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Online Course Platforms: My impressions

As I work my way through the prerequisites for a Data Science program, I am taking several different courses on different platforms, including edX, Udacity, and Coursera.

I have to say up front that I didn’t go through every course to see every option, this is what I found on the Python, math, algorithm, and Data Science basics courses I was looking at.

I needed proof of completion to prove I took the course and have a lot of courses to work through, so I wasn’t auditing courses. I was in a mad scramble to find the best courses I could on each topic, though.

  • Udacity: They offer a few free courses, but most are paid programs (usually the free one is a foundation or intro to a paid one). The ones I looked at were “nano degrees.” They were listed at $1500 or so, but it was pretty easy to get 40% off coupon codes. It kind of annoyed me that the initial cost was for 3 months of access, then you had to pay more if you didn’t finish in time. The biggest thing that bugged me is that the courses were based on Python 2, which is getting a bit old now to teach new people.
  • Coursera: $50 per course per month, giving you an incentive to finish faster. If you take a lot of courses, like for a specialization, it adds up fast. They offer groups of courses they call “specializations”, but you don’t get any discount for signing up for them all at once. Coursera offer a subscription for $400 per year, which is a much better deal for someone like me who has about 18 classes I want to take BUT not all courses are included. Some courses can only be accessed in full if you pay for them. They do let you “audit” a class for free, but you can’t access all the assignments and don’t get any proof of completion. They used a mix of Jupyter notebooks and their own online systems for coding exercises. The one specialization had an “interactive textbook” that I really liked.
  • edX: literally, completely random pricing. One course might be $50, another $300. A “micromasters” program could be $500 or $1500. I didn’t see any logic to it at all. Some classes giveĀ  indefinite access. Others only give you a couple months before they reset and you lose all your progress. I didn’t see any logic to it. They do usually offer a discount to sign up for an entire “program” of courses at once, but not much (10 to 15% at most). They relied entirely on Jupyter notebooks for the Python courses I took.

Coursera and edX both let you cancel and refund a course almost right up until you were done with it. Udacity only gives you 48 hours after purchase to get a refund. That’s a really short time for a relatively expensive course.

I’ve completed a few so far. I’ll be writing about them in more detail in the weeks to come.

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