Discreet Optimization at Coursera
I just finished the Optimization course in Coursera.org and I felt excited about it. I learnt many new computer science concepts that I skipped during my undergraduate time. My postgraduate was more about management, business and finance than a technical one.
This is a quick review of the course to show what I learnt, what I wished to learn more and how I could apply it in my real world problem
What I learnt:
- NP-hard problems
- The basic knapsack problem
- Branch and bound
- Bottom Up Dynamic Programming
- Constraint Programming
- Local Search
- Integer Programming
It is one of the toughest course in coursera so I needed to watch one topic twice, one for the general understanding and the second is when I need to finish my programming assignment. I will summarise what I learnt in the next few posts, and upload my java code so people can learn from it. The code is not good, though.
The difficulty of the assignments increase significantly when you progress through the course. However, you can jump to any assignment and finish it if you feel comfortable. The lecturer has a hilarious style of teaching that I enjoyed. I personally got 256/320, about 80% of the score, enough to get a certificate
P/S: I recently had a discussion with my coworker about the role of the school and what students should expect to learn. Some of the key concepts offer short term benefits while others’ usefulness need years to recognize.I will write about that in another blog post.
Coursera is cool. Online Education is cool. Content is cool. But do you know what is not? The interaction. It is damn boring to stay focused in 3 hours for a video lecture. Recently, my wife and I tried our best to study Introduction to Finance and Financial Computation Econometric. The interaction environment in the normal classroom is not always interesting, it is even worse in an online course. Maybe we haven’t used all the resources we have or we haven’t tried hard enough. But to make the model more successful, interactions would be the key.
Offline watching has its benefits: people can watch anytime, anywhere and any videos you like. It sounds good until it comes to practice. People get lazy, some of them are watching half the video and have to stop to do something else. When they come back, they lose time to get into focus again. It takes more time and efforts to really focus and learn quickly with offline video.
Obviously, they are still free, I have no complaint about a specific site. What I mean is “Hey, this is my problem and may be others’ problems, hope you guys can fix it”. I think we need to give more benefits for people, as gamification and gaming theory often do, to let them spend a specific of time in their schedule to finish the video, to really focus. Maybe these sites offer some chance to chat with the professor, some small quiz that can be both challenging and rewarding.
In the long term, I really think that solving this problem is the business key and competitive advantage for any company.