Three months ago, I signed up for a class on EdX. This is an MIT statistics class called 18.6501x: Fundamentals of Statistics. Despite the name, this is not an intro class, but rather intermediate-level.
I have never been a competent stats guy; I knew a bit about the topic from an intro to stats class that I took (at the actual ‘Tute campus) many years ago, and from dealing with Mickey Mouse-level statistics problems in my line of work.
The class is part of the MIT Micromasters Program in Statistics and Data Science, which comprises a sequence of classes in statistics, programming and data analytics, and if you can finish them all, you’ll get a “micromaster” degree, whatever that means. I want to get on the big data bandwagon too!
The class is challenging but well-designed. The prerequisites are linear algebra, basic statistics and general competency with calculus-level mathematics. I’ve forgotten more mathematics than I remember (a function of disuse and aging) but fortunately, I still find the prerequisites familiar ground. I aced the first few sections (parametric models, confidence level, hypothesis testing) until I got to the challenging parts toward the end (Bayesian, linear regression, generalized linear model) which kept me up during late hours on some days.
The workload is quite substantial; I spent about 6 hours a week on the course videos, exercises, and homework problems. The homework problems can be quite tricky.
Alhamdulillah, after a grueling final exam which I took last week, I finally completed the course.
Perhaps the actual MIT kids taking the real-life version of the course would find the final paper really easy, but I am not as sharp as I once was, so I am a bit proud of my achievement. I admit that I don’t care so much about finding the right answers as I do about understanding how to get the answers (the hallmark of non-college-aged students), so any problem that requires a full-page of mathematical calculations, I skipped.
I got my final results today. Either I am not an old dog yet, or you can actually teach this old dog new tricks, I do not know which, but I actually learnt something from the class, and I am happy to kind of aced it in the process!
Please excuse my slight brag — I haven’t taken any college class proper since I graduated 15 years ago and I felt slightly giddy when I got the final results in my email.
Some may ask, how do I keep my motivation to finish the class while working full-time and raising a family? The answer is quite simple. I have weak internal motivation. But, EdX has an option where you can get an online official certificate. This costs US$300 per course, and although I am not poor, that is still a lot of money for me. Once I signed up for the certificate and paid, there is no way for me to not finish.