Helen of Marlowe's Blog

Coursera — free online university courses

Posted in Government, Politics by helenofmarlowe on April 19, 2012

I heard about Coursera on NPR. Apparently it’s so new that it’s not yet in Wikipedia – at least, I didn’t find an entry.     Hosted by Princeton, Stanford, University of California, Berkeley, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, and University of Pennsylvania,  Coursera offers free on-line classes in several dozen subjects. The courses are free, carry no credit or grade and don’t lead toward any degree.

You can find Coursera, look at the course offerings, sign up if you like, at https://www.coursera.org/courses

I’m tempted by several of their offerings, such as History of the World Since 1300, Modern and Contemporary American Poetry, Listening to World Music, Health Policy and the Affordable Care Act.  All these tempt me, but I think I’ll start with Securing Digital Democracy.

I’ve been interested in electronic voting since Dr. Avi Rubin’s analysis of the 2004 election (and many other analyses and reports) convinced me that the 2004 election was stolen electronically. I’ve looked for Dr. Rubin’s statistical analysis, which concluded that the reported results could not be accurate, but I’ve changed computers several times since 2004, and my bookmarks didn’t move with me.  I have the printed copy of that report somewhere, but life is too short for me to start looking for it.  I do find some summary comments here

http://www.jhu.edu/jhumag/0204web/vote.htm

But back to Coursera and their on-line course offerings. I followed a link from the Coursera web page, a link found on the  Digital Democracy description page introducing the assistant professor who will teach the course, and read “He recently led a team from the University of Michigan that hacked into Washington DC’s internet voting system. In his spare time, he reprogrammed a touch-screen voting machine to play Pac-Man.”  Why Pac-Man?  

He says, “We could have reprogrammed it to steal votes, but that’s been done before   and Pac-Man is more fun!”

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