How and Why You Should Upgrade Your College Curriculum

  Follow How and Why You Should Upgrade Your College Curriculum

Sure, you might be satisfied with the courses your college is offering. But what if you’re not? What if you want to improve it? What if you want to learn some skill that your college is not offering as a part of their program?

We used to be limited by the courses our colleges are offering us. Sure, if we wanted to learn something new and exciting, we could always buy a book or two and learn a new skill. But, thanks to the Internet, now there is a better way to learn.

The MIT Challenge

The MIT Challenge is a project by Scott H. Young that he started in 2011. Explained as short as possible, he tried to replicate MIT’s 4-year Computer Science Curriculum using courses offered by the MIT itself on their OpenCourseWare platform. He managed to successfully replicate a curriculum that’s nearly identical to the curriculum offered by the MIT, and he managed to learn the four year curriculum in a year! For more details, see his blog post.

Of course, you might argue that he didn’t finish MIT program per se, and you will be right. He did not get an actual diploma from MIT, he never even visited MIT, he graded himself and he did not enjoy any other privileges offered by the MIT as a part of their program. But what he did do is he managed to learn pretty much everything offered by the MIT in under a year for a price that’s a lot less expensive than actually going to MIT.

When he started the challenge, he believed that the diploma is overrated in todays world (something I completely agree with). It gave him a unique perspective on learning and education, as he said to me in an email response. As far as he knows, nobody was able to replicate his project so far. He proved to himself that he’s capable of doing a lot more than he used to think. He was not interested in an MIT diploma. What he was interested in was the Computer Science, and he (in his own words) managed to learn a great deal of Computer Science and he perfected his programming skills. Of course, if he wanted to specialize in something, he’d probably need more specific training in that field.

His idea might be a little extreme, but he might be up to something. He encouraged me to look at my college curriculum from a critical point of view. This is why I have decided to improve my curriculum a little bit.

The Situation in Bosnia & Herzegovina

Before I talk about a way for you to improve your curriculum, I kind of wanted to tell you a short story of why I have decided to so.

You’re probably aware that Bosnia & Herzegovina is not very familiar as a country with a good higher education. Here, there’s a constant debate whether or not young people should go to private or state colleges. State colleges are a little overrated and private colleges are considered a joke that anyone is capable of finishing. And I’m not blaming them, because they’re right in 90% of cases. It is nearly impossible to get a job in my country if you finish a private college in, lets say, law, medicine, or economics, and there’s a good reason for that. But the situation is quite different if you’re learning Computer Science.

My college is pretty small and unknown even in my country. We only have about 150 students (in all years), our college staff is pretty small (I would say that my college has less than 30 employees), and we don’t actually have the comfort of choosing subjects that we’re going to take.

Even though our teachers are learning us the knowledge needed to get a job right after getting a college diploma, we are constantly limited to use a certain tool or to follow a certain path to the solution to a problem. Most of the students are comfortable with it, but I am not, mostly because I don’t feel comfortable with being obliged to use Microsoft’s tools to get the job done (I’m not saying that we’re using Microsoft’s tools exclusively, but in most of the subjects they are a huge part of our curriculum).

So what I need to do is to think outside of the box. I needed to find a way to learn specific things to pass my exams, but I also needed to be able to apply my theoretical knowledge in a wider area of situations, using the tools I’m comfortable with and learning the tools outside of my regular curriculum. So what I ended up doing is basically creating a Curriculum 2.0.

Presenting You: Curriculum 2.0

You’ve probably heard about Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) somewhere in the past and there’s a good reason for that: MOOCs are an easy way to learn about topics that you’re interested in by attending an online course offered by some of the biggest universities in the world. And there are thousands of them available on platforms like Coursera, Edx, Udacity and Udemy. Most of them are offered free of charge to anyone who’s interested in learning. All you need to do is to pay a small fee if you’re interested in getting a certificate as a way of proving that you’ve successfully finished them.

But why not take it to another level, like Scott taught us? If you’re not satisfied with your course curriculum, why not taking an online course at the same time as your course in college? What you’ll end up doing is learning the same thing from two different sources. By doing so, you’re not obliged to follow a specific rule to get the job done. You can learn two or more ways of doing the same thing. You can become proficient in more programming languages then you’re going to learn in college. You can learn about algorithms from a wide variety of resources. What you’ll end up doing is passing the course and getting a certificate from two different universities for learning basically the same thing.

Of course, this is not an easy task and you’ll run into lots of problems. You’ll have to learn to be proficient in your time management skills. You’ll have to study more and you’ll have to have a high level of productivity a day after day. I ended up taking a year off just to perfect my skills in areas where I thought I need to improve. But after going through all of this hustle, I finally think that I’m ready to incorporate all of that in my curriculum. In the meantime, I managed to improve my English proficiency, to practice my writing skills and to highly increase my level of productivity. I used to spend days without doing anything productive. Now, more than 50% of time I’m using my laptop is spent by doing something productive (and I know that thanks to this awesome freemuium service called RescueTime). Sure, it is far from perfect, but I am improving a lot. Half of a year later, I’m not regretting my decision to take a year off at all as I have only benefited by doing so.

So, What’s My Point?

If you want to learn something new, you can always find the time to do that. If you want to learn a specific skill, there is a MOOC that will teach you that. You can earn a bunch of certificates while you’re in a college. You can even get a specialization on Coursera or a nanodegree on Udacity. And the best thing is, you can do all of this for free or by paying a pretty small fee that probably anyone could afford. If you’re passionate about learning, there’s nothing that could stop you.

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