Some much to learn, so little time.
Apart from ‘dark matter programmers‘, most developers are faced with the uphill struggle to find the time to continuously keep up to date with the industry. To paper over my (many) technical shortcomings I tried out some of the prominent online course providers and was extremely impressed.
The software industry moves so fast that keeping up to date with the latest tech and processes is virtually impossible; unless you do it virtually.
Brave New World of E-Learning
When I first tried online learning I was a bit skeptical that it could match the learning potential of ‘traditional’ methods. However, mainly due to the way you can learn at your own pace, I now would not want to learn any other way.
Institutions have big reputations from years of delivery. However, in this brave new world the methods of delivery are changing and new reputations are being formed.
Using this type of learning has a number of benefits for time starved developers:
– Flexible. Finding spare time as a software developer is not always easy. We are fortunate enough to be in an industry which is currently booming and that means there is plenty of work to be done. Online courses are perfect for time-constrained individuals as most courses allow you to work, more or less, at your own pace and at hours of your choosing.
– Accreditation. Many of the providers now offer “recognized” accreditation on completion of a course. How “recognized’ the qualification is largely depends on who is judging. For example, your next potential employer might not have heard of Pluralsight and its qualifications but might be a personal user of Coursera and is well aware of its merits/shortcomings.
– Wide Variety. The course providers currently have a huge library of every type of subject and there libraries are expanding every year as e-learning becomes more popular.
– Cost. Some are free but the rest are paid for. On the whole though, e-learning courses are generally cheaper. If you compare the cost of ‘taught’ industry courses that require you to travel to the trainer’s location, there is no comparison.
What I didn’t like
This type of virtual learning is not everyone’s cup of tea. Quite a few people can be put off by the impersonal nature of the courses. Without a lecturer to interact with and a physical text book, some just do not see anything else as ‘learning’. Most of the online course providers do try to simulate these inter-personal connection with the student, but in reality it is half-baked at best.
I personally had trouble making sure that I kept enough time free in my schedule to make sure I completed the courses fully. Sometimes I really needed was a lecturer or dean making sure I kept on track.
Despite the disadvantages I can thoroughly recommend trying some sort of online learning; there is a surprisingly diverse catalog of courses out there, most of them very well thought out content and delivery.
Horses for courses
However, not all the online providers have the same range of courses, I find that some providers are better for certain topics than others.
The providers that I regularly use for different topics are as follows:
Pluralsight – Great for technical training such as web and server training.
Coursera – Great for specialized accredited courses from recognized universities.
Udemy – Great for social/personal development type courses.
Other providers do exist and i would be interested in hearing what else is available and your experiences with them?