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20 Online Courses at the University of Alberta - 2021 Pandemic Edition

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Katelyn Heuer

Do you want to enhance your knowledge in your free time? This is the perfect opportunity! Keep reading this post to learn about twenty online courses you need to check out at the University of Alberta!

1. Science Literacy

A cartoon showing the two halves of the brain: the mathematic and artistic side

Science Literacy will see science as a process. It teaches students to think critically, differentiate science from pseudoscience, understand and design a scientific study, and critically evaluate scientific communication in the media. Students will also learn how indigenous wisdom can inform science. While this may sound like a lot, it will allow you to apply your new found skills to scientific questions, talking points, and controversies in the world. All you need for this course is an open mind and the ability to self-reflect!

2. Mountains 101

The Taurus mountains in Turkey

In this twelve-lessons course, you'll focus on physical, biological and human dimensions of mountain places not only in Alberta, Canada but also around the world! You'll learn about the geological origins of mountains, the process of mountains built-up and worn-down, the importance of biodiversity, and water cycles. Additionally, students will also learn the different tips and tricks to safely enjoy time in the high alpine environment!

3. Design Patterns

Someone touching a screen

This course combines object-oriented analysis and design with design patterns, allowing you to create interactive applications. Students will survey different established design patterns to gain a foundation for more complex software, and identify problematic software designs. Students will also complete a capstone project to redesign an existing Java based Android application to improve it with different design patterns.

4. Introduction to the Arctic: Climate

Glaciers in the Arctic

Professors at the University of Alberta, the University of Tromso, and the University of the Arctic created this course together so students can examine the environment and climate of the circumpolar North. After learning about the general geography of the Arctic, students will focus on the cryosphere, atmosphere and the ocean of the region. The main focus of this course is to examine climate change, the processes driving it, and the evidence of it in the Arctic.

5. Agile Planning for Software Products

Five stages of agile planning

Agile planning is used by many coders and computer scientists to effectively work in a group and create a final product by its due date. This course is essential for the computer science field - it will teach you the techniques you need to break down and map requirements into plans that will drive your software production. After this course, you'll be able to create effective plans for development, map user requirements to developer tasks, and asses and plans for risks, and generate work estimates for products.

6. Indigenous Canada

3 Indigenous Canadian children

This twelve-lessons course explores the indigenous histories and contemporary issues in Canada. Students will look at these issues from an indigenous, historical, and critical perspective in order to highlight national and local indigenous-settler relations. Some of the specific topics include the fur trade, exchange relationships, land claims, environmental impacts, legal systems, political conflicts, alliances, indigenous political activism, and contemporary indigenous life, art, and more!

7. Bugs 101: Insect-Human Interactions

A bug on the palm of someone's hand

Insects and arthropods are the most abundant animals on the planet and yet most of us don't really think twice about them. In this course, students will learn about arthropods, how they work, what they do, and how insects and humans interact every day. Upon completion, students will be able to describe the evolutionary relationships between insects and their relatives, identify major groups of insects, identify the evolutionary adaptations that make insects successful, and discuss insect biology, evaluation positive and negative interactions between insects and humans.

8. Fundamentals of Reinforcement Learning

A chart showing how reinforcement learning works

Reinforcement learning is technically part of machine learning, but it focuses more on general purpose formalism for automated decision-making and AI. This course will teach you about the key concepts of reinforcement learning along with the underlying classic and modern algorithms often used. When you're done with the course, you'll be able to formalize problems as Markov Decision Processes, understand basic exploration methods, understand value functions, and implement dynamic programming as an efficient solution to control problems.

9. Sample-Based Learning Method

Someone typing on a laptop but a robotic hand coming out of the screen

This course will teach you about several algorithms that can learn near optimal policies based on trial and error interactions with the environment. To supplement this, you will learn about Monte Carlo methods and temporal difference learning methods including Q-learning. Lastly, you'll learn to combine the two, and create algorithms that use model-based planning and temporal difference updates to radically accelerate learning.

