Just after 8 am on a very rainy Saturday (yeah: rain, boo: no run!). Monday the first quiz and second homework is due. To meet the challenge head-on I do the most logical thing, I blog. I blog AFTER I check emails and my Twitter feed. The goal was to get at least 1 blog a week about the class as documentation of the process and the learning — FAIL. Now I will catch on the posting before I begin full panic mode. And part of the original goal was to try the online course because I believe this type of learning will overtake traditional approaches more rapidly than anyone will believe.
- About the course: This stuff is not easy. I will not be adding Experienced Ruby programmer to my LinkedIn Profile. To get the most out of this course, I think an introductory Ruby programming course is necessary. Ruby’s syntax, conventions and approaches are different enough from other languages to present a steep learning curve. Anyone not proficient with Unix was in deep trouble if they wanted to use the Amazon web services. There were enough issues – missing directories, errors in the configuration script and Github repositories that required decent Unix skills. Fortunately the class forums are active and provided the missing pieces to correct the problems. I am probably the ONLY ONE who broke the autograder. The method I created for sorting and counting words in a string worked flawlessly in numerous unit tests. The autograder had a slightly different opinion ( 0 out of 50!)
- Cloud computing This is NOT to endorse Amazon Web Services. Unless there is free stuff involved (t-shirts, caps, mugs, server time?)- just saying. As I said earlier getting started is ridiculously easy. The performance of the web console interface and the VMs has been painless and worry-free. To date, I have accumulated $0.00 in charges for my “micro” instance. In addition, because I “passed” the first homework assignment Amazon has provided a $10 credit for AWS and GitHub micro account for 90 days ($21 value). With the continued price drops for cloud services by Amazon, Microsoft and others, more processing will shift away from the house, the company office or the datacenter. This movement faces challenges: network bandwidth for quick response, system availability and data security. None of these are different from concerns that also apply to any computer resource connected to a network and then to the internet. And, of course, depending on the location connected to the cloud service( home, office, or datacenter) the mix of the concerns and the level of added attention and resources devoted to the concerns will vary. Over the next assignments more work on deploying a website to the AWS virtual machine and then to Heroku will provide some experience that will carry over to any other cloud-based environment.
- E-Learning In my initial post about tackling this course, e-learning offered by different entities — especially prestigious Universities and colleges seems to be the beginning of a major cycle of disruption regarding education. If you don’t trust me about this perhaps Seth Godin’s Stop Stealing Dreams might help persuade you that the old educational model is failing/has failed and must be re-imagined in order to properly equip the future generations. That said there is still a need for human interaction. This class had over 60,000 pre-register- that scale makes interaction impossible. The forums have provided useful student-provided assistants and tips for getting through some of the stickier issues. These forums are asynchronous and not good for the quick fix, immediate issues like an obtuse error message. I wonder how much more would have been possible with 4,5,6 or 10 people collaborating around a laptop. Could some other applications facilitate more of a real-time sharing? This may be an area for entrepreneurial development? Twitter might be useful, but the 140-character limit is well, limiting to good discussion.
- E-textbooks The final point of interest for this course was using electronic books instead of the hard copy. Certainly from a cost and convenience standpoint e-books will be of great benefit to keep student costs down. The great thing is the enhancements possible by linking to rich content on the internet. Many of the code examples are on Pastebin, allowing easy access to cut-paste the codes into a ruby interpreter to look at the code results immediately. This also presents challenges to the e-book publisher: maintaining the correct links. In a text with 100’s or 1000’s of links how are these verified, corrected, re-deployed to existing customers?
Enough. It is time to do now. Quiz first then to the code challenges for the homework. But first a tweet to link to this little post. ANd then check new tweets I’ve missed the last hour.. and then…..