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Rise of the Online Code Schools

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the from-the-comfort-of-your-own-home dept.

Education 98

Barence writes "When it comes to programming, the classroom is moving online. A new wave of start-ups has burst onto the scene over the last year, bringing interactive lessons and gamification techniques to the subject to make coding trendy again. From Codecademy — and its incredibly successful Code Year initiative — to Khan Academy, Code School and Udacity, online learning is now sophisticated and high-tech — but is it good enough to replace the classroom? 'We are the first five or six chapters in a book,' says Code School's Gregg Pollack in this exploration of online code classes, but with the number of sites and lessons growing by the week that might not be the case for long."

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Regular universities don't sell you the knowledge (4, Insightful)

crazyjj (2598719) | about 2 years ago | (#42093623)

They sell you their prestige, their accreditation, their confirmation that you at least showed up to class for four years and jumped through the basic hoops.

These online schools will give you knowledge. But it's always been possible to get that outside of the traditional classroom anyway. There are plenty of self-taught programmers out there (and in plenty of other fields to).

But the thing they're lacking right now is the ability to give you a piece of paper that will get you past HR to a job interview.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (2)

Vintermann (400722) | about 2 years ago | (#42093701)

The for-profits are trying to do that, or rather, they're trying to offer placement services, i.e. sell your CV to recruiters. At least the for-profits have every reason to fight for the prestige of their online classes.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (5, Insightful)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 2 years ago | (#42093827)

Regular universities can and do sell you a great deal more than that, including:
- research opportunities
- highly skilled mentors and teachers
- a real-world community of people studying both the same sort of things as you, and wildly different sorts of things
- regular social contact with relatively capable and intelligent people of the appropriate sex (for straight guys, be aware that a significant majority of college students are women, so the odds are very much in your favor)

If your goal in life is to code 8-10 hours a day and use the rest of your time to watch TV, movies, or play video games, then you're right that university is basically useless. If you have any ambitions beyond that, then take the regular university degree if you can at all manage to do that.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (3, Insightful)

jythie (914043) | about 2 years ago | (#42093875)

I think a lot of it comes down to culture and values. Keep in mind that a surprising number of tech people are anti-education and anti-intellectual.. so things like research and learning from skilled people are not just of little value to them but are actively scoffed at. The pattern of the 'self taught programmer who makes millions and shows all those ivory tower intellectuals how it is done!' is a powerful myth that people latch on to.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42094515)

What you claim to be anti-education and anti-intellectual are often just anti-classical education.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 2 years ago | (#42095827)

The pattern of the 'self taught programmer who makes millions and shows all those ivory tower intellectuals how it is done!' is a powerful myth that people latch on to.

Well, people do latch onto them because they're big and famous. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are the two biggest and well known examples. And there are probably dozens of others as well in tech, and thousands if you include other fields.

Problem is, the population of the western world is in the hundreds of millions. For every Gates or Zuckerberg, there's thousands more who don't succeed, but no one thinks about them. It's like winning the lottery - you have to be really, really, really lucky to be in the right place at the right time.

And just like the lottery, it's a very compelling myth to hang on to. Tech may be more prone to it as it's seen as "anticonformist" and such, plus that a lot of people in tech can ignore the "soft skills" that make the world go around - just be the grungy dingy smelly geek who sits in front of the screen 24/7 who only speaks in jargon and RTFM's people who dare come up to them and you'll still be successful.

Hell, you see it in the app stores - people assume they put it up, they'll make money, screw sales and marketing - that's old school.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (1)

jedrek (79264) | about 2 years ago | (#42096191)

For every Gates or Zuckerberg, there's thousands more who don't succeed, but no one thinks about them.

Exactly this. And what's odd is that these same people would completely tear into their contemporary if he said, "I'm going to play in the NBA". Statistically, that ball-playing kid has a better chance of making it in the NBA, then any of those geeks has a chance of becoming the next Jobs, Woz, Gates or Zuck.

The reality is that a programmer who isn't a genius, but is capable, on time, able to write clear code and come in punctually every day, while being sociable and capable of working well with others... they're the ones who are making bank and able to pick and choose between job offers.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 2 years ago | (#42096529)

You can even calculate the odds of success: There are approximately 1 million professional software developers in the US. Of those, fewer than 10 have become big and famous. And the key decisions you have to make to become one of those 10 guys have more to do with sheer luck than they do with your technical skills.

