How to choose a good programming course to take

In today’s post I would like to give you some advice what you should pay attention to while selecting a programming course to take to advance your knowledge. The information I provide is related both to onsite and online courses. Some difference between onsite and online courses will be also highlighted in the end.

So you made a decision that you should change your current job and become a programmer or you just want to learn a new programming language, so you are about taking the first step and find a corresponding course so you can learn language basics. And that’s actually quite hard to do – for example, if you open Google and try to search a course in your city or online course, you will get hundreds of links in case of searching for an onsite course and thousands of offers if you would like to take an online course. So how to select a really valid course among them? Which would be the best course and will give you some valid take-away and others are just waste of your time and money? In this post I will give you some hints how to select a really valid course.

First, you should open a web-site of the organization you consider taking a course from and just evaluate how good their site is, how much info is provided both about this particular course and also this organization as such. If we talk about info about a course, there should be a detailed outline about topics which are covered by this course, info about lecturers – who they are, how much experience and in which areas they have, etc. Indeed, it is very important to do! For example, if you are considering to take a course about web design, but the organization’s web-site doesn’t make much sense to you, or they just use a basic free template, then it is quite obvious that such organization is not that good. Next, you pay attention to course description. It should be detailed enough, so for each session you should find a clear statement which topic / topics are covered, what you will do during the session, what are the outcomes of each session. Also would be good if some description of the homework are given as well. Finally, there should be a section about a lecturer for this particular course. As it was mentioned above, some biography should be given, so you would be sure this person is competent enough to give this particular course. You can also do some additional investigation and try to find this person’s profile in some social networks, especially in LinkedIn. So you could compare what is written about this person on organization’s web-site vs LinkedIn profile. Of course, both places’ info should match.

Second thing – try to find some feedback about this course on Internet. But you should keep in mind that even for the best course ever there should be some negative feedback as well, because all people are different and what like one person, another one will not like at all. So some negative feedback is OK as well. Would be quite suspicious if you will find only positive feedback and no negative feedback at all. That could mean that all these feedback are fake.

If you have a friend which is proficient in this particular language, let him evaluate the description of the course you are going to take. He should evaluate how realistic the description is and whether it is possible to learn all these things during the course time. For example, if the course states you will become a Java professional without any prior Java knowledge just in 1-2 months, it should be clear it is not realistic at all and you should avoid taking such a course. Also you should pay attention what is the proportion between theory and practice stated in the course description. If this course states there is only practice included, it is not a good course! It is important to understand that a really good course will include both theory and practice. For example, if there is a lot of theory included in the course, you will know how it works and why it works, but you will have no idea how you can do that by yourself. On the other hand, if there is a lot of practice and little theory, you will know how to do that, but your skills will be quite narrow. So you will know how to do some basic things shown during the practice, but you could experience problems while trying to extend the examples shown of the course to fit real-world problems, because you do not know the underlying theory. Based on my lecturer’s experience as I work as a lecturer at university for about 6 years, the best balance would be around 60:40 in favor to practice.

Next thing to consider, especially if you are taking onsite course, whether you sign a contract or not. If the organization offering a course does not sign any contract with you and you just need to pay money to someone… Then at some point of time you can face a situation that organization does not exist anymore, lecturer disappeared with your money. If you sign a contract with a real organization, you some kind are protected against such situations. If you are taking an online course, especially given by a freelancer like myself, then it is not mandatory that you sing a contract. But in this case you should pay attention to social network profiles of this person – for how long these profiles exist, how much info is posted there, including job experience (LinkedIn), how many photos with other people are posted (Facebook), so you would be sure it is not a fake person / account which is created only for grabbing money from you.

Next thing to consider – when you should pay for the course and whether you should pay the whole sum at the beginning. Many organizations provide a free first lecture, some kind of demo, so you can evaluate whether you like the lecturer, the style he presents the material, how the learning process is organized, etc. If such free lecture is available, it is very good and also it means this organization is quite confident in its lecturer / content as it provides demo lecture. Also it is good if you can pay not the whole sum at once, but step by step, while you are taking a course, for example, you pay at the beginning of the month. So if you do not like the course, you will pay only for one 1 month, not for the whole course. As it was also mentioned above, if you have a friend – programmer, you can take him with you on this demo lecture, so he could evaluate how good / bad this course is.

Finally, you should also keep in mind, that whether you will succeed or not depends on you! If you take into account all points mentioned above, still there is no guarantee you will learn a language if you do not make enough effort from your side. You should keep in mind, that the time you spend in the lectures is only a small part of the time you will spend by yourself at home, doing your homework, going through the theory once again, etc. So if you don’t have enough time to spend at home on these things and you just don’t want to do that, then even the best course ever will not help you!

I hope this post was useful for you and you now know what to pay attention to while selecting a programming language course.

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Also if you don’t like reading, but prefer watching videos, this post will be compiled into a video and uploaded to YouTube, the video should be available on Wednesday, 29th of January. See you!

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