September 12th is the day when we celebrate the International Programmer’s Day every year. However, we rarely think about the humongous amount of code that works in background when we connect with our loved ones online through video chatting service like Skype or Hangouts or shop on an e-commerce website. We almost take for granted all these conveniences and technological aids only made possible through the code written by programmers.
As the world becomes more technology driven the need of good programming minds is only going to increase in future and hence we are witnessing the sudden emphasis on learning to code. As the world is scrambling to become a programming expert, the internet which itself is a product of programming, has taken upon itself the responsibility to make people learn the ABCs and beyond of coding. There are many online avenues that have earned quite some reputation as an effective tutor of various programming languages, including the toughest ones and the easy one as well. Codeacadmy, Khan’s Academy are two such portals that are specifically dedicated towards the cause of increasing computer literacy. Then there is Coursera, Lynda, Udacity, Simplilearn, Naukri E-learning and similar e-learning websites that have a number of extensive and comprehensive courses on various computer languages. Many of these are free and open source while others require fees, for the certification. But are these courses really good enough?
Benefits of Learning to Code Online
The biggest benefit that online learning brings with itself is the self-paced learning process, where the student is at freedom to set the pace with which he wants to learn. While many courses are now instructor-led, the vast majority of online courses are still self-paced, designed to be completed without any facilitator. The learner’s progress is gauged from the detailed quizzes and tests at the end of every lesson. The biggest benefit that a learner gets here is the ability to give more time to certain concepts which he finds challenging to understand, or provide more time to hands-on training before moving forward to the next lesson.
Learning online is all about convenience. Whether you are dressed in pyajama or a suit no one even cares. Whether you are lying on the couch or sitting on a sofa, it hardly matters. Online courses give an unmatched flexibility to keep your daily schedule unaffected. Most of aspiring programmers are already working somewhere and no one would want to give up their jobs just to learn a new language, however, lucrative results might be. Learning online eliminates any such requirement. You can access these websites from anywhere, and any time with a working internet connection and a computing device.
With high-speed internet becoming more and more affordable and laptops and PCs also not too pricey, gaining access to online learning has become much more economic than it used to be. When you compare this to the daily commute costs and add to that the fees of a regular campus course which is almost always greater than that of an online programming course, it makes sense to go the online way. There are many reputed institutions like MIT that offer invaluable knowledge for free (MIT Opencourseware).
The widest variety of specialized courses
Most universities around the world still do not have any regular course or certification that prepares professionals for the latest technological revolution. These specialized courses bridge the skill gap in a manner that campus education is yet to cover. For example, there are at least a dozen online avenues that offer data science course, which is the latest popular phenomenon in the tech community. These courses comprehensively cover all aspects of data science such as programming in R, Python, SAS, data visualization amongst others. Universities and colleges are slow in catching up with the changing technological world while the internet is highly dynamic and is constantly evolving to meet the new demands of skills.
Not only that, where in the world would you be able to pursue a specialized web programming training, a course in entrepreneurship and cyber security all together? A person who wants to open his own cyber security firm would find this combination excellent and thus, the importance of online learning is not all talk and no substance.
However, if online courses were so good, why not everyone pursuing them becomes a programming expert as they promise? What are the issues that one faces while pursuing these courses?
Lack of commitment
The advantage that comes with learning from online sources is also the biggest bane of e-learning. The biggest majority of us who take these courses are straddled with their jobs inseparably. Everything else takes a backseat, even if it is our commitment to learn programming. Without any classroom environment, and instructor most of us are just not motivated enough to become a serious student instead of being a hobbyist. While this could be a personal issue of individuals, sometimes these courses are designed in such a monotonous way that people lose interest halfway through the course.
Lack of Practice
Programmer’s biggest weapon is his ability to code and build things through that code. However, to build something useful one needs to practice and practice hard. While most of the online courses cover the theoretical aspects of coding pretty well, when it comes to implementing the learnt code, they still have to figure out a way of ensuring that the individual pursuing the course has practiced hard enough to move to the next level. A single problem or a coding exercise is hardly enough to judge what the student has been able to grasp. This is where classroom training trumps online training.
However, off late many of the leading e-learning sites are coming up with a greater number of original coding exercise and “hackathon” type of events where a community of programmers competes within them and comes out with better solutions. By being a part of these events, one gets different perspectives of solving a problem, akin to a classroom practical session. Many of these courses also provide interview tips, questions and answers so that the individuals pursuing them are not only more knowledgeable but also job ready. These constant innovations are what will certainly make the web the easiest and popular source of education for people aspiring to become a programmer.