Why choose an interactive online course?
Reading a book can feel like hard, active work, but it’s all too easy to get to the end feeling like you’ve learned something only to fire up your IDE and realise you don’t know how to get started.
When we review books here on CodeThump, (and we read a lot of books!) we’re more likely to recommend ones that reinforce the learning with practical, hands-on examples. Some books try to do that but the examples are an afterthought that does little to reinforce the learning. The good books we choose to highlight have well crafted examples and exercises that closely relate to the writing. Good examples help you understand.
The same is true of a lot of the free material online. Whether written webpages or YouTube videos, they can often be a passive learning experience that might be easy to follow but doesn’t change the way you think.
A lot of courses, free and paid, can be very passive too. Compared to reading, it’s easier to sit watching a video course and feel like you’re making good use of your time and that you’re learning. It’s really important to understand that if you are not actively engaged in the course by answering the progress quizzes and doing the exercises, and trying things out at the command line or in your IDE, then you’re not learning as effectively as you could be.
The best online courses, the ones we recommend and the ones that are the most popular, are the ones that have a logical progression from simple to advanced concepts, clear instruction that balances theory with practice, and a variety of quizzes, exercises, refreshers, examples, and case-studies that help you learn more effectively.
The art of creating high-quality courses
Writing a good online course is a very time-consuming activity, especially if you want to construct meaningful examples that can be built on through the course as you progress from key concepts to deep insight. Don’t under-estimate the effort required by a skilled educator, trainer, or instructor to deliver a course.
I worked as a fully-qualified teacher of science and IT for a few years and there is a reason why professional educators go through a lengthy training process, a training process that continues once they start working and is built into the education system.
The effort and experience required to do it really well is why the best online courses will be ones you have to pay for. Creating those courses is a full time job.
If you want to learn from someone who has built up the expertise in the subject and the experience in teaching, then it probably won’t be free.
The thing is though, the major online course platforms have such scale with a global audience that the cost of the professionally created courses is generally incredibly low. Factor in the frequent promotional activity and it’s extraordinarily good value. Consider the earning potential in your IT career and it really ought to be a very easy decision to invest in yourself.
It’s very easy to start a course. It’s a lot harder to finish it.
That’s another reason why I’m always happy to pay for my own training. When you’ve paid for something you are more likely to see it through and complete the course, otherwise you’ve wasted your money.
I really like courses and programs offered by the likes of Coursera or edX that have a certificate of completion at the end, or which form part of a study program.
Even when a course is available for free, I will often choose to pay to study for the verified certificate because of the way ot motivates me to complete the course.
Studying for a verified certificate simply gives you a goal. It drives you to get off your backside and complete the course exercises because there’s something you want to get at the end, because you don’t like to fail, and for the satisfaction of finishing.
OK, it’s just a simple certificate that carries little weight in the outside world, but there can be an immenslye satisfying sense of achievement when you finish the course and get that certificate.
It’s a very easy way to motivate yourself.
Recommended online course providers
These are our preferred platforms for studying online. This isn’t all of the good ones, but they’re the ones we use the most often.