Coding bootcamps are too expensive. Take these online courses instead

A motivated self-learner can do a lot better on the online Coursera service, which has improved in recent years

Bootcamps are way too expensive. Take these online courses instead
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I used to think those coder bootcamps were a good idea. I’d met several motivated students and got lucky with some talent. However, most of the people I met didn’t exclusively use the bootcamp but were motivated self-learners as well. I wonder if they would have done just as well without the bootcamp.

I later learned how much these bootcamps charge. It seems to have risen dramatically in recent years to between $13,000 and $15,000. I also learned that they operate on the same commission as corporate recruiters: 20 percent of first year’s salary.

Given that high cost, I think a motivated self-learner can do a lot better on the online Coursera service, which has improved in recent years and has courses from many universities.

Tips on using Coursera

I recommend you ignore Coursera’s “a lesson a week” structure if you have the time. For a business course, I plowed through about two weeks’ worth of material over a weekend. You shouldn’t go through so fast you don’t retain anything, but often Coursera’s estimates are really conservative and underambitious. I’ve also noticed that a lot of professors online or offline talk so slowly that even a Southerner like me finds it trying. (My solution is to increase the video playback rate to 1.25.) Generally, you can submit assignments early.

Do note that peer grading is not one of Coursera’s better features. Many reviewers neither read the instructions nor do they read English well enough to give a fair review. So, do any peer-graded assignments ahead of time so you can edit and resubmit (with or without changes) in the event you get an unfair grade.

Also, consider using a Chromecast or similar device to watch the lectures on a TV. I don’t know why, but my retention is better and it is easier to pay attention on a TV than on my laptop.

Finally, set specific times to do your course lectures and coursework. The reminders on the Coursera mobile app can be helpful here. You’ll never finish if you just do it “when you have time.” Treat an online class like a real class that you go to.

Courses to consider for web developers

If you want to be a web developer, consider these beginner courses:

  • Introduction to Web Development from the University of California at Davis. This is a very basic course that starts out with how to find a hosting provider and then moves on to basic HTML, JavaScript, CSS, fonts, forms, and finally web applications.
  • How to Create a Website in a Weekend! from the State University of New York. This is really more of a WordPress course, but in the end it does cover some of the JavaScript, CSS, and HTML that you’ll need to do more advanced stuff.

There are also multi-course specializations. If you take these and pay the fee, Coursera has a deal with LinkedIn that will give you a badge on your LinkedIn profile. Such specializations include:

  • Web Design for Everybody from the University of Michigan. This contains five three- to six-week courses. It is mainly a practical course and, as the title suggests, assumes little foreknowledge.
  • Responsive Website Development and Design from the University of London. This contains six courses, each averaging four weeks. It contains a lot more theory around responsive design, and it is a bit spoon-fed, so you should be able to get through it more quickly than designed. The course designers anticipate that you will spend two to four hours per week. Assuming you have one day available per weekend, you should be able to go through it a lot faster. It eventually leads you to Metero.js, so be sure that’s the way you want to go.
  • Full Stack Web and Multiplatform Mobile App Development from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. This is an intermediate specialization that focuses on mobile and mobile-first development.
  • Ruby on Rails Web Development from John Hopkins University. This course is the most comparable to what many, if not most, code bootcamps seem to offer (Ruby on Rails and JavaScript). My only caution is that Ruby continues to decline in popularity (so why learn two languages when JavaScript won the internet?) and that it uses AngularJS as opposed to Angular; everyone knows AngularJS is for people who can’t move on. 😉

Any of these specializations will help you get on your path. But be sure to come up with a project of your own and implement it. Frankly, no structured learning will ever teach you as much.

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