MOOCs in Machine Learning & Data Science

During these first months of my research, I am trying to get a foothold in many technical topics that are relatively new to me – or that I have not worked with for some time. I am working within a Machine Learning research group – Machine Learning being a subset of Artificial Intelligence. Learning Analytics also requires a grounding in Statistics and newer approaches and tools in this area like Python and R. So, there’s a lot to learn, and quickly. I have found some very useful resources in the form of Massive Online & Open Courses (MOOCs) on these topics.

I find it interesting that many of the so-called xMOOC (Siemens 2012) platforms were founded by scholars in the field of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. For example, one of the first high-profile xMOOCs was ‘Introduction to AI’ run by Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig from Stanford University – which enrolled 160,000 students from around the world. This was followed by courses in ‘Machine Learning’ by Andrew Ng and ‘Introudction to Databases’ by Jennifer Widom. Out of these early initiatives emerged Udacity founded by Sebastian Thrun and Coursera founded by Daphne Koller & Andrew Ng.

Some of the courses I have looked at or enrolled include:

The way I have engaged with these courses varies – some are an opportunity to refresh on basics. Some are providing me with very practical skills which I am starting to apply to real-world data. Some are just filler content. In general, I have not interacted with other students – although I would normally value this aspect of the learning experience. I am also taking a face-to-face course at my university on Linked Data and the Semantic Web. Again, I am surprised that I actually feel less involved and interactive with other students than I would normally experience in an online learning classroom.  I am wondering is this because of the architecture of the courses? Most of my previous experience of online learning has had a big component of student-to-student interaction. But these courses privilege student-to-teacher interaction. Interesting…


Siemens, George. (2012). “MOOCs are really a platform”. Elearnspace. Retrieved 2015-Mar-15


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