My First MOOC Experience at Coursera.

The First StepCoursera-mooc-python

My journey with Coursera began when I first read about it in an email blast from the Bangalore Python Users Group’s (BangPypers) mailing list.

I had heard from my seniors at college that Python was very easy to learn and  a very popular language nowadays and many tech companies look for programmers who are proficient in Python. So I had decided to learn Python using online resources and hence I joined the BangPypers mailing list.

One day there was an announcement that Coursera was offering a course in Python for beginners. I thought it was a good opportunity for me as I knew nothing about Python. I casually signed up for the course as I never thought I would complete it as I have a very busy schedule.

This was my first experience of learning from a Massive Online Open Course (MOOC). I had never heard of MOOCs before. MOOCs became popular just about one and a half years ago.

The course that I joined was Introduction to Interactive Programming in Python taught by Joe Warren, Scott Rixner, John Greiner and Steven Wong from Rice University. If there isn’t an active session right now, you may add it to your watchlist for future sessions.

Syllabus
Week Topics Mini-project
0 Expressions, variables and assignments “We want… a shrubbery!”
1 Functions, logic, conditionals “Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock” game
2 Event-driven programming, local and global variables, buttons and input fields “Guess the Number” game
3 The canvas, static drawing, timers, interactive drawing Stopwatch: The Game
4 Lists, keyboard input, motion, positional/velocity control “Pong” game
5 Mouse input, more lists, dictionaries, images “Memory” game
6 Classes, tiled images “Blackjack” game
7 Acceleration and friction, spaceship class, sprite class, sound Spaceship from “RiceRocks” game
8 Sets, groups of sprites, collisions, sprite animation Full “RiceRocks” game

Yep, after completing the course, you will be able to build awesome interactive games!Course Structure

At the beginning of each week, a mini-project will be released that involves building a modest-sized Python program (50-150 lines). This mini-project will be due on the following weekend. Completing these mini-projects will be the main challenge in this class. You and your classmates will then peer assess your mini-projects on the following Sunday-Wednesday. Unlike many other MOOCs your project will be assessed by real people. Don’t worry about incorrect evaluations. Your work will be evaluated by 5 of your peers as well as yourself.

Here is an outline of a typical week’s schedule. (All times are GMT.)

  • Saturday (05:01 GMT) – release videos, quizzes and mini-project description for upcoming week.
  • Wednesday/Friday (05:01 GMT) – soft deadlines for the quizzes. (No penalty for submission after the soft deadline.)
  • Sunday morning – (05:01 GMT) hard deadline for quizzes and mini-project. (No late submissions allowed.)
  • Sunday morning (06:01 GMT) – start peer assessment for previous week’s mini-project.
  • Wednesday (17:01 GMT) – finish peer assessment for previous week’s mini-project. 20% penalty to mini-project score if peer assessment and self assessment are not completed.
You will be developing all your programs using CodeSkulptor which was developed by Prof. Scott Rixner. You don’t have to install Python in your computer.
So, I started watching the weekly videos, taking some notes at the same time for future reference. I highly recommend taking notes. It will serve as a cheat sheet while your are working on the mini-projects.
You may find some mini-projects daunting in the beginning but pretty soon, you will get the hang of it.
The course staff have made fantastic lecture videos and be prepared for some hilarious jokes all through out the course videos.

The Result

I completed 7 mini-projects successfully with full points. During the last week of the class, I also had to prepare for my 5th semester exams. So I couldn’t watch the lecture videos for mini-project 8. Nevertheless, I finished the project with some minor features missing by following the mini-project development process which will be provided to all the mini-projects. I couldn’t score full points on the last week’s quiz also as I hadn’t watched the week’s videos.

Here’s my score card.

Week                       Quiz score (out of 100)                 Mini-Project Score (will be scaled to 100)
1                                  100                                                   18/18
2                                 100                                                    11/11
3                                 100                                                   13/13
4                                 100                                                   19/19
5                                 100                                                   10.5/11
6                                 100                                                   18/18
7                                 100                                                   20/20
8                                 63                                                      10/13

My final percentage was calculated to be 96.9

It is calculated by taking roughly 1/3rd of the score from the quizzes and 2/3rd from the mini-projects.

A Statement of Accomplishment will be given to all students who score 70% or above.
You may also opt in for Signature Track by paying $49 and get a verified certificate.

I opted for Signature Track and here’s the certificate that I got.

https://www.coursera.org/maestro/api/certificate/get_certificate?verify-code=K3NXJX9JYK

You have to score 90% or more to get a verified certificate with distinction.

TIPS!

Please follow these tips in order to complete the course easily and enjoy programming at the same time.

1. Watch all the videos and take notes.

2. Use the program template which will be given to every mini-project.

3. Follow the program development process which will be given to every mini-project rigorously .

4. Take breaks in between while developing the mini-project just to clear your head.

5. Don’t put off the week’s assignments. Complete the quizzes and mini-project before the deadline to get full points.

5. Use the Discussion forum if you have any doubts or if you are stuck at some point. There are hundreds of peers and community TAs who are ready to help you. Whenever I posted some question many people helped me in getting the code right. Also, Prof. Joe Warren will be monitoring the forums to clear the doubts of students.

I seriously suggest you to follow these 5 points.
I also recommend you to do the practice exercises for every week. This will give you a strong foundation in Python.There is also a student video competition in which participants create and share their tutorial on a week’s concept and the winner gets a $500 tablet computer! The winner in my session was Barron Stone. Others who qualified for the play-offs were given Codeskulptor goodies.

I think I’ve provided you enough information to get into the course and complete it successfully.
If you have any questions, fell free to comment and I will reply to it as soon as possible.

All the best!
Update: Free Python Course offered by Google.

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