Jul 30 2012

Free Courses Online

Tag:Cyn @ 20:06

I’ve been look­ing into online edu­ca­tion lately, beyond my exper­i­ment with learn­ing pro­gram­ming (which is still ongo­ing). These are some of the resources I’ve iden­ti­fied. They’re all free, although you don’t get col­lege credit for the courses.

  • Cours­era — courses taught by instruc­tors var­i­ous top universities.
  • Khan Acad­emy — video courses on every topic under the sun, at many levels
  • Udac­ity — courses involve problem-solving and add the option to take tests at test­ing centers.

There are long lists at these two arti­cles. I don’t see a rea­son to repro­duce them here.

Jul 14 2012

Learning to Code, Part 5

Tag:Tag , Cyn @ 23:40

I just can’t stay away from CodeA­cad­emy. I went back and fin­ished the Web Fun­da­men­tals course. I had been wait­ing because there’s JavaScript involved in the last few assign­ments, but it turns out I was able to do those with­out fin­ish­ing the JavaScript courses. I feel all warm and fuzzy now.

It’s good that I have that feel­ing about some­thing, because I cer­tainly don’t feel that way about the library book I checked out. JavaScript in Easy Steps by Mike McGrath is use­less. Yes, the steps are easy, if you just want to type. There’s almost no expla­na­tion of any­thing, so either I already know the mate­r­ial, or I can’t learn from it. Being told, “Type this in. This is what the result will be,” with­out any source code to view (the free down­loads web site is only avail­able to peo­ple in the U.K.) and no trou­bleshoot­ing tips is silly. Just a screen­shot of what the fin­ished code should look like would be a good idea, because the author’s instruc­tions aren’t always so clear, or even sequen­tial. I’m glad I didn’t spend money for this book.

So I’ll be wait­ing for my friend’s expla­na­tion, and wish­ing all the lessons at CodeA­cad­emy were as well-written as the early JavaScript ones.

Jul 13 2012

Learning to Code, Part 4

Tag:Tag , Cyn @ 23:38

After look­ing around at the Q&A forums at CodeA­cad­emy and find­ing that most of the other begin­ners are as lost as I am, I’ve decided that maybe I’m stuck on the cur­rent les­son because the author just isn’t very good, rather than because I can’t under­stand the con­tent. A friend has offered to write up a tuto­r­ial for me going over the same mate­r­ial, and I’ve requested a book from the library, too. Between those too, I should be able to get past this hump.

In the mean­time, I’ve dis­cov­ered that I can link to my pro­file there as a lit­tle brag, show­ing all the courses I’ve com­pleted! It’s a small thing, but I like it.

I decided to splurge and give Lynda.com, which is NOT free, a try, as it was also rec­om­mended by Life­hacker. A monthly fee gives you unlim­ited access to all of their tuto­ri­als, and there are scads of them. They had all the sub­jects in which I am cur­rently inter­ested, and the fee is less than the price of one tech­ni­cal book.

Unfor­tu­nately, watch­ing a video, even while fol­low­ing along with the exer­cise files, just isn’t as effec­tive for me as doing exer­cises hands-on a la CodeA­cad­emy. I have got­ten a bet­ter intro­duc­tion to the Fun­da­men­tals of Pro­gram­ming from Lynda.com, I think, but then I watched a video course ded­i­cated solely to that topic. Of course, if you learn bet­ter from videos, you might find it the bees knees. I am lik­ing the fact that I can watch the videos on my iPad, and appar­ently I could also access them from my phone if I wished to watch on a tiny screen.

I’ll keep using the site for the rest of the month, since I’ve paid for it, but I don’t think I’ll be renew­ing after the one month.

Jul 12 2012

Learning to Code, Part 3

Tag:Tag Cyn @ 17:52

I got a response from CodeA­cad­emy acknowl­edg­ing that the prob­lem I expe­ri­enced was on their end. They gave me some code that would let me get past that les­son, but it con­tained a vari­able that wasn’t men­tioned in the les­son. That’s frus­trat­ing, and I don’t know that they’ve fixed it for every­one else yet. At least the response was fairly fast and friendly, with an expla­na­tion that they’ve been doing a lot of edits on the site lately. And what can I say—these exer­cises are free.

While wait­ing I went fur­ther in the HTML/CSS lessons and really learned quite a bit. CSS is pow­er­ful! I’m back to the JavaScript now, and I did fine until I hit the Object-oriented part of the course. That has thrown me for a bit of a loop.

I should men­tion that each les­son at CodeA­cad­emy is writ­ten by a dif­fer­ent per­son, so they can be a lit­tle uneven. The over­all qual­ity is quite good, though. Still, that leaves me won­der­ing if my trou­ble with the OO issues has any­thing to do with the author of the exer­cises, or if I’m just get­ting in over my head now. Either way, I’m press­ing on and intend to get through all of the lessons offered.

