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Python Basics Coursera Experience

The School

University of Michigan School of Communication

Past Experience with Coursera and the School

Not good 🙁

I had previously taken the Web Design for Everybody: Basics of Web Development & Coding Specialization. I was not able to apply much to my day job as a front end developer. There was still much more for me to learn and I learned more from other sources that were free or cheap.

I will say that the school redeemed itself in my eyes after I took the Python Basics course.

The Specialization

This course is part of a five course specialization called Python 3 Programming. I’m not sure if this specialization alone will help you land a job.

How I Heard About the Course

This course was listed on the Google Digital Garage. Google lists various courses, some free, some paid, that range from tech skills to marketing to career development. I’m currently taking courses that seem interesting or useful. I plan to eventually take the Google Associate Cloud Engineer course and figure learning Python could be a good first step.

The Course

  • Runestone: Runestone is an interactive textbook that I used in the course. Each time I logged in, I was also required to log into the Runestone website. The textbook offers optional practice questions and most of the readings, exercises, and interactive quizzes and assessments  for the course will be there as well.
  • Video Lectures: The video lectures usually covered everything that was in the readings. The instructors did a pretty good job of not assuming my knowledge and I got the understanding that this was a course for true beginners. There were only a few instances in which I felt terms were used that could have been defined more clearly. I was fortunate enough to have already taken many basic programming courses in other languages, so I was well prepared for most of the terminology. The material may be a bit dry for you, but, that’s just programming.
  • Readings: The readings usually covered the exact same things that were in the video lectures, but do not skip them. Sometimes the videos contain one little piece of information that is crucial to solving a coding challenge in one of the assessments. I skipped an embedded video in one of the readings and a short 5 second segment contained vital information that would have saved me an hour when I was coding later on.
  • External Graded Assignments: Each week you will have to complete a few graded assignments. The assignments are on the Runestone website. You can try again if you fail, but you have to score a 100% eventually if you want to pass. The assessments are somewhat challenging. It’s one thing to study the readings and video lectures and get the gist of the lessons, it’s another to try to be creative and code something on your own. It’s like the difference between being able to read a foreign language and trying to form your own sentences. You must recall the key words and syntax as well as encode your instructions in an intelligible way that gets the desired result. You will try many times and you may question yourself if you are particularly negative or not highly optimistic. I questioned myself, but eventually found the answers. I’m glad I stuck with it too.
  • Forum: The forum is a great place to get answers to questions if you feel something wasn’t covered well in the lessons or if you did not do particularly well on the assessment. Most of the questions you will have very likely have been asked and answered already in the forums. You will usually find a hint that will put everything together for you and help you solve a coding challenge. I usually don’t like forums because sometimes it’s the blind leading the blind or the moderators or instructors are not responsive. The forum in this course was helpful and the instructors answered in a day or less.

Financial Aid

I was taking the free version of the course and realized that I could not get a certificate or do any of the assignments if I did not take the premium version. Financial aid was available and I decided to apply. I read that I must unenroll from the free trial version of the course if I wanted to get financial aid. I think some courses may have an audit mode, but I’m not sure how that is different from the free trial. I unenrolled and applied for financial aid on the 21st of May. By June 4th, I was informed that my application was approved.

If you require financial aid, you will be asked to write a 150 word essay on why you need it. This is frustrating because it will very likely take most people less than 50 words and you will need to stretch it out. It’s worth it though. According to a Coursera blog, “60 percent of Financial Aid applications come from learners in countries considered to have developing economies, despite the fact that those learners represent only 38 percent of total course enrollments.”

I also had to answer a question about how the course would help my career trajectory. I was able to say a lot more about this subject and had no problem meeting the 150 word minimum.

I was asked if I was willing to take out a loan for my course. I’m not sure how the loan would work. I had questions such as “must I fill out a loan application”, and “must I provide income documentation.” I selected no to the option of getting a loan.

I had to provide a short answer to explain why I was unwilling to take out a loan.

More Information

Apply for Financial Aid or a Scholarship

Coursera’s Financial Aid: What it is and who is benefiting

Google Digital Garage Courses

Coursera’s page for Python Basics by University of Michigan

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