10. Paleontology: Ancient Marine Reptiles

A chart of prehistoric marine life

While this course is short and comprised of only four lessons, it still provides you with a lot of information. Here, you'll get a comprehensive overview of the evolutionary changes that take place when air breathing terrestrial animals return to water. The course focuses on examining the diversity, adaptations, convergence and phylogenetic relationships of extinct marine reptiles. Additionally, students will explore the three main groups of marine reptiles: ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs and mosasaurs.

11. Paleontology: Theropod Dinosaurs and the Origin of Birds

Different theropod dinosaurs

Like Ancient Marine Reptiles, this course is relatively short and consists of only five lessons. In this course, students will examine the anatomy, diversity and evolution of theropod dinosaurs, and the origin of birds. Students will also discuss the various hypotheses for the origin of flight.

12. Service-Oriented Architecture

A chart showing the components of Service Oriented Architecture

In this course, you'll study different architectural styles, review architectures for web applications, and explore the basics of Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). This includes Web Services (WS*) and Representational State Transfer (REST) architecture. You'll also complete a capstone project where you will connect a Java based Android application with Elasticsearch, a web service with a REST application programmer interface.

13. Prediction and Control with Function Approximation

An example of a function approximation

It may sound impossible but in this course, you'll learn how to solve problems with large, high dimensional or even infinite state spaces! You'll start by learning how prediction methods like Monte Carlo and TD can be used for function approximation and neural networks. Then, you'll learn about policy gradient methods to learn policies directly without learning a function value.

14. Astro 101: Black Holes

A black hole in space

So much is still unknown about black holes but now is your chance to learn a little more about them! The course focuses on the basic ideas of astronomy, relativity, and quantum physics. After completing the course, you'll be able to describe the basic properties of black holes, explain recent black hole research, compare black holes in popular culture to modern physics, describe physical concepts such as gravity, special relativity, general relativity, and quantum mechanics, and recognize different types of stars.

15. Science & Religion 101

A scale with religion on one side and science on the other

In this course, students will examine science and religion in attempt to explore any possible relationships between the two. The main focus of the course is to dispel the myth that science and religion will always conflict each other. Some of the topics include foundational principles, the definition of science and religion, science-religion models, natural revelation, the Galileo Affair, Noah's Flood, evolution, Darwin's religious beliefs, and the problem of evil.

16. Problem Solving, Python Programming, and Video Games

Two video game controllers

This course serves as an introduction to computer science and Python programming. Here, you'll learn the basics of Python including the syntax of the language and how to run basic programs. You'll then get the chance to use your new skills in a fun way by programming video games!

17. Object-Oriented Design

A chart of elements within Object Oriented Design

This course is designed to help Java beginners further develop their skills by introducing object oriented analysis and design. Here, you'll learn how to create modular, flexible and reusable software by applying object-oriented design, principles and guidelines. You'll also be able to communicate your designs to others in a visual way by creating Unified Modeling Languages (UMLs). As your capstone project, you will apply your knowledge by evolving and documenting the Java code for an Android application, and creating a corresponding UML document.

18. Client Needs and Software Requirements

Someone talking to their client

As a programmer, being able to effectively communicate with your client is essential. If you don't, it may be unclear as to what your client wants and when they need it done by. In this course, you'll learn different techniques to elicit and express software requirements from client interactions.

19. Software Architecture

An example of a software architecture chart

Software architecture is the way that software components such as subroutines, classes and functions are arranged, and the way they interact with each other. In this course, you'll learn about different ways that these architectures are represented using UMLs and other visual tools. You'll also study the most common architectures, their qualities, and the tradeoffs of using them.

20. Reviews & Metrics for Software Improvements

Different applications that use software

With more technologies, softwares might not be compatible, making it necessary to review and potentially improve software you already have. In this course, you'll learn about the techniques for monitoring your projects to align with client needs, project plans, and software production. You'll also learn about metrics and reviews in order to improve project progress and software quality.

Don't let COVID prevent you from learning! With online courses, the possibilities are endless. Come back to the post whenever you want to learn about some of the online courses offered at the University of Alberta!


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