MIT DIY at iTunes University

Ever wanted to follow courses at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)? Harvard? Or, if your prefer, University of Cambridge, Oxford, Yale, Berkeley, Georgetown, University of Tokyo, or the Norwegian University of Science and Technology? Well, you can. It is free and you can easily Do-It-Yourself (DIY).  Why not MIT DIY? … Here’s how I used iTunes University and YouTube to substantially improve my statistics skills over a few weeks.

Statistics courses at iTunes University at my iPad

The courses that highly acclaimed universities and less renowned schools offer for free at iTunes University are a gift to all that want to excel in a field. (Not to forget; I cannot write this blogpost without also referring to the Khan Academy.) There is a world of knowledge for novices as well as for professors. It’s nothing less than a revolution in education. Students pay up to $50.000 per semester to study at the best universities in the world – and you can do it for FREE!

Too good to be true? No, but be warned that while some lecturers and courses are inspiring, many are really really bad – just like in the real university life. Also, just a few courses are yet available. Another drawback for all self-acclaimed students is of course that these lectures do not give any credits what so ever, and you really should not put it on your CV. But ask yourself; why do you study anyway? To learn something or to smarten up your resume? iTunes University is solely for the first of these purposes.

Here’s how I “graduated” in statistics from iTunes University

I needed to excel in statistics to ultimately improve my skills in quantitative methodology for social sciences. For this purpose one can of course follow courses at any given university, but it is often long and slow and one need to adjust to a schedule and list of requirements that fit the school and not you. If you don’t absolutely need the credits, iTunes University offers a much better alternative. Apple’s slogan for iTunes U is rightfully that you can “Learn anything, anywhere, anytime.” I experienced that the best lectures were not found at MIT, Berkeley or any of the other prima donna schools, but rather at schools such as Lund University in Sweden and Central Pennsylvania Community College in the US for my specific needs. This was my recipe:

I downloaded the iTunes U app on my iPad and searched for “statistics”, “SPSS” (the statistics program I’m using) and “quantitative methodology”. Several results pop up and I quickly browsed them before downloading the first “episode” of the ones I liked. I needed a introduction to SPSS and soon started using Lund University’s “Kvantitativ Metod: SPSS” where Mimmi Barmark’s friendly voice took me through 12 well explained screen dump videos from SPSS (Note; these lectures are in Swedish). I used a dataset of my own, where I really knew the data – that helps a lot. To understand the underlying statistics I found a strange statistics lecture from the Central Pennsylvania Community College to be helpful; If you ignore the relative bad readability of the videos and the outdated use of a TI-83 Plus calculator (it’s just good to get those small breaks anyway), the “Introduction to statistics” lectures by Jason Rosenberry are in fact quite educational. For any issues that needed more explaining, a quick google search did the trick; there are plenty of YouTube videos explaing elements of statistics quick and dirty.

I have also tried to use UC Berkeley’s “Statistics 2, Fall 2009” and Harvard’s “Statistics 110”, and even if the lecturers are both passionate and good, it soon feels useless to listen to the class student’s questions about schedules and exams. Oh, come on you top schools; statistics is boring and hard enough by itself. If you improve, I’ll improve. I’m not finished studying this topic, and enjoy doing it when it fits my schedule and projects. It’s learning by doing with mentoring from top lecturers, and it really gives a transformational learning experience. If it doesn’t, simply choose another lecture series… (How many real-life universities offer that option…?) I’ve learned more SPSS and statistics in a couple of months than I did during five years at university.

If you’ve read so far, you’re also able to MIT DIY

The iPad (or any other tablet or pc) enables mobile learning with the iTunes U app: You can learn african languages, nuclear physics or ancient Greek history from your sofa, office, toilet or in an airplane. Anybody can easily learn anything, anywhere, anytime! Now, the biggest challenge is still ours: How to be bothered to educate our minds instead of blunting ourselves with TV-soaps, tabloids and Facebook. There is probably also a good lecture about that…

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