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.

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EX101x: Week 1 and 2 recap

I haven’t been as consistent with these recaps as I would like to be, but as I get closer to my first exam in 5 years, I’ve been cooling it on the MOOC front. As a result, I’m ending up completing two weeks in one most of the time now.

Week 1 focussed on using conditional functions like IF, COUNTIF, SUMIF etc. Week 2 was about using lookup and search functions like VLOOKUP, INDEX and MATCH. A few things which I did for the first time:

  1. Import data into a sheet from a web feed: I’ve never had a need to use this function, and I’m not sure if I have the need now, but it’s good to know.
  2. Using a time criteria for COUNTIF: So useful, and I can’t believe that in my 15 years of Excel usage, I have never needed to do something like this.
  3. A use case for setting the range_lookup for VLOOKUP as TRUE: I use VLOOKUP a lot (or used to, before I switched to doing most of my analysis in Python). I also use a lot of nested IF statements for ranges of items, and some combination of INDEX/MATCH.

    At school, we were always taught “FALSE with VLOOKUP” because every scenario always required exact matches. I never though to question that, nor did I have the need to, because with all the GIS data that needs pre-processing, we always require exact matches.

    Now that I know that by creating a lookup table and using TRUE, VLOOKUP can be used to match value ranges the same way I would use a nested IF statement, I can see how that would really have helped me out on a few projects a while ago.

A big part of why I also focussed on learning more Python wherever I could was because I was tired of exiting ArcGIS, manipulating data in Excel, then bringing it back into ArcGIS. With Python, I could do all the data manipulation I wanted right there, and then take it into Excel for non-GIS people.

I’m also really pleased that I can still learn things in Excel to increase my productivity. One becomes so accustomed to doing things a certain way, that if that method is fast enough, one tends not to look for a replacement.

DelftX EX101x: Excel and Python? Yes please

This MOOC has me excited. Excel makes me excited, Python makes me excited, GIS makes me excited, and I get to work with some combination of them everyday.

I’m hoping this MOOC will show me how to work some Python magic in Excel beyond my usual reading values out/writing values in. Also, I haven’t detected any trace of peer assessments, though the lecturer is quite funky, so will have to wait and see.

I’m a bit behind in it at the moment because I’ve been distracted by one of my side projects, which I should be posting about very soon!