The University of Yale, above. I offer it for free to you. Yup. Seriously. No kidding. Think I’m exaggerating ? Well what do you expect, this is a teaser to get your attention and to turn you into a click-whore, so of course I won’t make balanced statements in the teaser. What you’ll read if you click below is very likely going to change your life forever for the better. It will make you smarter, healthier, and you’ll have more women in your life (or more men, if you are a woman… a woman who likes guys, that goes without saying… oh my, avoiding discriminations make for ridiculously, painfully long paragraphs), and you’ll never see the world the same again. EVER. EVER. EVER.
Over the past few weeks I have working on Courserian, my new software release for the Alive and Kicking Coding competition. Since you may not know what Coursera is, you may be missing on something interesting you can now do with your Pandora. And missing something fun you could do in your life: Learning Stuff, not matter how young or old you are. Coursera is one of the most well known providers of online education/courses. Of course, it’s not the only one, you have Udacity, Khanacademy, and more options out there, but Coursera is really one of the best and I really like the way it works. While some other resources online are simply about filming teachers doing their classes and putting them online for everyone to see, Coursera produces specific courses for its service, using actual University professors to teach their subject specifically for students online. Courses are usually time-limited, which means they do not run continuously during the year, but span over a certain number of weeks. And just like in an actual University, you get new classes to follow every week, and some quizzes and homework to complete throughout the course. I have been following many classes so far, and depending on the subject it can get quite intensive in terms of homework and involvment, but you do learn stuff this way.
So far, all of their courses are available for free, and you can earn a certificate of completion of the course if you get a minimum score based on the homework you had to do. They now have premium, paying options to get “signature track” statements of completion, that can be used directly in your Resume with a certified identity, but I am still wondering how useful this really is. Pricing-wise, it’s reasonable, with a single course usually around 50 to 100 dollars (it’s cheap compared to what you would pay in University), but you don’t get the same quality of service either. So far I am only following courses for free, for the purpose of learning stuff I am interested in, and earning certificates for the fun of it.
You can learn tons of stuff on different subjects with Coursera, and as far as I can tell, all of the courses they have are of very high quality. Business, Economics, Biology, Programming, Psychology, Computer Science, History, Art, you name, you have it. Courses are usually in English, but hey, not only. You also have Chinese, French, German, Spanish ones, and other languages as well as far as I remember.
The homework tends to be relatively easy. Multiple choice questions is the standard, and you can usually try to answer several times to get a better score.
Most of the Coursera experience goes through their website, and as you can guess, you’ll be watching videos most of the time, and every week logging in their website to answer the quizzes or enter your homework. Oh, someone tells me there’s actually a mobile application for Coursera. Really ? Wait.
iOS? Are you kidding me ? You guys are so passé.
Revenons à nos moutons, shall we ? Courserian is an application that makes it possible for you to download all the courses material on your Pandora. That is, videos, subtitles, and additional documents provided (pdf, text, doc, excel, powerpoint documents), for the courses you want to follow. The process is simple: enter your login details, enter the courses references you are following, and hit the download menu to get the courses, and Courserian should do the rest. Of course, it’s possible to go, instead, on the Coursera website from your Pandora, and download one by one the course material, but their website is JS-heavy, slow, and you cannot download everything at once. In other words, you’d end up losing time.
With Courserian, once you are done downloading some courses, you can also directly access the said courses from Courserian.
By default, Courserian uses the Mplayer binary from the firmware to playback videos, but I also included an option to find and use SMPlayer2 if you have it installed on one of your SD Cards, and use it if you wish. Mplayer cannot handle very well some higher resolution mp4 files, and for that purpose SMPlayer can prove to be much better (it has a more recent build of mplayer and I believe its default settings are better, too).
There’s still some more work I need to do on Courserian as an application, but this first release should be fully functional already. Since I tend to spend a lot of time learning new stuff with Coursera, this application has a certain value for me, but I also hope you will try to use it as well. There’s a lot of new features to come down the road, so that I can hopefully turn it into a full fledged client. Let me know your feedback, and enjoy Coursera if it’s your first time hearing about it!
PS: Note that my release of Courserian would not have been possible without the fabulous work of the guys behind coursera-dl, and the excellent GUI library Yad. I’ll come back on the backend and frontend in a separate article, since it’s kind of interesting.