DIY masters (equivalent) in computer science with a focus on web application development

What is this and why am I doing it?

Since my formal education, a lot of advances have taken place in software development. I have been able to keep up with a few by regular reading and practice. But a lot of this learning has been a bit random, and as a result a bit dissipated as well. I feel like I want to engage in continuous learning, in a more organized manner.

Over the years there are several core concepts which I have forgotten because I have not been able to use them in my daily work. I feel like relearning those concepts. My DIY learning is an attempt to refresh things I have forgotten and learn new technologies and concepts which have gained importance in recent times, in an organized way.

I did a Masters in Computer Science more than a decade back. Since then, Internet, communication technologies, and social networking, have made it possible for someone to do a similar program all by themselves, using open courseware, and social learning.

By doing this program, I am not only planning to enhance my own knowledge, but am also hoping to show how one can get a Master's education worth of knowledge and credentials by self learning, and without spending a fortune.

Here is a very brief statement of purpose.

My Process for DIY Learning

I have created a learning plan which outlines at a high level the topics I want to learn. I will study one or two topics at a time, and at a manageable pace, given other work commitments.

Once the topics to learn have been identified, I will identify learning resources, forums, and mentors for that topic.

A very basic study plan is to study the material, and make notes of my understanding, as well as questions and thoughts, I get in my mind as I am learning. I will make these notes available on a special blog. This blog will serve as a personal knowledge base (I can refer to it in the future), as well as a learning trail (for proof of study and understanding).

All the homework I do while I am taking a course will be made available in the public domain. I will either post it on my blog, or if the homework involves coding, on a public open source repository such as Github. I will also do one or more projects to practice the entire body of knowledge as a whole and publish that too in the public domain.

I will also create presentations of what I learn, and make them available in the public domain.

I will connect with mentors who are experts in the topic I am learning. Depending on their time availability I will request them to help me identify gaps in my understanding, and validate my knowledge.

When I have doubts, I will ask questions on Internet forums. If my questions are not answered satisfactorily on the forums, I will refer them to my mentors.

Please visit my study plan for further details of how I plan to approach DIY learning.

Establishing credentials

A person can have several reasons for learning. One is for the knowledge (either for the joy of knowing something, or for more practical application of the knowledge), and another for establishing credentials, so someone else may entrust us with work which requires such knowledge. A self learned person may have the knowledge, but may lack credentials to prove it. It is also possible for a person studying in a silo to think he has grokked what he just learned, when in reality he may not have understood the matter properly. To be able to provide proof of knowledge as well as to validate my learning with other practitioners, I plan to engage in what can be loosely classified as social learning.

I will do the following to document my learning and to engage with the community of practitioners, in the hope of validating my knowledge and establishing credentials for what I learn:

  • Answer questions on forums
  • Blog my study notes, and clearly articulate my takeaway from all the lectures I view or text I read
  • Create presentations and post them on YOUTube, or other video sharing services
  • Publish homework on open source code repositories such as GitHub, etc
  • Request my mentors to quiz me to help me find gaps in my understanding of a topic. I will publish the quiz as audio/video and request the mentor to post their feedback in the public domain
  • Take quizzes and tests wherever possible and economical

Contents of this website

This website will be the glue for all the learning artifacts I create. My learning plan contains a high level interest in topics I want to learn as well as the specific courses I will learn in this process. The wiki page for each course will contain links to learning resources, and all the artifacts (including forum questions, blog posts, videos, presentations, code snippets, homework, projects, etc) I create in the process of learning. Think of this website as a sitemap for my resources, learning trails, and artifacts.


I plan to user freely available tools and services as far as possible. For the wiki I have chosen Wikidot because it is a mature wiki which also has a free hosting plan. I will blog my notes, and takeaways on Posterous because posting to it is as simple as mailing to an email id, and it also supports Markdown. I will use mind maps to make notes, Audacity to record audio, and Screencast-o-matic to make screencasts. I plan on using Slideshare and YOUTube for uploading presentations.

Learning artifacts (proof of learning)

PROGRESS (Last 5 learning artifacts)

Date Blog post Course
8th October 2010 Contrasting Personal Learning Environments with Learning Management Systems PLENK2010
7th October 2010 Some more articles on PLE's PLENK2010
5th October 2010 Developing personal learning networks for open and social learning - my notes PLENK2010
4th October 2010 Learning Networks in Practice - my notes PLENK2010
4th October 2010 7 things you should know about PLE's - my notes PLENK2010

All learning artifacts


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