Jul 09 2012

Learning to Code, Part 2

Tag:Tag , , Cyn @ 19:14

I’m still explor­ing CodeA­cad­emy, which has proven to be a very inter­est­ing site.

I made it through their JavaScript Fun­da­men­tals and found that I wanted to know more, so I started on their Code Year project, which picks up right after that with JavaScript Con­di­tion­als. Unfor­tu­nately, I seem to have hit a buggy les­son on the third sec­tion of that area and am wait­ing for a response from their peo­ple as to why my code is work­ing and return­ing a cor­rect answer but their auto­mated sys­tem still says, “Oops! Try again.” From their Q&A forum, it seems that quite a few peo­ple have had trou­ble with that lesson.

So I decided to regroup and see what else they offer. I men­tioned in the ear­lier post that I needed to update my HTML skills, so I moved on to that part of the site. I cer­tainly learned to cre­ate web pages before CSS days, so I needed to learn a lot more about that, too, and I am. I’ve got­ten through the HTML por­tion and the first CSS sec­tion, and I don’t see any of that as wasted time.

At this point I would hap­pily rec­om­mend CodeA­cad­emy to any­one who wants to learn the basics of cre­at­ing a web site. I feel that I’m learn­ing the basics of pro­gram­ming, but I’m not far enough along to opine about that bit yet. We’ll see whether or not that issue is resolved in a timely man­ner, first.

There are cer­tainly other alter­na­tives, but that’s what I’ve learned in the last 24 hours.

Jul 08 2012

Learning to Code, part 1

Tag:Cyn @ 10:22

I’ve decided that I want to learn basic pro­gram­ming, and I’ve decided to doc­u­ment my jour­ney here.

I already know basic HTML and some CSS. I don’t (yet) know HTML 5, but that’s going to be part of my even­tual cur­ricu­lum. I want to learn pro­gram­ming, though, not just freshen my web cre­ation skills. I know enough about javascript, php and SQL to get in trou­ble right now and use scripts oth­ers have cre­ated, but I can’t cre­ate my own scripts or make a use­ful data­base from scratch.

I started with Lifehacker’s Night School arti­cle Learn to Code: The Full Beginner’s Guide, which uses JavaScript and has links to addi­tional resources. There are four lessons and an adden­dum, and it serves as a pretty good intro­duc­tion to some basic pro­gram­ming con­cepts. I felt the need for some­thing a lit­tle more in-depth, though.

I was sur­prised by the admon­ish­ment NOT to use W3Schools in the Life­Hacker arti­cle. In fact, there was a link to W3Fools, “an inter­ven­tion.” I had planned to stop by there, so I’m glad to find that warn­ing. It’s unfor­tu­nate to learn that such a big site isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be, though.

So, next stop: CodeA­cad­emy, which also starts with JavaScript. My only com­plaint here is that you don’t get mul­ti­ple exam­ples for each con­cept, which would help me (that’s just how I hap­pen to learn bet­ter). You learn at your own pace and the site awards lit­tle badges and such as you progress. It’s inte­grated with social net­works like Face­book if you want to give it access to your accounts on those sites.

Those will keep me busy today, and I’ll let you know how it goes using them in the next few days.

Sep 25 2008

Technophilia: Get a free college education online

Tag:Tag , , , , Cyn @ 0:16

I adore Life­Hacker. They have a sweet list of
free online col­lege courses!

Mar 02 2008

Online Courses Not for Everyone

It shouldn’t be sur­pris­ing to any­one that edu­ca­tion is not a “one size fits all” endeavor, online or else­where. This bit about learn­ing styles, how­ever, did sur­prise me:

Cor­re­la­tions between learn­ing styles and suc­cess in dis­tance edu­ca­tion have shown to be incon­clu­sive,” Strick­land1 said. “How­ever, one com­mon theme reap­pears: the suc­cess­ful traits of a dis­tance learner are sim­i­lar to the suc­cess­ful traits of an adult learner in tra­di­tional edu­ca­tional settings.”

The arti­cle claims that there’s “a mere 30 per­cent of dis­tance learn­ers actu­ally com­plet­ing their courses.” It goes on to men­tion that “Dis­tance learn­ing allows the learner to over­come tra­di­tional bar­ri­ers to learn­ing such as loca­tion, dis­abil­i­ties, time con­straints and famil­ial oblig­a­tions,” but I’m won­der­ing how much they really paid atten­tion to the fact that those of us who enroll in online classes are often those who have the most bar­ri­ers to stay­ing in school? I take such courses because of phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties, but I’ve still had to drop my classes repeat­edly because of ill­ness. There are still dead­lines, and in fact some online courses are “com­pressed,” mak­ing dead­lines even more important.

