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Coursera first impressions

I recently signed up for a few Coursera courses, and overall it’s been a fun experience. Here are some of my comments.

Game Theory

So far the instructors have explained normal form games, Nash equilibrium, Pareto optimality, mixed strategies and maxmin strategies. The definitions are pretty clear and plenty of examples follow. The graded problem sets are usually fairly easy and sometimes include interesting examples not found in the videos. However, there are no proofs of any theorems or results. In fact, the theorems themselves are not even written down in any precise way – the instructors seem to be intent on avoiding mathematical notation here for some reason. Verdict: Enrol.

The Modern World: Global History since 1760

Starting near the end of the Commercial Revolution, the instructor explores global history all the way up to the present. There are usually one or two questions at the end of each video to determine whether you have been paying attention. The instructor (Philip Zelikow from the University of Virginia) really shows his enthusiasm for the subject in the videos. Verdict: Enrol!

Image and video processing: From Mars to Hollywood with a stop at the hospital

The instructor begins by giving many applications of image processing, and then gets straight into topics like Huffman coding and the discrete cosine transform (no proofs). I haven’t watched a lot of them yet. Verdict: ???

Introduction to Finance

The instructor is clearly excited about the subject, but keeps going off on tangents. Furthermore, he takes around an hour to explain the compound interest formula \(P(1+r/n)^{nt}\), something that should take 5 minutes at most. Use Khan Academy instead. Verdict: Avoid.

Analytic Combinatorics, Part I

Finally, a course in which the forums aren’t full of complaints about “too much math”. Sedgewick’s voice can be a little boring at times, but the content should be extremely interesting to anyone who knows about generating functions. Verdict: Enrol!