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Learn machine code and C at university for free and at home – Enrol in a MOOC

I usually try and post once a week, but I missed last week because I enrolled in a Computing MOOC and it has been keeping me very busy. What’s a MOOC? It’s a Massive Online Open Course. These are (usually?) run by Universities and they are becoming quite popular. They are offered for free and anyone can enroll. The catch is that at the end of the course you don’t get a certificate of completion and it is unlikely you will be able to do a whole degree.

So why do universities offer these? There are a couple of reasons. One is that it is a way for universities to distribute knowledge across the whole community and the other is that it introduces prospective students to the university.

These are good for the community too. They provide a way to try out university without going through the process of enrolling and paying fees. Just like a normal course you will (or at least in the ones I have seen) be able to interact with your fellow classmates and enjoy the benefits of having a qualified lecturer answer questions. Of course, being online means you never have to leave home to participate. Great for a child that is nearing the end of High School and contemplating university.

The course I have enrolled in is Computing 1: The art of computing, run by Richard Buckland at the University of New South Wales here in Australia. It was created from the UNSW first year computing course. It runs for twelve weeks and covers machine code and C. Lectures are provided through video. These are embedded in the course but they are also available on YouTube. This is the first one.

There are a lot of tasks, but most are short requiring 15 minutes to 1 hour to complete and they are be submitted online. Results are often instant through an automatic marking process. I’m surprised at how enjoyable it is and how enthusiastic other students are. Also, I am surprised by how much I have learnt in just a few weeks.

According to their website the next cohort will be starting on 3rd December 2012. Enrolling is easy – it will only take a couple of minutes. You can even log in with your Facebook account. If you enroll and find it is not for you, you can simple withdraw as there is no penalty. If you’re interested, but computing is not your thing then do a Google search for mooc and the subject you are interested in. It’s likely that you will find something.

9-11: Fall of the twin towers and the terrible negligence of our shop staff

The latest mystery shopper report was in and once again we had been caught out. We were marked down on some minor items but our biggest failing; the one that we failed regularly was that we had failed to cross sell. That is, we had not offered the mystery shopper a related product to go with what was requested. Cross selling was something that most of the staff really did not like doing. We were used to providing customer service – providing what our customers wanted, not trying to sell them something they did not. To be fair we were not being pressured into selling something totally unrelated to what the customer wanted and for some it would be a reminder for something they wanted. However, no one really liked doing it. Even if the sales staff smile when they ask the question it doesn’t mean they enjoy doing it, it’s just a part of their job.

As a part of our punishment/training we had to go into work early for a pep talk. The meeting was set for September 12, 2001.

Australia is about 14 hours ahead of New York, so the 9/11 attacks had occurred during the night here. My wife awoke early and was up with our seven months old child and had the TV on and was the first in our house to hear the news. There had been a terrorist attack in the USA. Passenger jets had crashed into the New York twin towers, the Pentagon and another had crashed into a swamp. There was real concern as it was not clear if there were any other planes being hijacked. Were there more to come? Who was behind it? This was something new. We had not seen this type of attack before. Even though it happened on the other side of the world, the media brought the images to us and it was disturbing. I got ready for work and headed off for our pep talk.

Our Manager attempted to keep us focused. We need to cross sell. We have to ensure that this does not happen again. I didn’t really pay much attention in the meeting. I don’t think anyone really did. It was all so surreal. There had been a major attack and we were worrying about selling more to people to get profits up higher than they already were. Before long we heard George Bush declare “We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.” and we knew it was not going to be pretty.

It must have had some effect because a few months after this I enrolled in a TAFE course and after working for the same organisation for 18 years I started looking for another job. This event was not the only reason for seeking a change but I think it contributed to it. Almost twelve months later I walked into a new job where I knew I would never have to cross sell again.