I’ve recently taken my first online course: Data Analysis from Coursera. Enrolled while playing with SPSS and, as usual, it started in the middle of working madness.
There’s a nasty part of myself that believes that piling things higher would actually mean that more get accomplished and it’s really lame at learning from experience. So 10+ hours at work and then a couple hours of stats almost killed me. Of course, I didn’t complete the course (quit at week 7 out of 8 with 100% test score) due to my perfectionism: I had to submit 2 assignments and couldn’t sign my name under whatever I could come up with in couple of hours of conscious effort.
Other than that: course was brilliant! It was good fun to play with R (clocked first 1k lines in a new language), to reread some of the stuff, read a lot of new stuff (I underestimated linear regressions before this course) and get to play with interesting data. And assignments were fantastic: how about a trying to reconstruct a credit risk scoring model from loans dataset as a first assignment or predict what person is doing given 500+ spatial measurements from his smartphone’s GPS as a second one?
The course itself was very intense, nowhere near estimated workload of 3-5 hours per week. I spent around 6-8 hours weekly, and that’s without assignments, just lectures& tests (each was took an hour at least) and judging by complaints in forums, that was pretty low, people casually mentioned 20 hours.
I had “how hard can that be” approach to online learning before, but now I’m pretty convinced that the answer is: “hard enough to make you regret enrolling” ) Tests were a set of programming assignments (a very clever idea) like “download this data set, perform regression / clustering / whatever, apply model to this set — what’s the error rate in third element from the bottom”? 10 such questions and you revisit all lectures, reread a few text books and sift through a pile of R examples.
Dust is settling and now I really think it was a great learning experience and a very good chance to reassess what I know about stats and data analysis.
Will I do other courses in future? I sure will.
Will I repeat this one next year? Only if I’ll have a vacation scheduled to tackle the assignments.