EppsNet Archive: Coursera

Academically Speaking, I’ve Still Got the Geedus

I took a Computational Finance midterm over the weekend on Coursera. I’ve taken a few Coursera classes before — they had quizzes, problem sets, programming assignments, essays — but none of them had a midterm or final exam. It’s the first academic exam I’ve taken in at least a couple of decades, and the first exam ever in which — because it was online — I was able to participate in the company of my life partner, Wild Turkey. Here’s my result: I lost the one point on this question right here: If you understand the question, it’s obvious which one of the four I missed, but it may not be obvious what the right answer is. It wasn’t to me, anyway. My wife asks, “Did you see the grading curve?” “No, but when you score 149 out of 150, you leave it to others to worry about the curve.” Read more →

Coursera Recommendations

Coursera‘s been around long enough now that some classes are being offered for a second time, including a couple that I’ve taken and recommend: Modern & Contemporary American Poetry, taught by Al Filreis at Penn Social Network Analysis, taught by Lada Adamic at the University of Michigan Read more →

Screw Economics

One of the classes I’m taking on Coursera is Principles of Economics for Scientists, taught by Prof. Antonio Rangel at Cal Tech. First of all, it’s a great class. Rangel has a real passion for the material and he’s provided extra resources to accomodate online students, many of whom probably don’t have the math background of the average Cal Tech student. He’s from Madrid, so his pronunciations and mannerisms are different, like the gesture below, which I captured from one of the video lectures. He was explaining how something or other would increase our understanding of economics and he punctuated the word “understanding” by pointing at his head with two fingers. I don’t know what this gesture means in Spain, or if it means anything at all. Probably he knows what it means in America, but as I said, he’s passionate about the material and I think he loses himself… Read more →

Virtual U.

Students Rush to Web Classes, but Profits May Be Much Later — NYTimes.com Profits shmofits . . . if you’re not using Coursera.org, you are missing a life-changing opportunity. Read more →

Thanksgiving Ingredient Network Leftovers

Via Lada Adamic, whose Coursera class on Social Network Analysis I just completed and enjoyed: If you don’t have quite the right ingredients handy while cooking Thanksgiving dinner, here is a network of common substitutions as found in reviewers’ comments on a large recipe site (click to see a larger view): Read more →

Language Poetry and Aleatory Poetry

The last couple of weeks in ModPo, we’ve been reading “Language Poetry” and aleatory poetry, including the work of Ron Silliman, Lyn Hejinian, Bob Perelman, Charles Bernstein, Jackson Mac Low, Jena Osman and Joan Retallack. I have to admit it all seemed lazy to me. The reader has to do all the work. (See below for a differing opinion.) I didn’t like any of the poems enough to share one, so here instead are the lyrics to Randy Newman‘s “Marie”: You looked like a princess the night we met With your hair piled up high I will never forget I’m drunk right now baby But I’ve got to be Or I never could tell you What you meant to me I loved you the first time I saw you And I always will love you Marie I loved you the first time I saw you And I always will love… Read more →

Favorite Poem of the Week

My favorite poem of the week — again from Modern & Contemporary American Poetry — was “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” by Bernadette Mayer, especially the final image of the stressed-out new mother reading The Wild Boy of Aveyron, about a feral child raised by wolves. Read more →

Visualizing Social Networks

I’m taking a Social Network Analysis class on Coursera. These weren’t assignments for the class (well, the Facebook one sort of was), just some experiments I wanted to share. Facebook You can use netvizz to download a gdf file of your Facebook network, i.e., all of your Facebook friends and all of the connections between them. You can then use your favorite graph analysis software (I used Gephi, which is open-source and free) to look for patterns. My Facebook network is in the image below. Of the four main clusters, two consist of co-workers, one is family and one is people I know from roller hockey. Twitter This is the network of people I follow on Twitter. I used NodeXL (a free, open-source template for Excel) to download and lay out the data. I labeled the nodes in this one. With a few exceptions, the light blue nodes are people… Read more →

Poems I’ve Read Recently and Liked

I’ve been reading a lot of poetry as part of the Modern & Contemporary American Poetry class on Coursera. One of the things I like about the class is that the video lessons are done a little differently than other Coursera classes I’ve taken. Rather than recorded lectures, the videos consist of the instructor, Al Filreis, leading a small group of Penn students in close readings of selected poems. Anyway, here are a few of my favorites so far: I dwell in Possibility by Emily Dickinson Tell all the Truth but tell it slant by Emily Dickinson The Brain within its Groove by Emily Dickinson Danse Russe by William Carlos Williams This Is Just To Say by Willim Carlos Williams A Supermarket in California by Allen Ginsburg Lines for an Abortionist’s Office by Ruth Lechlitner Incident by Countee Cullen These next two, both by Richard Wilbur, I want to single out as being particularly… Read more →

Ruby on Rails for Rubes

The biggest headache in software development is that most programmers can’t program and don’t want to learn anything. I recently finished up a MOOC called Software Engineering for SaaS, offered by UC Berkeley through Coursera. For a modest investment of a few hours a week for five weeks, I learned some Ruby on Rails — a well-designed platform and a lot of fun to work with — as well as tools like GitHub, Cucumber, RSpec, SimpleCov and Heroku. Over 50,000 students from 150 countries signed up for the class. According to a final email from the professors, about 10,000 students attempted at least one assignment or quiz. Or to look at another way, 80 percent of the students gave up without even trying. Approximately 2,000 students, or 4 percent, completed all four of the assignments and the three quizzes. One of the enrollees who gave up without trying is a… Read more →