A MOOC and a Contest to begin the New Year on a happy note!

C.P. Ravikumar

Texas Instruments

If you have read the Mahabharata, you will be familiar with the story of Ekalavya.  As a young boy and a son of a huntsman, Ekalavya is drawn to archery. He approaches Dronacharya, who had been appointed to teach the Kaurava and Pandava princes. Dronacharya is unable to take Ekalavya as a student, since he is committed to train the princes. Ekalavya establishes a sculpture of Dronacharya in his backyard and, accepting him as a virtual teacher, practices archery with great dedication. So much so that he transforms into an archer with a skill greater than that of Arjuna, the Pandava prince whom Dronacharya had vowed to groom into world’s best archer.

When I look at the revolutionary change in education that MOOCs are bringing about, I am reminded of  the story of Ekalavya. Had Internet existed in the days of Mahabharata, Dronacharya could have accepted Ekalavya as a remote student!

If you have not heard of a MOOC before, it stands for a Massive Open Online Course. As the name suggests, it is open for anyone with access to Internet technology to enrol. Since the number of people who meet this criterion is large, such a course can have a massive following – it is not uncommon to come across a MOOC with tens of thousands of participants.  I suppose when they coined the word  “University,” it was expected to be a place of learning open for the entire Universe. Today, this vision is becoming true with the arrival of MOOCs which are permitting free enrollment to just about anyone who wishes to learn. I liken a participant in a MOOC to modern-day Ekalavya!

Texas Instruments University Program has collaborated with University of Texas, Austin, and edX on a MOOC which revolves around the topic of Embedded Systems.  Larissa Swanland has already blogged about the MOOC. Let me summarize the FAQATA (the ATA stands for And Their Answers) about this MOOC.

  • Title of the course – UT6.01x – Embedded Systems – Shape the world
  • Duration of the course – 15 weeks
  • Who is teaching the course? – Prof. Jonathan Valvano and Prof. Ramesh Yerraballi of UT, Austin
  • Who can take the course? Anyone who wishes to learn about embedded systems!
  • When is this course starting? Jan 24, 2014
  • How many hours do I need to spend in a week? – At least 10 hours a week. (Ekalavya perhaps spent more.)
  • What prerequisites are needed? You must be familiar with C programming, Digital Design, and concepts of Computer Architecture.
  • What is the nature of the course? – Apart from lectures, you will have hands-on assignments which you must complete to benefit from the course. (Imagine Ekalavya just taking a theory class on archery.)
  • What will I need to take the course? You will also need access to a good Internet connection.  If you intend to do the experiments in the convenience of your home, you will need a TM4C123 TIVA Launchpad and some parts (resistors, LED, wires, etc.) – these are explained in Swanland’s blog; you can purchase the components from the links provided therein. You will benefit from a copy of the book from Prof. Valvano – Introduction to Embedded Systems – Vol 1. While it is best to buy yourself a copy, you can also benefit from the course landing page.
  • How can I enroll? Visit this website to get started.
  • Will I get a certificate? If you enroll for the free course and audit the class, you  will not receive any certification. If you formally enrol and complete the course, you will receive a certification that can be useful when you go job hunting.
  • What is the course website? – Here it is: http://users.ece.utexas.edu/~valvano/edX/


To encourage participants from India to enrol in the course, we are running a contest. This contest will begin on Jan 6, 2014 and end at 5.00pm IST on Jan 12, 2014. Here are the salient features about the contest:

  • It is called  the MOOContest, but NOO, you will not be asked to MOO.
  • It is open to all Indian students and professionals!
  • You can enrol in the contest at the website http://bit.ly/tiva-mooc. I will update this blog with the URL of the website on Jan 6. 
  • The first step is to enrol in the MOOC.
  • The second step is to visit the contest website and enrol yourself.  You will be asked to fill out the e-mail ID of the person who referred you to the contest. We will announce the winner before Jan 19. The winner will be the person who has referred the largest number of people to enrol in the MOOC.
  • We will announce 5 winners. (Lucky lottery will be used to break ties, if any.)
  • The decision of the judges will be final.
  • Each winner will receive the TIVA Launchpad that is needed for the MOOC!

I don’t see any reason why you should be reading this blog and not enrolling in the MOOC and the contest. I will therefore not tell you what interesting things happened on my way to work today and sign off.