MITx Course Review Part 1: Introduction to the open education system

MITx launches the flagship course of its open education program

MIT has launched its first class as part of its open source MITx initiative. MITx will provide a free online University level education to anyone in the world, using course content from the MIT on campus curriculum. The class 6.002x (Circuits and Electronics) is being used as a prototype to test the system, which they expect to launch in earnest this fall with several available classes. Once the system is ready, MITx intends to make its software and web components open source so other institutions can take advantage of this technology as well.

As of their press release, more then 90,000 students have registered to participate in the free course which will be running for 14 weeks starting from March 5th until June; and it is still possible to register. The class is available to absolutely anyone, and for this first experimental class they are waiving the testing fee for the certification of completion. There are already many students from overseas or who have English as a second language singed up for the course. MIT plan on translating the course lectures into other languages in the future.

Despite only hearing about it after the class had launched, I was still able to sign up for the class. You can find a faq about their very first course here. If you are really interested in MITx or the concept of University level open source learning I suggest you to do the same just to see how they are delivering this course ware. Of course if you don't want to go to all of that trouble, I am going to report back on my impressions and review of the course here!

In the first part of my review, I'm going to take a look at the general structure of the sites features. For the other parts of my review you can see:

  • Part 2: Exploring 6.002x Circuit design, examining the content delivery tools
  • Part 3: A Students perspective after the first few weeks of class
  • Part 4: Post midterm, Reporting on the exam and the updates made to the system
  • Part 5: Surviving the Final, Closing thoughts, Future of open education

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Project: Programming Language Syntax Comparison - part 2

Project: Language Syntax Comparison - XML vs Database

When people are approaching a new problem, they tend to want to solve it using the tools they are most familiar with. In this case, I can recall using XML as a manner of sending data and configurations in a number of projects I've developed in the past. It is something I've worked with before and the text document like data I'm working with seems like it would fit well. Once I started thinking about scalability however, the limitations of an xml based plan became apparent.

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Project: Codeing Language Syntax Comparison

Challenge: Create a webpage that can dynamically compare two computer language's syntax

After having been a VB.NET developer for sometime, I was looking to get back into C++ and C# for some projects. That was when I stumbled over this webpage created by a Professor at Harding University. Since most computer languages follow the same basic logic and merely differ in syntax, this page allows someone to quickly compare the use of a language they know to one they are unfamiliar with. Showing actual code examples of the two languages side by side, I can quickly grab the context of how the language is used at a glance.

In this case it compares VB.NET and C# languages; but there is another page comparing C# and Java, and even one for Java script and VB script. But later on when I was interested in Java, comparing it to VB.NET would require first having to look up the syntax on the VB to C# page, and then again on the C# to Java page. Which defeats the purpose of doing a comparison as opposed to simply looking the syntax up.

So I got to thinking, what if I could build a page where you could choose which two languages to compare side by side? If built the right way, it could even allow the addition of more languages in the future. The project seems simple in scope, but will still require a good amount of design. It will also give me the chance to build a web site using HTML, XML, PHP, and some scripting; while getting my hands in a bunch of coding languages as well.

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Dungeon Quest Awareness logo

Project: Skyrim Creation Kit

Challenge: Create several useful mods using the Skyrim creation kit

The Skyrim Creation Kit was released this month, giving modders incredible power by giving them access to the same tools that Bethesda game developers used to create this triple A title. A few tweaks to the tool have also allowed modders to easily upload their work to the Steam Workshop, where anyone in the world can then download and use them.

This kit is supported by a full wiki which includes documentation, references, and tutorials of the HUGE amount of features that are available. By huge, I mean in addition to all the referencing tools, level editing, 3-d modeling, scripting, AI, and modelling support (just to name a few); there are thousands of art assets and objects at the players disposal to create just about any kind of addition to the game that modders can think of.

There are a number of skills I hope to work on in the course of this project. Level design and working with 3-D modeling will be a great chance to practice game designing and art skills at a high level. Getting into the scripting aspect of it will also be pretty educating. I originally wanted to wait a bit longer before starting this project on the website, but seeing as the Kit was just released it would be nice to get a mod or two out while everything is still fresh.

So for the few projects I'm looking at for this challenge I want to create:

  • Simple but useful tweak mod
  • Script that improves or adds a game play mechanic
  • An extremely well polished and scripted level

It is going to take quite a while before I work my way through the tutorial wiki so that I can tackle the advanced topics. Since that is probably a month or two away, I wanted to get something quick out for now, just to break ground.

So it is that I have officially published my first mod, Dungeon Quest Awareness, on the Steam workshop!

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Project Zero: Creating A Website – Focus Testing

Progress: Ta-da! So obviously the website is up and running. I've already made several design decisions, some of which are still in the pipeline, but there is still much to do. One surprisingly interesting thing I've had to deal with so far, is focus testing.

As set out in my first project blog, one of the first things I needed to determine was how to brand the website. Branding in this case is about making a focused, marketable 'image' for the site. This isn't just about creating some iconic graphic for a product; it's about defining a style and consistent message, about narrowing the scope of the content, targeting a specific audience, and figuring out exactly what benefit this site has to offer that audience.

But first, I have to start with a name.

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