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!