC kickstarted me into a series of MOOCs around networking. First up is Princeton’s offering.

SPD1x Systematic Program Design Part 1: Under consideration

I have been very excited by the courses offered by edX this year. I completed DAT201x recently, and am almost finished with Delft101x. Three edX MOOCs and and one Coursera MOOC I have been eyeing have all opened up this week. Since I now have two months without any UNISA modules, I figure I’m going all in on these.

When I go into a MOOC for the first time, I look around for my dealbreaker: peer assessments. Of course, when I opened up SPD1x, a MOOC I’ve really been looking forward to because it will give me a good foundation for an Honours module I will be taking, it did not surprise me to discover this:

The Final Project will draw from all the material you have learned throughout the course. It will be peer-assessed based on a rubric and assessment tutorial video that will be provided after the project is submitted. The Final Project makes up the final 30% of your grade.

However, because the premise is promising, and because there are two more parts to the course coming up, I will be hanging around for a while and going through the lecture material. I doubt that I will be completing the project though.