MOOCs (Treehouse, Udacity, Udemy, Codecademy, etc): A source of slooooow frustration to learn coding. Long live books!

I’ve recently learned after another week of blog neglect that I had a visitor from Canada, Jamaica, and Germany.  Welcome, non-Americans!  Hello to all the American readers as well.  My faithful 15 who see this show up in their news feed then click away in hopes of something more interesting.  You’re appreciated.  Adored even.  Adored so much that I drew an MS paint picture of all of you to show my adoration!

followers

Sorry for the pile of you stacked together.  I ran out of room for standing people, and then my hand got tired.  I did, however, include that one guy’s two kids.  Yeah, you know who you are, that one guy, and thanks to personal information you divulged on the internet I know you have children.  Don’t worry, you know about my little dog too, so we’re pretty even on the creepy factor.

If you’re the person who is singing, smiling, or permanently in a chair refusing to move while everyone else is standing, you’re awesome.  You’re not like the other followers who just pile up on the floor when the room gets crowded or awkwardly stand on other people’s heads.  You know what’s up.

Alright, odd monologue about nothing aside, let’s get back to the point, shall we?

I previously wrote a post about where to learn web coding where I compared Udacity, Udemy, and Codecademy as either very cheap or free learning methods.  I ultimately decided Udacity was for me, then had to go back and redact the monkeys out of that statement when I realized Udacity was for me situationally but progressively got less for me and more for no one as they stopped describing the “why” and got into just straight up “how”, which put me back to inferring the why a lot, which I’m fully capable of doing, but for very basic things was just so inefficient and rather than watching video lectures I could get my Google search on much faster (which is to say still rather slowly in comparison to having a skilled teacher instruct me).  I then thought, hmm, well, I keep getting spammed by CodeSchool and Treehouse ads on youtube, why not succumb to my Google overlords?

I went with Treehouse because my husband kept telling me how great it was, and I’m super easily influenced by incredibly handsome men who are easily excitable.  Plus, upon researching it, everyone seemed to support it for beginners and CodeSchool was more for intermediate people.  After Codecademy and some Udacity, I didn’t feel very intermediate.  So I signed up, and after the first course on “how to make a website”, I was grateful how much faster I gained the information compared to Udacity and how complete it was.  I happily petered over to my website and put some fancy looking things on it that changed size and disappeared as the screen resolution shrunk.  Then I did the next part, which was “CSS basics”.  Which was hours of the same information.  I was not pleased!  But I figured I grew in depth slightly, so maybe it was worthwhile.  Or so I tried to convince myself.

Then I got to JavaScript basics.  Also, no bad.  It was a bit slow, very a bit slow, and I was introduced to a concept and would start completing the programs they were going to use as an example before the example happened.  I figured it was good practice, so why not carry on?  Then…then I got to HTML forms.  I heard the advice to practice with CSS on your own since how you format an HTML form behaves in strange ways compared to usual HTML and that we couldn’t actually do anything with the form without a server side language either.  This made me want to bang my head on the wall.  I mean, what’s the point in wasting the time to say that if you aren’t going to go over why it behaves strange in comparison and what some of that behavior looks like?  But again, I used my inferential skills, and all was well.  The second part was incredibly frustrating, though.  I’ve been trying to apply whatever I learn as soon as I learn it so I can retain it, however having just learned a skill I couldn’t do more with than make a form that went to nowhere wasn’t particularly useful for practicing.  Motivating myself to get through that section involved a lot of tooth pulling.

I’ve moved on to more JavaScript, but it still feels like it’s moving slow.  I’ve invested over 25 hours into this program so far based on their in program timer for how long it should take to complete (and I’m not sure how much their track changes have adjusted this), but I feel like my retention is pretty poor.  Since doing my photo gallery slide show side project and learning far more from that, I had continued doing Treehouse, but I realized my issue with it.

Treehouse is intended for everyone starting at next to no computer experience, which is made pretty clear from their first course in the Front End Web Developer track.  Massively Open Online Courses are like general education in public school.  It’s meant to serve everybody and assumes everyone knows nothing, even though that’s not necessarily the case.  This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just if you can infer, and if you need some redundancy for retention but the redundancy you respond to isn’t someone telling you the same thing repeatedly, then it’s probably not a great resource for you.  This is unfortunate since I respond really well to hearing information then discussing it with others, and MOOCs provide auditory input.  Consequently, I think a bootcamp such as ADA would be a good match for my learning style, but whether or not I will be able to participate is undetermined yet (since, uh, applicants hear back around mid-March for interviews and end of March for actual acceptance?).  Whether or not ADA is in my future, I still want to learn, so I’ve moved on to another resource.

A book!  I know, I know, learning from books is a super novel idea that no one until this very moment has thought of.  My husband had used the Head First C# book, but he eventually found one part too hard and gave up.  I was never particularly interested in C#, so I never checked it out, but I checked out a couple of their other books while loitering in book stores and then checking the kindle sample version.  The strategies employed are simply good teaching (and entertaining!), and on top of that when I looked at the Java book, the first chapter nearly caught me up with everything I’d learned in roughly 10 hours+ on Treehouse.  So…yeah, I went with this book for the time being.  It’s super interesting to read and engaging, which helps with some of the motivational deficits I’ve experienced with watching MOOC videos.  They had an older Javascript book that was apparently pretty not great, but the internet tells me this is a good resource.  Then again, the internet also told me that Udacity, Treehouse, Udemy, and Codecademy were good resources, which to a point they were, but had a lot of room to grow.

I haven’t decided if I’ll keep dabbling on Treehouse for a bit or not.  After multiple lessons that I couldn’t put into practice, the slow pacing, and the seemingly limited breadth, I may have outgrown it.  The biggest reason for people to go to MOOCs instead of scouring the internet is because they want to save the time spent identifying resources to learn, what to learn, and sometimes the more personable approach to learning with a video lecturer.  A lot of MOOCs still seem to structure their content illogically (ex. HTML forms without any back-end knowledge to make it actually work placed in the middle of JavaScript lessons when no JavaScript is actually needed in order to use HTML forms), which is a good area to improve, and some focus more on having their students regurgitate information than practicing to mastery.  Udacity’s end of unit assignments, practice problems, and optional homework were great for independent practice, but often the quality of teaching dipped.  Treehouse also started having some independent practice exercises as I progressed, but the slow pacing caused me to treat everything like an independent practice exercise, which left me with a new content deficit.  Determining sequential, engaging curriculum is an area any education needs to firmly establish to help educate its students, let alone retain them.  Pacing, however, is usually more an indicator of who you’re trying to teach.

Hopefully my books + Google strategy will go well.  Otherwise CodeSchool has nearly all of the MEAN stack taught on their site, and that might be an appealing alternative.  So far, though, I’m a big fan of the book strategy.  …Don’t read near the end of my last blog post discussing coding resources where I said the same thing then shortly after changed my mind.

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MOOCs (Treehouse, Udacity, Udemy, Codecademy, etc): A source of slooooow frustration to learn coding. Long live books!