With more and more people accruing astronomical student loan debt, many wonder is education really better than real world experience.
Full transparency:. 1. This is mostly an American/North America problem. 2. Not all higher learning institutions are created equal. 3. We are talking mostly about software engineers. 4. There will be shameless plugs to our online courses.
If you’ve been a young adult on this planet in the last 120 years, you’ve heard the sales pitch: Go to school, get a degree/diploma, get a really good job, make money, get married, buy a house, settle down and pump out 2.5 kids and get a dog…maybe a cat. And we’ve all accepted and railed against this pitch to varying degrees. But more and more (and this is especially prevalent in the US and Canada), graduates are leaving colleges and universities with astronomical student debts and <almost> worthless degrees. Which in turn begs the question; ‘What did I do with the last 3-5 years of my life if I can’t get a job in my field of study?’
Now I feel I need to say that this is not always the case for everyone. And there are fields like medicine where higher learning and degrees are expected and can be worthwhile, but let’s talk about software engineers…and maybe people with philosophy degrees…sorry, artistic types.
I’ll get to the point quickly because if you’ve just graduated a 3 year program at $30K/year you either don’t have time to read all of this at your 9-5 entry level job you had to take to pay back your almost $100K student debt or you really should stop reading this and go back to looking for a job to pay it off… But that’s the problem isn’t it? You have this crazy debt and no guarantee of a job in your field, while someone who hasn’t gone to college or university, and has taken a well put together online course…like STUDIO WEB ( sorry, that was shameless), has completed the course in way less time than you, has had time to garner real world experience and is now just as qualified, if not more so, to work in your field.
This has a lot of people wondering is a higher learning degree worth it? Look, I know it’s hard for colleges and universities, they have a lot of staff to pay; academic and administrative. They have curriculum that take long to approve, which almost always guarantees that the knowledge being passed down to you is dated or even irrelevant. While courses being offered online for less than half the price of admission, or even just going in with no education but ability to jump in and get your hands dirty has gotten others to better positions in the field in (sometimes) way less time.
Check out the VLOG for an almost surgical analysis of this subject. Heads up, it’s a meaty one. But there are article quotes read and then in depth experiences that are shared. We’re not saying to not get your education or to drop out if your already…institutionalized? All we’re saying is to weigh your options, look at the market (in your field), and think of what is really important in that field; most times while education is an important foundation, real world experience wins out almost every time. And if you can take our awesome STUDIO WEB courses, and our freelance courses (<links at the bottom>/ Shameless promo #2, sorrynotsorry…) and get that foundation in months, that would leave you way more time to accrue that oh-so-sought after real world experience…
Look we’ve all been there, man… You’ve got a task to do and you don’t feel like doing it. You put it off… you do the dishes (maybe even clean your entire house), or just play video games and go down youtube’s rabbit hole…
It’s procrastination: pure and simple. You’ve fought it since you were 13 years old and had a 15 page essay to write, due in 2 weeks. But as a dev or a programmer; new or veteran, you’ve got a job to do and you can’t just put things off (for too long, anyway…).
Let’s start off by trying to understand procrastination and then we’ll go into some techniques to combat it…well, ONE technique really but it’s pretty effective. When it come to procrastination there are really 3 problems at play and you could have one, both or all mixed in a cocktail of “I’ll get to it later…”, which is a terrible cocktail cuz it never gets made <baddum-ching>.
1- Fear: Ah yes, that old chestnut… But yeah, fear this isn’t going to work, fear that you’re not going to go anywhere or that you’re missing out on other things, etc, etc. 2- Being Overwhelmed: There’s too much to do, too much to learn, etc… 3- Boredom: This one is pretty insidious. We don’t really have the end goal planned out (the job we’re going to get/money we plan on making, the skill we’ll have learned, etc.).
The key answer for all these problems and procrastination in general is something your mom or even your teacher might have told you (and believe me, I hate to admit they were onto something too)…
…Do 20 minutes a day…
I know it’s so simple you almost have to laugh but it’s true. Doing 20 minutes a day of any activity has so many benefits but I’m only going to list a few here: -It’s an easy to achieve goal. 20 minutes can go by pretty fast and if you find yourself ‘getting into it’ and want to take longer, you can! -You tend to learn much more quickly if you expose yourself on a frequent basis to that activity you need to get done. Some interesting math: 20 minutes a day for 5 days a week (cuz we need our weekends) is 100 minutes. That frequent exposure is going to help your brain learn faster and more effectively than 200 minutes once a week.
I can’t even begin to tell you the length at which this is covered in the VLOG and shameless self promotion: 20 minutes a day is roughly how long the lessons in our courses (link below) are structured for, so don’t have to sit there for hours wondering when it will end with a fried brain. Check it out…after the video game, heh. Enjoy!
I come from a family of teachers, and in carrying on the tradition, in 2002, I started creating web design and development courses for all those non-nerds out there.
The average person is socially more adept than your average nerd – this is true. But unfortunately, this typically means the average individual needs a more ‘human’ explanation of the languages of web design and development. If you are not aware, here they are:
The problem with so many code courses out there, is that they are ‘taught’ by nerds who don’t know how to teach. Yes, you are right, teaching is a separate skill from coding. Imagine that!!
