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InquilineKea's Guide to Self-Studying a Course

InquilineKeaInquilineKea - Posts: 2,309 Member
edited September 2007 in College Confidential Cafe
So you want to self-study a course off another university? Here's a good way to self-study.

Tip #1: MIT OCW is NOT the "best thing ever". It does NOT distribute textbooks free of charge along with its course notes. In fact, you can just google the course number and find the course's webpages - with all of OCW's material + more.

(a) Find course to self-study off a course catalog (or course webpage). I'll use MIT's 18.024 as an example. If you're interested in another university, just google "university name + math catalog" Here you get http://web.mit.edu/catalogue/ .
(b) Google the course name. For 18.024, you get http://www-math.mit.edu/~tkemp/18.024 . Sometimes, the google will also reveal pleasant surprises. My google of 18.024, for example, revealed http://www.physicsforums.com/blogs/download.php?format=xml&userid=65985 and http://www.artofproblemsolving.com/Forum/viewtopic.php?t=151321 .

You can also try looking for course webpage directories. http://www-physics.ucsd.edu/students/courses/spring2006/ and http://www.math.caltech.edu/courses.html are good examples.
(c) Download DownThemAll as a Firefox Extension. http://addons.mozilla.org/firefox/addon/201 . This will allow you to download everything from the university webpage with one click. This is very important - since professors often take down their course materials when their course finishes (sometimes they stay on for a while before being taken down).
(d) get the textbook. You can buy it off Amazon.com or get it free in two ways. (a) interlibrary loan or university library. (b) Some textbooks are available off BitTorrent. Apostol Vols. I and II are. Usually, the textbook IS THE most important component of self-study. Oftentimes, you don't even need anything other than the textbook, since the textbook has the problems, notes, and solutions.
(e) In someone else's words:"When reading this book and others like it, I always remember this bit
of advice that Richard Feynman gave his sister. I think it would be
helpful for anyone buying The Road to Reality.

"You start at the beginning and you read as far as you can, until you
get lost. Then you start at the beginning again, and you keep working
through until you can understand the whole book.""

And then do the problems. Some people are better off in the "do problems first, then read for clarification next" approach.

(f) if you prefer to print out problems and to do them by hand, one suggestion: get a pdf merger. you can google it, and you can get one off bittorrent. pdf mergers allow you to merge many pdfs into a single file, allowing you to print them all off in one click (rather than in many clicks)

(g) Then the next problem is - how would you mention your self-study activity? It is an extra-curricular that can reveal A LOT about yourself, even if you cannot prove that you demonstrated self-study. Perhaps write an essay about your self-study experiences, and explain some of the interesting problems you encountered. Most importantly, be concrete, show, and don't just tell.

Note 1: You don't really need a course webpage to self-study, although it may make some courses easier. All you need is really just one good textbook - and most university libraries have plenty of textbooks on one subject, even if it isn't the textbook you're explicitly looking for (my library doesn't have Kleppner/Kolenkow "Intro to Mechanics" for example).

Feedback? Feel free to e-mail me at simfish@gmail.com
Post edited by InquilineKea on

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