The trials of learning

So the Hubby and I are sick and tired of working just to make money. I know, I know. That sounds crazy, but believe me, we understand the value of a dollar. We both work very hard to keep the very little that we have. And that’s where the problem comes in. Since I have no choice but to live in the current economy, I may as well make the most of it and obtain a career that I will enjoy and that will bring me satisfaction beyond the paycheck.  I know you can all sympathize, what with our paychecks getting smaller, fat cats getting bigger, and bills costing more.  It just doesn’t seem fair..

In comes computers.  Hubby and I both enjoy various aspects of interacting with computers from website design to network programming. We don’t both plan on learning everything there is.. because that would take too long. Instead, Hubby wants to do Networking (physical and programming), while I want to do focus more on programming and web design.

Now, this may sound simple. Just get on YouTube and Google and learn everything out there. That’s what we thought at first as well.  Turns out, there are some strict standards that continue to evolve and finding accurate information that is not outdated and is consistent, is more difficult than it sounds.  Solution? Learn from organizations set up to teach you.

We thought about going back to school, but Hubby just finished paying his school loan and I’m still in the throes of mine. Neither one of us wants to add to that nightmare, especially in today’s economy. So, we looked at community colleges and tossed around the idea for saving up for a class here and there. In theory, this sounds like the smart and financially savvy thing to do. In reality, we would spend the college savings for other, equally important things (like that pesky student loan) and probably procrastinate between classes – making the learning process even more lengthy. Throw in having to work around the schedule the school provides and this is a no-go.

Not to worry, we have a back up plan. Because everyone wants to cash in on the computer industry (or just learn how to better interact with computers) there are organizations set up to help out. In turn, these organizations are cashing in on the computer learning industry. We researched several and narrowed it down to what seemed doable in our lives. 

Because I am more interested in learning the programming aspect of the computer sciences, I began looking for free tutorials and what not.  I came across Image.  Bento is a collection of free programming tutorials based on skill level and programming language. It is a great place to start for beginners or people looking to expand their skill set.  It offers a wide variety of different websites that can help you to learn new skills or hone the ones you already have.  Out of these, my favorites were Image and DASH from General Assembly. These platforms offered me some great opportunities while also having some issues I didn’t appreciate. “What are all the pros and cons?” you may ask. Well, I’d be more than happy to tell you.

In my, perhaps, not so humble opinion.. the pros are as follows: 

  1. Free.  The two programs I mentioned above (DASH and CodeAcademy) are absolutely free (or were the last time I visited them).  They do not say things like “Hey, you just got started.. but to learn more, click the pay button!”  No, they want to teach you, they want you to learn.  There were a few websites I discovered from the Bento site that did do this, and I can understand why. It’s not free to host something like this on a server and maintain it. Still, when you are just starting out, free is good.
  2. Easy. That’s right, it was easy. It was so easy that I wanted to do it some more. It felt like I was doing something fun.. because I was. It really made me feel like coding wasn’t so hard afterall.  I mean, what’s with all this hype about coding and the computer sciences in general? Nah, the layouts of the tutorials made learning this stuff super easy.
  3. Support. That’s right, not only is it free and not only is it easy.. but! If you are having a problem, they offer support. Usually, this came in the form of a general forum that you could post your problem on and wait for a response? The good thing is that if you browse the very well organized forums, you will find your answer already.. well.. answered. Viola!
  4. Starting Point.  These free, easy, supportive tutorials were a great portal to the coding world in general. It made me hungry to learn more and gave me the confidence I needed to do just that. I have stuck with it, though a little more slowly than I would have liked, and now feel that it’s just something we all do and take for granted.

See? There are some great reasons why checking these links out are worth your time. AND! These are probably the reasons Hubby and I were interested in furthering our knowledge online.  However, there are some drawbacks that have made us have to rethink how we are going to go about this.

