This week we were provided a link to Web design training: the top 22 online resources on creativebloq.com and asked, “which ones seem like they would be most useful to you?”
Giving me something like this is like setting me loose at the Shoe Station Annex Sale!
I’m attracted to some of the websites right away just because of the images and the names – in much the way I’m attracted to sparkly, brightly colored ballet flats which I can almost never wear because of my ridiculously narrow heels (the fact that God saw fit to give me narrow heels with these hips says he likes a good prank) but still…I have to try them on just to satisfy the little voice that’s whispering, “this time they’ll fit”.
That being said, the ones that jump out and catch my eye right off the bat are Rails for Zombies, Why’s Poignant Guide to Ruby, Code Racer (which is no longer available), and Don’t Fear the Internet. They’re offbeat and reading further, they appear to add in some fun, some humor, and some learn-as-you-go interactive learning. I will definitely check these out.
Once I browse the sparklies, I move on to the basics. Google, Mozilla, Khan Academy and Udacity are like the workhorses of my shoe wardrobe. They’re familiar and trusted. Out of the four though, Google Code University is no longer being actively maintained and The Mozilla School of Webcraft courses appear to be moving from an interactive community to a read-only format. Udacity offers some free courses and some 1-week previews of their more in-depth courses. If you like what you see, then you’ll have to pony up the money to continue.
Khan Academy combines videos (that aren’t boring), practice exercises, progress tests and personalized recommended areas of study. I’ve used several of their course offerings to brush up on neglected skills, supplement coursework, and as a study guide for CLEP exams. And their MCAT prep, which is recommended by the admissions office I work in, has received rave reviews by our med school applicants. Khan Academy is at the top of my quality and cost list. Excellent content and it costs nothing.
The glory of education via the internet is you can watch a tutorial, ask questions in a forum, or go all in with a full-blown university level course. To get the most from an online education though, you should ask yourself what are you wanting to get out of it and how much of yourself are you willing to invest? Are you wanting a quick answer to an immediate question, a refresher course, or an introduction to a topic of interest? Are you looking for college credit on a flexible schedule? And, if you’re going totally online, are you disciplined enough to work on your own and meet assignment deadlines?
I’ve taken college courses that are fully online, as well as blended courses, like CA 260, where there’s a web component and an in-class component. I’ve had great and “meh” experiences with both. In my experience, the type of experience depends on the instructor and how well they use technology to create engagement.
For example, a blended course like CA 260 provides face time with the instructor, interaction with other students, and immediate answers when working on an in-class exercise. If it were totally online, I would still be able to get help, though not immediately so I might have to come back and finish up an exercise. I could also miss out on that human connection. I say could, because today’s technology allows for greater interaction. You can chat in real time via webcam, watch a streaming lecture, participate in forums and webinars, and even collaborate on projects. Even something as simple as asking students to upload a photo of themselves so a name becomes a person keeps the human element alive.
You just have to invest the time and effort to find what works for you. And then you can learn whenever, from wherever, wearing whatever…even sparkly, brightly colored, ballet flats.