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Mark Embling

Keep on Learning

Back at the end of 2012, I wrote about my first edX learning experience taking the Software as a Service course. Over the course of 2013, I participated in several other free online courses and I am a firm believer that constantly learning is well worth it and helps keep you sharp.

What I did in 2013

  • MongoDB for DBAs (June - July)

    This course is all about setting up and administering a production MongoDB installation. It introduces MongoDB and then goes into topics such as importing/exporting data, performance concerns, replication and sharding. I'm definitely a developer but it is useful to have a broader overview of the tools you're using; I learnt a fair bit about the correct approach to scale MongoDB if I ever needed to.

  • MongoDB for Developers (July - August)

    This course examines MongoDB from a developer perspective and goes though the process of building a MongoDB-backed Python blog. It also looked at developer-relevant topics like schema design - something which I'd say is at least as important, if not more-so, in a document database like MongoDB than in a relational database.

    If Python isn't your bag, there are also Java and NodeJS versions which I believe cover very similar material but provide the code in each specific language and uses the appropriate driver.

  • Energy 101 (September - December)

    This course gives a broad overview of various energy topics including technologies, comparison between similar and different fuels and sources, as well as policies and historical aspects. In particular I found it interesting to learn more about the issues surrounding fossil fuels and fracking for shale gas - something which has been a bit of a sticking point recently here in the UK.

The MongoDB course links above go to the page for the next time the course starts in January/February 2014. The Energy 101 link goes to the previous one when I did it.

I would have liked to have done a little more but for one reason or another that never really happened. However the three I did were good fun and well worth it. It all helps.

What's next in 2014

I've started as I mean to go on, and I definitely intend to do more than in 2013 if possible. I like participating in these courses and think that constantly striving to be better is a good way to be. To that end, I've signed up for two courses starting in January:

As you might guess based on the start dates, these courses are going to overlap. That's something I've never actually tried before (in 2013, I always did them sequentially). Seeing how that fits in around full time work and the rest of life will be an interesting experiment and possibly a challenge as well.

Both of these courses cover areas I have an interest in but are also areas in which I don't consider myself particularly knowledgable. Some of the courses I did in 2013 were relatively pain-free since I already had a decent amount of knowledge or experience of the subject matter (e.g. MongoDB). This year that will not be the case!

As the year goes on, I plan to keep this up as much as possible to keep learning and expanding my skills and do much more than in 2013. Plus who doesn't like getting certificate PDFs...

Let's go!