An Online Bioinformatics Curriculum

Last week I talked about online courses in my JHSPH-Biostat through Coursera post. Now I’m back to comment on An Online Bioinformatics Curriculum by David B. Searls. Sur Herrera pointed out this paper to me, and I have to say that if you are considering learning bioinformatics online it will be very useful to you. David Searls first goes through a history recap of online (free) courses. Notably, in the last year Coursera and other startups offered their first courses. MIT has also evolved and now offers MITx courses, where MIT does give certificates. For example, I’m a bit interested in the Introduction to Computer Science and Programming 6.00x course. It aims to cover a wide variety of topics which can be nice for a review/learning and is Python-based. 

The main body of David Searls’ paper is a huge list of summaries for the main courses out there for bioinformaticians. He covers several tracks depending on what subarea of bioinformatics you are interested in. For each summary, he recommends an specific course to take along with the main reasons why he prefers it over other options. If you have ever looked into OCW, Coursera, etc; you know this is a great resource. After all, there are lots of options for some courses like calculus and it can be a time drain to look through them before deciding which to take. This summary is the best part of the paper.

David Searls ends it with a conclusion section and some tips on how to make the best of the available resources. How far can free online education go? Well, obviously for informatics it can go almost all the way compared to wet lab biology. Plus, you have to be organized/dedicated/motivated and a good self-learner. Even with all that, you still need good ideas to use as learning projects. If you are looking for one, I would take a look here and here where Jeff Leek lists some of his project suggestions.