This week thousands(?) of online students will be finishing Udacity’s CS253 Web Application Engineering course by building a wiki for the blog they have created. Unfortunately I will not be one of them. The course was run by Reddit co-founder Steve Huffman and involved coding a blog in Python using Google App Engine. I was hesitant about signing up because of the amount of time I had needed each week to complete CS101: Building A Search Engine. Udacity however, changed their homework grading policy from one with hard deadlines to a system where you can make as many submissions as it takes to get it right (even after the solution video is posted). This policy change was what prompted me to try another course.
There were a couple of other choices in subjects: CS212 Design of Computer Programs and CS262 Programming Languages but Web Application Engineering looked the most interesting because I wanted to learn how a website interacted with it’s database. All three courses had the same prerequisite: ‘previous programming experience, comparable to what is covered by the Udacity CS101 course’. So I thought I would be fine.
I was wrong.
I survived the first couple of weeks homework assignments since they just involved installing Google App Engine and coding a web form. The following weeks homework assignment however, was this:
The first instuctor comment for this homework was, “There are a few things I didn’t cover in the lecture that will be helpful for this homework. Links to this material can be found here.” This was a huge jump from CS101 which often provided code to build upon in homework questions – not a blank slate like this – and the lectures always covered everything needed to complete the homework assignments. This prompted me to search the forums to see if anyone else was feeling in over their head. I found this thread where students discussed what the real prerequisites were for the course. What I concluded was that I would have to do a lot of my own learning of Python in order to complete the homework assignments each week. Even a relaxed homework grading policy wasn’t going to help me with the amount of time I would have to dedicate to keep up.