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,, 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.

Web Application Architectures: Week 1, 2 & 3 recap

One of the courses on my Coursera watchlist started a few weeks ago, namely Web Application Architectures. As I’ve mentioned before, I wormed my way out of the Computer Science module on networking in my third year of university, so naturally that decision has come back around to bite me.

I took this MOOC to help fill in some of the blanks for me, and to brush up on Ruby on Rails. By brush up, I of course mean start basically from scratch, because the amount of RoR I crash coursed when I was doing a second year module in Databases has long since vacated my brain.

The MOOC has been very enjoyable so far – one of the highlights has been learning to use version control correctly. I’ll be creating separate posts for the various (mis)adventures I had just trying to get started with this MOOC, including installing Ruby on Rails, coding in the cloud and using BitBucket.

One of the things this MOOC has going for it is that there is no social requirement i.e. no mandatory discussion forum posting or peer assessments. The videos are informative, and the programming assignments have been a bit simplistic but with very good instructions. Overall, I am glad to be taking this course, and would have considered the Signature Track for it.

Logic Language and Information 1: Looked promising, but no.

I signed up for the MOOC Logic: Language and Information 1 from the University of Melbourne over at Coursera a while back. I’m planning on taking a module in logic when I start my Honours, so I started downloading the lecture videos and notes (excellent quality by the way).

I then started looking at the syllabus and grading. Oops – peer assessments. I’ve mentioned several times by now how I cannot stand the whole “let’s discuss this work we’re doing” approach to things.


So I stopped doing assignments for the GEOINT MOOC. I know I said a short while ago that I was really starting to enjoy the MOOC, purely for the reading notes structure, but that has been overwhelmed by my intense dislike for discussing stuff on the internet.

Maybe I should define what I mean by discussing stuff. I’m totally cool with discussing stuff in a Q&A type way – in fact, I owe alot to this type of interaction for why I am so comfortable with coding today.

I just don’t like the general “let’s all go crazy around this topic for an hour before we move onto the next one” type vibe that most discussion forums have. That’s personal preference. I have absolutely nothing against the course/lecturer/institution, it’s just that the format did not work for me. So I’ll be keeping my Notebook with the notes in from the course for future reference, but otherwise, I’m out.

Mic drop


I’ve really started enjoying this MOOC. As I mentioned last time, the text-based notes are very nice, and this week has shown they are getting even better. The definitions are clear and concise, and the concepts are explained very well.

The assignments haven’t really been assignments though. I like assignments where you answer a bunch of questions and get graded on the answers (MITx on edX is particularly good with that kind of structure). This is why I don’t really have much to say about this MOOC.

I liked the refresher on remote sensing that this week’s notes covered. At one point I was considering specialising in remote sensing, since I felt that GIS alone was not challenging me enough. It only took a few weeks into my first GIS job to realise that what I was taught at university about GIS was laughable.