A Few of my Favourite Learning Resources (for coding)

So the last few posts have been much more for my benefit than for you guys. I thought I’d throw in a nice and useful post to mix it up a bit.

For the last few years I have been learning software development in my free time. I’ve tried out a whole bunch of different resources since then. Some of them didn’t work well for me and some worked really well. This post will highlight the ones that I liked best and why I liked them.

Free Code Camp

Free Code Camp is a wonderful resource that is, you guessed it, completely and totally free!! This is where I started when I decided I would like to learn the basics of web development.

Skills/Languages Covered:

HTML5, CSS3, JQuery, JavaScript, Git, GitHub, Databases, Node.js, React.js, D3.js

Format:

The course starts with the very basics of front end development and goes all the way to deploying fully functioning projects.

You have small manageable tasks and you get to check off your progress as you go (which I find super satisfying). Usually there are a bunch of small code along exercises for each section, followed by some scripting on your own. At the end of each unit you must complete one or more projects in Codepen.

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The assignments aren’t graded but they are submitted, which still provides a sense of accountability. As the concepts become more challenging, the amount of tasks increases as well. There’s an approximate number of hours assigned to each topic and I’ve found that they are reasonably accurate depending on your level of experience when you start.

At the beginning of the course you are encouraged to join the community of students. This is a very valuable resource and it makes working through things on your own a little less intimidating.

Time Line:

Free Code Camp is self paced and requires a decent amount of self control. If you work on it for a couple hours a day you could have it done in a few months.

Cost:

Free!!

What I liked best:

I really enjoyed the check list format of the course, this kept me motivated and provided me with a sense of accomplishment throughout. I found that the community was really active and positive – so any time I got stuck I had access to help.

Udemy

Udemy is a collection of courses submitted by various people. Pretty much anyone can make and submit a course which means lots of variety and also a big range in quality.

Skills/Languages Covered:

Udemy offers a whole bunch of courses that cover a whole bunch of topics – everything from software development to spiritual healing.

Some of the courses I have taken are: The Web Developer Boot Camp, Intro to Java Programming, Tech Explorations™ Arduino: Make an IoT environmentThe Complete Ruby on Rails Developer Course and The Complete JavaScript Course 2018.

The courses are detailed and cover many, many topics.

Format:

The format varies a bit course to course but most of the ones I’ve taken have a series of videos offering explanations, code-alongs and giving assignments. The assignments are not handed in, but they are generally covered in the videos. I’ve found the level of detail in these courses to be quite impressive and the instructors to be very dedicated, updating course content regularly.

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This is a screenshot of one of the many code-alongs in The Web Developer Boot Camp

Time Line:

Again the courses are self paced and have a range of lengths. They have a percent complete bar that shows your progress – I find this motivating. Some courses have over 1000 hours of content and some just a couple. I have worked on courses casually over months or intensively for hours a day. It really just depends on what you want out of the course and how much time you have to commit to it.

Cost:

The courses are usually marked around $200 but are always on sale for between $10-20.

What I liked best:

I found that the instructors for these courses go so far above and beyond the minimum. I’ve had many instructors on Udemy that beat out some of my University Profs by a large margin. They are generally very responsive to emails/questions and update the course regularly.

Coursera

Coursera is a website that allows access to a bunch of great Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) from reputable schools/institutions. If you just can’t get enough learning this is a great place for you.

Skills/Languages Covered:

Coursera also has a diverse course offering but the courses are from Universities, Colleges and companies. You can find courses in all major disciplines and often you can get certificates upon completion.

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Format:

The format varies between courses but usually there are videos, assignments and quizzes. They run similarly to a standard post secondary course.

Timeline:

Some courses follow a predetermined timeline and some are self paced. I find following a timeline keeps me motivated but I also really enjoy the freedom in self paced courses.  If you are doing a degree course the timeline could be 18-36 months.

Cost:

The courses are generally free to take but getting certification or a full degree will cost you. The certificates start at $49 and go up as high as $1000. A full degree is similarly priced to going to a university, for example the Masters of Computer Science offered by Arizona State University is $15,000.

What I liked best:

I like that the courses are free if you are not looking for a degree or certificate. This allows people access to some of the top courses at no cost. This is a really great resource for avid learners who wish they could be students forever!

Honourable Mentions:

There are so many great resources out there for people who want to learn software and I just don’t have time to go into detail about every single one. So here are a bunch more of my favourites that you should check out!!

Meetup – One of the easiest ways to learn about something is to get involved with the community. Meetup is full of passionate people who are enthusiastic to share their knowledge with others. I have attended several software Meetups in Ottawa and they have all been really great. This is also a fantastic way to meet people in the industry and maybe even find a job.

Stack Over Flow – I spend so much time on Stack Over Flow.. Oh my goodness! I have been saved a thousand times by the wealth of knowledge on this website. It is a place for developers to ask and answer questions. The community is strict about limiting duplicate questions which means it’s way easier to find the best answer to specific questions. The answers are voted upon also making it easy to pick out best practices and preferred methods. The quality of the answers is really impressive and generally users are eager to help you understand. I honestly don’t think I would have been able to learn as much, as fast as I did without this website.

Lynda– Admittedly I have not used Lynda, but I have heard so many good things. It’s very similar to Udemy and Coursera in it’s diverse course offerings but it works more like a library of courses you have access to with a membership. You can pay for a membership or if you are lucky you may be able to get one free from you university or local library.

Medium – This is a news site that has lots of great articles that have helped me solve problems and discover new learning resources. There are a range of article topics and I’ve spent large chunks of time just reading pages and pages of them.

Khan Academy – This site saved my butt!! Khan Academy offers loads of free courses on everything math. Holy, it’s awesome! Descriptive videos, regular quizzes and tests, plus a huge variety of content. If you are working your way through a math course, or just feeling a bit rusty, I highly recommend you check this website out!

Wolfram Alpha – Pretty much a super calculator! The big plus to using Wolfram Alpha is that with a pro membership you can see each step taken to get to the correct answer. This really helped me when I just couldn’t figure out where I was going wrong on a difficult math problem. You do need to be careful not to over use this, or lean on it too heavily – because you will suffer when you don’t have it.

 

Hopefully some of these can help you on your learning journey!

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