• Perth Waterfront - Tay street

    taming technology so you don't have to

  • The Falkirk Wheel

    taming technology so you don't have to

  • River Tummel from the Dam at Pitlochry

    taming technology so you don't have to

  • Stirling Castle

    taming technology so you don't have to

  • The Forth Bridges

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  • Hamilton

    taming technology so you don't have to

  • The Squinty Bridge - River Clyde, Glasgow

    taming technology so you don't have to

the IT department

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professor at blackboardFollowing the excellent Business Boot camp in Perth last week, I was looking at a blog post  by one of the organisers, Kallum (with a 'K'), in which he explains why asking "Why?" has been important to him.

Like Kallum, I have a strong sense of curiosity and want to know how things work. This used to mean hours in the bookshops or the library picking out the right books but these days, like most people, the Internet has become my go-to resource providing, you might say, "instant gratification!"

As well as learned articles and blogs, there is a plethora of how-to videos on just about any subject you can think of. But the more recent creation of the Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) has brought structured, University-level education to the masses – often for free.

Earlier this year, my daughter-in-law, let's call her Dani (with a "D") suffered from a Pulmonary Embolism or PE. This is a painful and potentially very serious condition where a blood clot travels into the lung and blocks blood vessels there. It is particularly dangerous as the clot can break off and pass into the heart, causing a heart attack.

Now, I studied basic biology at school so I did have a vague idea of what was going on but I wanted to know a bit more about how the heart and lungs interact.

Using a popular search engine I found the Khan Academy, a free learning resource that created when its founder wanted to teach his daughter mathematics in a fun and interesting way. The course I found there was on Human Biology and I was enthralled to learn exactly how the pulmonary system worked. I went on to do the rest of the course, learning about the immune system, the central nervous system, and other fascinating systems of the human body.

This was not my first foray into the land of the MOOC though. Over the past few years I have studied such diverse subjects as Human Body Language; Writing with flare; How to Reason and Argue; as well as a load of courses actually relating to my work, like Cryptography and Software Defined Networking (SDN). I even took a professional exam and gained a recognised certificate in IT Service Management and I'm currently studying for more certifications.

Some courses are quite expensive, many are completely free but generally I have found them mostly to be of the highest quality, often authored by the world's greatest universities.

So, if you are like me and need to know how things work or how to do things better, check out the vast array of courses available from some of the most prestigious schools in the world. My favourite sources:

  • Coursera Providing courses from academic institutions and universities all over the globe. You can take individual modules for free or recognised, fully certified courses for a fee.
  • Udemy - courses authored by experts in their fields. Mostly chargeable but look out for the many cut-price offers.

eek a mouse

About the Author:

John Sanderson is the Chief engineer at the IT Department, a division of Clantec Solutions Limited,
helping individuals and small businesses with their IT challenges.

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