Teacher + Programmer = rare combo
Fortunately, my experience teaching, and 20+ years experience as a coder/programmer, gives me the right mix of skills that allows me to create learning experiences that are fun, easy and very effective. You will learn more, and faster with my web design and development training package.
… But don’t take my word for it, here is an email I recently got from a student:
Hi Mr. Mischook,
Your courses are amazing. I can’t thank you enough.
I had tried a few other online programs (free and paid), without success. I felt like I just couldn’t hack it after trying those resources, and that maybe learning to code wasn’t for me after all. But I still had a deep desire to learn how to program.
I went back to work on my first (and so far, my only) webpage that I started in CodePen when I was attempting to learn to code through other sources. I left the page in complete shambles, until I found your courses on StudioWeb via your YouTube videos. Now, it looks presentable (in my opinion). I couldn’t be happier.
Your courses are so well-done and the sequence makes perfect sense. You fill in all the gaps, and I feel like I actually understand what I’m doing and why I’m doing it, which is very important to me. (I like details.) I purchased your book Web Design: Start Here as a reference manual. I’m looking forward to your entrepreneurship course once I complete your web developer course.
Forgive me if I’m over the top or inappropriate. I just appreciate your efforts, and I hope that your websites gain many new subscribers.
Stacey was nice enough to give me permission to use her email. Thanks Stacey!
If you would like to learn web design and programming as quickly as easily Stacey has, check out my courses.
Some of the most important things programmers need to learn, are the foundational concepts and techniques I refer to as the ‘core’.
Here are few examples:
• consistent and proper naming conventions.
• code formatting.
• simple modular code.
• using accepted design patterns like MVC.
• importance of being consistent with the way an apps’ codebase is structured.
Sadly, fundamentals like these are omitted by most online courses. These lessons should be interwoven within the context of any good programming course.
The ‘core’ principles are soooooo important, because they not only provide a solid foundation, they actually speed up the process of learning.
Check out my popular web design and development training package:
Someone asked me, if I had to pick the most important things you can do to improve your programming, what would it be?
Have a consistent self describing naming convention. This saves you yuuge time because you will make less mistakes and be able to code more quickly.
Keep your code fine-grained. This means you write functions and methods that do only 1 thing … Not five. This will keep your code easy to understand, to debug and expand.
The first thing to do when starting a new project, is to see what others have done. Perhaps there will be libraries to leverage, perhaps even entire open-source software you can use as a starting point. This is yuuge!
When learning a programming language, you are going to make many mistakes – it’s normal that your code won’t work the first few times. That said, the key to learning code, is to write code as soon as possible, and as often as possible.
… Even if the code you are writing, does not make sense to you at the time.
The anxiety when learning something new
I was recently reminded of the anxiety most people experience when learning something new. Case in point, though I’ve been creating videos for many years, I always just used the camera’s automatic settings. I didn’t really know much about my equipment.
A little while ago, I decided that I wanted to do more, and so I ventured into more advanced functions like:
… I wanted more control over the video I was shooting.
At first, understanding these basic concepts was confusing, and I was wondering when it would all sink in … therein lies the anxiety. The not knowing if you will ever get it.
In the end, as it is with learning to write code, I just had to use the camera … you have to jump into it and start practicing.
What is the best way to learn to code?
Over the years (since 1994,) I’ve learned 9 programming languages. That may sound impressive, but it isn’t really. Like learning to drive a car, once you understand one programming language, you pretty much understand the basics of all programming languages!
So having done this many times, I can tell you that if you want to learn to code, you have to dive in and write code.
It comes down to these steps:
Do a little theory.
Write code that was taught in the theory.
… It’s about bite-size morsels of delicious little code bits! You have to write lots of code, make mistakes and write more code. Repetition goes a long way.
I’ve been in the web development business for over 20yrs now, and one consistent problem for many well meaning nerds, is the over engineering of web apps. This extends to all development as well, not just the web developers.
… The old KISS acronym “Keep it simple, stupid”, seems to be forgotten with every new generation of developers.
So today we have once again, new and overly complex frameworks and apps being thrust upon us. I vlogged about this recently in this video:
I am writing just to say how happy I am with the courses. Although, I am a member of Lynda and Udemi, your courses are way better. For me you are the HIDDEN GEM, the YODA of web design. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.
I am not a big fan of them because there is so much work out there. You could be getting paid to code (and learn) rather that doing a hackathon.
In addition, the only way you get coding chops, is by building real apps for real clients. One thing a lot of developers miss, is that being able to manage a project has a lot to do with managing non-nerd clients … you only get that experience in the real world.
I used to see the same sort of thing in martial arts, where certain styles are really big into drills and exercises. The problem is, that they put much less (if any) time into actual fighting.
… Then they take a beating when they are unlucky enough to mix it up with someone who spent his time sparring, rather than running through drills.
That said, the more code you write the better, so codathons will improve your abilities no doubt … but nothing compares to the real thing. Pick your analogy! 🙂