I tool a course last year with the intriguing title of Startup Engineering, expecting to hear about startups and how to turn an idea into a sustainable business. Boy, was I wrong.
Almost right off the bat, Startup Engineering was a programming course. The entire first week was spent setting up Linux from scratch, and downloading multiple libraries and getting our Node.JS programming environment set up. The teacher clearly knew the technology, and expected students to fire up Amazon EC2 instances, register with Heroku, and eventually code an entire e-commerce website from scratch including processing payment by Bitcoin. I became way more comfortable with setting up an Amazon EC2 instance as a result of this course since I did it a number of times.
Don’t get me wrong. I had fun. I loved creating a website from scratch, and loved the fact that submitting a working URL was part of the assignment each week. You couldn’t fake it. You had to have a working website in Amazon or Heroku following the specs provided at the beginning of the week. I passed with a 99.2% mark and “with distinction” which is the first course that’s given me that extra honorific.
The Professor, Balaji Srinivasan was on the whole quite prepared. Each week, there was a PDF download containing all of the instructions on how to accomplish that week’s assignments. I think, however, that near the end of the course, something happened with the videos. Perhaps it became too difficult to record, edit and publish those hours of videos in time for the start of the week and so sometimes you were left with only the PDF. (Only 4 out of the 6 weeks of the course had videos.) But the point is the PDF was often very long, detailed and complete. 10+ pages of detailed instructions and specific Linux commands to accomplish the task. But without videos, it didn’t feel like a Coursera course. But I’m willing to accept that it is difficult doing video right, and hopefully these issues are sorted out before the course is offered again.
In the end, I’m not sure what it had to do with startups. I guess the eCommerce website we were creating was to be a clone of KickStarter, on which we could find funding for some great product idea we had. The course might better have been called “Introduction to Creating eCommerce Websites”. But interesting nonetheless.
The course is free, and offered on the Coursera platform. I’ll let you know when it’s offered again.