In my last two articles, I dealt with ways to learn a new programming language, including taking official Microsoft Curriculum courses at a Microsoft Certified Technical Education Center (CTEC), long term training at a computer programming school or institute, or enrolling in a course at a local colleges or university. All of these options have one thing in common: you need to be present at a predetermined time and place for a specific duration in a classroom led by an instructor. In today's article, I want to discuss an interesting alternative to classroom based training -- web based learning.
I've taught programming for 20 years, and up until three years ago, all of it had been via the traditional route of instructor led classroom training. When I was initially approached to teach a web based programming course in Visual Basic (I teach for SmartPlanet and ElementK), I must confess I had my doubts. However, within two weeks of beginning the course, I was amazed to find that not only could web based learning be just as good as traditional classroom training, but in many ways it was far superior.
From a student's perspective, web based training can solve a myriad of logistical problems. Most web based training is message board based -- which means that there's no formal meeting time. Students log in, obtain the week's assignment (usually a reading assignment), and then use the message board to ask questions, and check back later for answers.
For students whose work or personal commitments prevent them from traveling to formal classroom training, web based training permits them to sign into the 'classroom' whenever their schedules permit. Also, these type of programs are usually self paced, which means you can speed up or slow down the pace of your learning as your schedule demands. And for some students, perhaps the greatest benefit of web based training is that it's typically a fraction of the cost of formal classroom training.
From an instructor's point of view, I was amazed how web based training solved some of the problems I see in my traditional classes. For instance, since there is no formal lecture mode via the Internet, a higher percentage of students actually read the assigned material, since they can't rely on picking up the material in a lecture period. Secondly, since questions and answers are posted publicly on the message board, just about everybody in the class obtains the benefit of the questions that are posed and the answers that I give. Unfortunately, in a traditional classroom setting, students do not always pay attention to the questions others pose, nor listen to the answers.
Please see Part 1 of this series posted on http://www.searchvb.com:http://searchVB.techtarget.com/tip/0,,sid8_gci282348,00.html
Also read Part 2 of this series posted on http://www.searcvb.com:http://searchVB.techtarget.com/tip/0,,sid8_gci284622,00.html
Written by John Smiley, MCP, MCSD and MCT, author, and adjunct professor of Computer Science at Penn State University in Abington, Philadelphia University, and Holy Family College. John has been teaching computer programming for nearly 20 years.
John Smiley is president of Smiley and Associates, http://www.johnsmiley.com/smass/smass.htm a computer consulting firm located in New Jersey.
This was first published in July 2000