CONS:

  1. The main draw back about these websites is that they only take you so far. Meaning, they are great for beginners or as small refreshers… but they are not the end all and be all of coding.  In fact, some of them were still producing more tutorials, making it frustrating to take that next step. 
  2. Schedule. General Assembly offers a free, real-time tutorial that they all Dash. However, they also offer more extensive and in-depth teaching at certain locations and times. If you are not in that city or cannot free up your own schedule, you are out of luck. I found this frustrating because I would have loved to learn more coding in a face-to-face environment for a lot cheaper than my local community college.
  3. Glitches. Every site has glitches now and again, but some of the glitches made me think, “And you’re teaching me how to code?” As in, shouldn’t these people know how to prevent this since they are teaching me to do just that? Even more frustrating was that it was brought up in some of the forums, but did not seem to be fixed or even acknowledged. Once I found a work around, however, I was happy to get onto the next portion of the tutorial.
  4. Not so free, afterall. Some of the other sites do the whole “Free up to a point” gimmick. I can understand this, because it is not free to host these sites on a server and it certainly isn’t free to have people maintain said site. Still, it got to be annoying that I had to stop mid-learning process until I wanted to get out my credit card. Which I did not do.

Having said all that, I would definitely check out those sites if you are interested in learning to code. Like I said, they helped give me the confidence to learn more.

After going through these tutorials, Hubby and I realized that we needed in-depth knowledge with practical applications. Cue Hubby. You see, my wonderful husband has this knack of hunkering down for an answer and doing a phenomenal amount of research to come up with a solution. Want to know what cars are in your area that fit your budget, usage type, and color preferences? BAM! Hubby will have an answer in no time flat.  He used his magical abilities towards discovering how we could go about actually learning some computer sciency goodness.

Consistency seemed to be an issue so he checked out standardizations. Turns out, the computer people had already thought of this one. Image is a great company that is not-for-profit, works hard to keep IT consistent through learning and applications, and a great way to enter the IT world with no prior experience. Hubby and I are interested in obtaining their standardized certificates to prove that we know our computer sciences.  No problem, right? Well.. Comptia offers a library of definitely-not-free text books and practice exams to help you on your journey. Again, not free and a little more than we wanted to spend.  It’s not really the money, but the procrastination issue. Hubby and I have bought similar programs in the past, had the textbooks sit on the book shelf, and then finally sold them to Half-Price Books for nowhere near what we spent on them. It’s time to end this vicious cycle so we opted not to use their program, but are still going to take the test.

Cue Hubby and his super research powers!  It seems that there are several websites out there that are willing to teach you all you need to know to pass the various Comptia tests and obtain that certification. Wonderful! Oh wait, they’re not free.  A quick YouTube search will show you that there are, in fact, free videos out there to teach you the information in these tests.. uhm… no, in those tests. The information is outdated and usually covers tests from the 600 series, wehreas Comptia is now up to the 800 series. This just means that a lot of the intformation in these free videos will be wrong and a waste of your viewing and learning time.  But the good news is that you can find a few free videos covering the current Comptia tests. However, they are usually just samples of what that company has to offer. It’s the whole “free until we make you pay” thing again, and I don’t mind this time. I feel like all the circumstances have come together to make this the right fit for Hubby and me.

In all our wanderings around the InterWebs to find the best fit, we have come across several websites worth note. These sites are designed to teach you the standardized knowledge to get your certificates and enter the IT world, or expand your knowledge through said certificates.

  • Image Treehouse is where Hubby and I started. It had promising features: step-by-step videos, simple testing to make sure you are on the right track, and a plethora of things to learn. Unfortunately, some of the information is either outdated or just plain wrong. For example, during the HTML video series, the instructor left out key elements to make your webpage actually work. It was frustrating because my free trial had just expired and I paid the idiots $28. On the upside, I only paid them $28.
  • Image IT Pro TV was the next stop on our computer science tour. We really like this site because the videos seemed more comprehensive, the layouts of what you were going to learn were far more organized, and the instructors are Comptia test givers. They have been certified by Comptia to give the certification tests. Sadly, they are very long winded (kind of like this post) and had a tendency to joke around, throw around yet unknown lingo, or just bicker about if the thing they were teaching you was right or not. It felt very unpolished, despite the cool set design and shirt+tie apparel.  On to green pastures.
  • PluralSight Plural Sight is a training program that has a ton of training videos. The good thing about these videos is that they are concise, up-to-date, and they don’t make you feel bogged down with useless jargon. It seems to be the right fit for Hubby and me.

So there you have it, Hubby and I now spend our days off watching computer science videos on the couch. I scribble notes while Hubby leans back and absorbs everything like a sponge. *grumbles and waves fist*

Anyways, I think we have found the best solution for our financial situation, time table, and attention span to start learning and applying all those computer sciencey things.  Mmmm… computer science.

 

 

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One thought on “The trials of learning

  1. Pingback: A better future. | rouschel

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