Monthly Archives: September 2014

Review – Introduction to Computer Science

The Introduction to Computer Science course on Udacity was a fun course to take. It has been a while since I completed the course so I don’t remember it in a lot of detail.  What I do remember is that none of the information was new.  I have been using Python for several years so I was familiar with the basics of Python programming.  Many of the videos I was able to skip through.  If you have previous Python programming experience then my recommendation is that you take a look at the videos and if they seem to easy then skip straight through to the Homework and Homework – Challenge sections of the class.

I have paid for this course yet because I am waiting for them to finish the nano-degrees.  At that time, I may pay for the class just to finish the nano-degree but we will see.

Review – R Programming

R Programming is the second class in the Data Science specialization at Coursera.

I really enjoyed this course.  When I completed the project for my Masters degree I used R to process and analyze the results.  At the time, I started all of my data processing in Python.  Then I need to implement a variety of statistical analyses.  A colleague of mine pointed me toward RPy which allowed me to use R for the statistical analysis directly from my Python code.  It was great, it saved me a considerable amount of time implementing the statistical processing on my own.

This course provides a great foundation for R.  The first 2 weeks of the course cover the basics of R like data types, variables, control structures, scoping, and more.  The third week covers some looping functions which are helpful for processing the data.  The final week covers debugging and profiling R programs

In summary, anyone that wants to understand and use R more should take this course.  It is a great foundation and the information is presented well.  The quizzes and course project are well designed to help reinforce the information that is learned.

If you pay for the course and complete it then you get a certificate.

Review – The Data Scientist’s Toolbox

The Data Scientist’s Toolbox is the first course in the “Data Science” specialization available from Coursera.  The specialization itself will be very interesting to complete.  The point of the specialization is to learn how to use R to perform statistical analyses in a professional environment.  You will learn how to use R and how to work with and prepare data in a professional manner.

Unfortunately to earn a certificate in the specialization you must take this class.  In reality, this class should be combined into the next class which is R Programming.  Basically the class provides an overview of the entire specialization and instructions on how to get setup with the various applications.  My guess is that the average person that is taking these courses will have no problem setting up the required software and getting up and going.  So that makes this class similar to a general education course at a university.  In other words, it is a class you are required to pay for that has some interesting information but in general isn’t worth the time.

In summary, if you don’t plan on completing the entire specialization then don’t bother paying for this class.  It will help you get up and running but beyond that it really doesn’t help much.

If you do pay for the course then you get a certificate.


We live in an amazing world where the cost of information dissemination is so much lower than it has been in the past.  In 1998 when I finished high school and started college the Internet was still relatively young.  I remember leaving home with my good old dial up connection and being amazed at the speed of the university Internet.  It was amazing!  I remember sitting in my first computer science classes and learning the basics of computer programming.

In 2001, after I returned from a 2 year LDS mission, things still hadn’t changed significantly with respect to education.  Internet speeds had become faster and the amount of content available on the Internet was amazing.  That is when I started learning Perl, PHP, and database design.  At the time, it was still relatively difficult to find lots of material online to learn these technologies.  Now, in 2014, the problem isn’t find material to learn from online but rather it is difficult to find helpful online materials.

MOOCs like Udacity and Coursera provide opportunities to learn a wide variety of topics from the leaders in their fields.  I have worked on a variety of these courses for free.  Recently I have begun to participate in the Coursera Signature tracks.  I will have upcoming posts with reviews of each of the courses.