As mentioned in my coding plan, my first step in learning to code has been working through Udacity’s CS 101 free online course. I read a number of reviews (most of the available reviews suck, though – this is the best one I found) before I started working through it. Most of the complaints seemed to be from people who had literally no background in any concepts of CS, and since I do have a bit of a background I figured I’d be okay.
I’m now well into Lesson 3, so I’ve gone through Lessons 1, 2, and 2.5, which was added after the initial course was put together. I’ve done the homework for each as well.
Overall, I think the course is great! The instructor does a great job of being clear, the forums quickly answer the typical questions that might come up, and the exercises build upon each other well. One thing I did do is to follow along with the course running my own Python interpreter locally on my Mac. I used IDLE (for more details than you want about how to get everything all set up, check out this post). That allowed me to play around while Dave was talking and generally gave me more flexibility.
Lessons 1 and 2 were a good review for me, and I imagine they will be a good though slightly challenging introduction for someone completely new to the world of CS. So, I was able to get through those pretty quickly. The course does a good job of making it seem like your progress is tangible because everything is being taught with a goal in mind – to build a rudimentary search engine. That really helps anchor the material and make it much more concrete. Plus, the goal is not some BS goal of building a simple program – building a search engine is serious business, and I imagine it serves as a good incentive to keep going.
Over the coming weeks I’m excited to continue onward, and will do another post on my progress after a couple more lessons!