Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Best free courses from coursera: 2017 reality check

Well hello

Coursera was the sublimation of the ultimate good on the Internet: free courses on programming, machine learning, probabilistic graphical models and so much more! But alas, all good has to come to an end. As of Dec 2017 Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng has made quite a few steps towards monetizing the platform (and who can blame them? they are a startup after all). All the legendary courses, whose names were well known among my fellow programmers were either deleted (Standford Compilers) or turned into paid specializations (Stanford Algorithms and even the Probabilistic Graphical Models by the previously mentioned founder of the Coursera Daphne Koller!).

Compilers course logo /

 But, there's still some fun to explore for me and my fellow penniless adventurers! And here is the top of best free courses on coursera, 2017 reality check:

1. Algorithms I and Algorithms II by R. Sedgewick of Princeton.


The top of the top in my personal courses list of all time. Sedgewick, who actually invented the red-black tree with his colleague in Stanford, in addition to being a real life grandpa from Up! is a brilliant teacher, it is quite impossible not to understand what he wants you to understand :) He goes sometimes into so much details, that I had to listed at speed 1.5x, but for some people it could be quite a good pace. Also, you get to solve 5 puzzles in each course for free! And they are really cool. Highly recommended, 100/100.

2. Machine learning by Andrew Ng of Stanford.


The legendary founding father of coursera keeps his first course free of charge, and I'm quite happy with that! Extremely engaging lecture and even more so programming assignments keep you busy for the whole of 11 weeks! Loving it!

3. Cryptography I by D. Boneh of Standford.


In his work, Boneh goes through all the basics and details of -- you guessed it -- cryptography. I would say, the course contains enough material for the whole undergraduate course.

4. Introduction to Mathematical Thinking by K. Devlin of Stanford.


Haven't seen a lot of this course, but it was enough to decide to definitely return to it in the future.  Introduction to Mathematical Thinking will help you develop a creative way of thinking and solving all kinds of problems, for example, how to prove a theorem, that nobody was able to solve before.

5. Game Theory by   M. O. Jackson and K. Leyton-Brown of Stanford and British Columbia.


Never thought what to do if we play the game against another player, that knows that we play the game and also knows what is our best strategy, as do we know about his. Who will win in this situation? Game theory can answer that. It's not your usual application on game theory for competitive programming problems, neither is it a game development course, but it's quite interesting and kinda gets you on the other plane of thinking.

And down here, let me have a quick rant on coursera specializations. They ruin all the magic of free education, they really do! And the platform is constantly shoving them down my throat to that extent that it's impossible to search for courses only, one can only search for the keywords, like "machine learning", and then get 100000 "only $49 a month!" specializations, which is absolutely not what one was hoping for. 

So, coursera, please give us our free education back! I understand you need machine time to review the programming assignment, but come on! I can volunteer you some of mine, and I think many of us will! I will even pay for certificates, I promise :)