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MOOCs: The Gifts That Keep On Giving

Nov. 21, 2013
Continuing education is essential for any EE and MOOCs can help.

If you aren’t involved in some form of regular continuing education, you’re doomed to suffer the consequences of ignorance, peer contempt, technological obsolescence, and eventual obscurity. And then you retire. I’m not kidding. Electronics never lets up. Changes occur hourly not only in the technology but also in the marketplace. You always need to know what is going on and how to turn the latest components, methods, trends, and technologies to your benefit. Continuing education is the answer.

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We all are natural self-learners. You probably learn something new every day without realizing it. But you really need to formally assess your current needs and then develop some kind of learning activity to educate yourself. What topic would be the most beneficial to you today? Think about it. Have you learned DSP yet? How about ARM processors, Linux, or electromagnetic interference (EMI) mitigation? You also could pick up a foreign language, financial planning, project management, or how to use machine-to-machine communications (M2M) or wireless white spaces. Pinpoint a topic and then figure out a way to learn it.

For years, I’ve been asking engineers how they learn new stuff. Almost all say they use the Internet for most learning projects. Web searches usually turn up tons of material that you can organize into an informal self-instructional course. Webinars are a key source today, and many company-sponsored webinars are available for free. But to dig further, you may need to find the latest textbooks, university short courses, or company classes to get the level of learning you need.

Hit The Books Online

Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are now available too. Mainstream universities and some companies offer these Internet-based classes. There are non-credit online college-level MOOCs on every imaginable topic. Many are free, while others have a modest cost. MOOCs are still new, but the number of engineering-related courses has been expanding. There may be something there for you.

If you haven’t yet discovered this learning alternative, take a look at what’s available. Go to www.mooc-list.com/categories/engineering for a quick review of what might interest you. Current and upcoming classes include Modeling and Simulation using MATLAB, Concepts in Nanotechnology, Mobile Robotics, Digital Signal Processing, Introduction to Power Electronics, Linear Circuits, Mobiles for Development, and many more. Give yourself a MOOC for the holidays and get back to some kind of formal learning.

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