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!