Strick­land also men­tions “the lack of insti­tu­tional sup­port and iso­la­tion involved in the nature of online courses.” I’m not sure what kind of sup­port is miss­ing, com­pared to face-to-face classes, but maybe that’s because I’ve never sought out any “insti­tu­tional sup­port.” Does she mean tutoring?

At one point, though, Strick­land refers to “intro­verted per­son­al­i­ties” and “shy indi­vid­u­als” as (appar­ently) being syn­ony­mous, and not get­ting involved in the typ­i­cal class­room set­ting. That’s a pet peeve of mine. Intro­verts are not nec­es­sar­ily shy! We’re self-contained, and most of us usu­ally put more weight on our own val­u­a­tions than those of oth­ers, so we aren’t as vul­ner­a­ble to peer pres­sure. I miss good class­room dis­cus­sions, as I’ve never seen any online class that has man­aged to pro­voke any­thing close. But then, I didn’t expe­ri­ence any good dis­cus­sions in face-to-face classes at DeVry, and very, very few at SPSU. In fact, I heard more than a few of my fel­low stu­dents at SPSU com­plain­ing about non-traditional stu­dents, in par­tic­u­lar, want­ing to “talk too much” in class. They clearly wanted less dis­cus­sion, not more!

Quotes from Researcher Finds Not Every­one Can Suc­cess­fully Learn Through Online Courses, Despite Their Pop­u­lar­ity

1 Shawna L. Strick­land, clin­i­cal assis­tant pro­fes­sor in the Uni­ver­sity of Mis­souri School of Health Professions

Jan 19 2008

Homeschooling High School in College?

It’s be SO long since I updated things here! Not that I think any­body really missed me, but still, I should have kept it up a bit better.

Katie tried attend­ing a good high school near us, and loved it. She got great grades, was cho­sen to work on the year­book (it’s a very com­pet­i­tive process there), and was even made the chief pho­tog­ra­pher right away! She was also get­ting involved in other activ­i­ties, and she made some good friends. She really loved the art classes, in particular.

Unfor­tu­nately, her health suf­fered. She has severe rest­less leg syn­drome, fibromyal­gia (which causes sleep prob­lems), and truly hor­rific migraines in addi­tion to being aller­gic to all kinds of things. The migraines aren’t well-managed any more, so that she has a migraine almost every day despite tak­ing Trilep­tal as a pre­ven­tive. She’s had to use her res­cue med­i­cine so much that it’s no longer very help­ful, either. She just can’t get any decent sleep, thanks to the RLS and fibro, which means that she needs a min­i­mum of ten to twelve hours every night, and still wakes up unrested. And our insur­ance has gone stu­pid, repeat­edly refus­ing to cover her allergy med­ica­tions, in par­tic­u­lar. 1 Right now, they’re refus­ing to cover Provigil, which was the only thing keep­ing her awake enough to even con­sider attend­ing school. She’s under doctor’s orders to stop dri­ving until the sleep sit­u­a­tion is ame­lio­rated, and has been for some time, so she’s been delayed in learn­ing to drive and get­ting her license.

So she’s back at home, which is a real dis­ap­point­ment to her. We’ve decided to try mak­ing the best of it, and focus on the good things. For instance, she’s no longer held back to any­one else’s learn­ing pace, and she doesn’t have to jump through bureau­cratic hoops. She can learn when­ever she is awake, hon­or­ing her body’s need for more sleep than most people.

She wants to take col­lege classes online, which is how I’m man­ag­ing to con­tinue my edu­ca­tion despite health prob­lems. I think it’s a good idea, so now we’re con­sid­er­ing schools and money. While the Uni­ver­sity sys­tem schools here in Geor­gia tech­ni­cally have all their core classes online, the real­ity when I attended South­ern Poly was that the entire school usu­ally had only one or two seats for any par­tic­u­lar course, and of course those seats were taken immediately.

We’d love to hear about the expe­ri­ences of any other home­schooled teens who are fin­ish­ing high school in col­lege, par­tic­u­larly those who are tak­ing classes online.

Her even­tual goal is art school, and while there is a local school that has an online pro­gram, I just don’t see how it’s pos­si­ble to learn some things through the inter­net. Nei­ther does she. So we’re also look­ing for good art classes to sup­ple­ment what­ever she does online. We’re in Decatur, and since nei­ther she nor I are dri­ving, close is good. MARTA acces­si­bil­ity is absolutely necessary!

1 hey insist that every­body should be just fine with Clar­itin, which is avail­able over-the-counter. Not so!