For instance, one of the graduates of my alma mater went on to graduate school at Stanford, focused heavily on AI research. While there, he had the opportunity to partner with a couple of his classmates working on a tiny search engine that would help users find information on the Stanford computer network. While he thought that project was potentially interesting, he wanted to focus instead on his own research on lighting algorithms for 3D graphics. And while he's had a very successful career at Pixar, he was very nearly Google employee #4. He's a smart guy, he's innovative, but a decision that had nothing to do with software is the difference for him between a $150K / year job for the next 20 years or an early retirement 5 years ago.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (3, Funny)

khr (708262) | about 2 years ago | (#42093899)

- regular social contact with relatively capable and intelligent people of the appropriate sex (for straight guys, be aware that a significant majority of college students are women, so the odds are very much in your favor)

I sure screwed that one up... I went to a tech-oriented college with a male-to-female ration of something like 6 to 1... I wonder at times if I should've picked a different school... Like maybe that fashion design college in Portland, that might've worked better...

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (1)

fliptout (9217) | about 2 years ago | (#42094377)

Better yet, go learn the local language at a fashion college in a foreign country. It doesn't get better than this. I did something similar after I got my engineering degree.

Sure it wasn't you? (1)

raehl (609729) | about 2 years ago | (#42101205)

While it is true that the ratio of guys to girls at schools like that is 4:1, what you have to factor in is that because it is a tech school, 3.5 out of 4 of those guys are socially dysfunctional, making the eligible male-to-female ratio closer to 1:2.

So, if you did not have much romantic success, you first have to figure out if you were in the 3.5 or the 0.5. If the 3.5, it's unlikely that going to a different school would have helped.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (1)

Chemisor (97276) | about 2 years ago | (#42094209)

- research opportunities

This only matters if you're going into academia. Research is not something you put on your resume to get a job, if only because HR will think you're "overqualified" for a position with any real work and will leave quickly.

- highly skilled mentors and teachers

Yes, some people need these, but you will not get them at the university. Professors do not have time for much one-on-one instruction, and while you can show up during their office hours, there is no guarantee that you'll get any help. Hire a tutor if you need tutoring; it's much cheaper than college.

- a real-world community of people studying both the same sort of things as you, and wildly different sorts of things

If there's anything you will have no chance of finding at a university it's the real world. Academia live in their own world and its contents has little to do with reality. For example, in computer science be prepared to learn in depth about computational algorithm analysis, a task that you'll never perform in the real world outside, where most of what you do will consist of figuring out how to moving data around.

- regular social contact with relatively capable and intelligent people of the appropriate sex

Not at your department. Yes, there are more women at college than men, but you will not find them majoring in computer science or engineering. Consequently, the situation is no different than it is anywhere else; if you're a nerd, you won't be getting any dates in college either.

If you have any ambitions beyond that, then take the regular university degree if you can at all manage to do that.

By "ambitions" you must mean going into research somewhere. Some people like that. I would rather code 8-10 hours a day for the rest of my life than spend it begging for grants and dinking around with useless mathematical crap with no real-world significance.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 2 years ago | (#42097863)

Research matters for every programmer or engineer who wants to be more than a technician. They all do some research in their jobs, have to deal with the unknown, figure out some solutions, etc. Skipping this is as stupid as skipping classes that provide a breadth of education.

Mentors are not tutors. Not even similar.

If you do not know about computational algorithms, you will be a terrible programmer. I am not kidding here. You can tell good programmers from bad programmers because they have poor understandings of basic computational theory. This is a task that many programmers deal with, it has amazing real world significance. Remaining willfully ignorant is stupid.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42094569)

Regular universities can and do sell you a great deal more than that, including: - research opportunities

This has to be them limited seated auditorium in the world.

- highly skilled mentors and teachers

Who have zero interest in wasting their valuable career time with you.

- a real-world community of people studying both the same sort of things as you, and wildly different sorts of things

who fall into two types- those with little or no time to sit around and *share* with other students and those who are ultra competitive and no inclination to sit around and *share* with their competitors.

- regular social contact with relatively capable and intelligent people of the appropriate sex (for straight guys, be aware that a significant majority of college students are women, so the odds are very much in your favor)

Unless you major in engineering in which case, I think I saw a girl around here last month....

If your goal in life is to code 8-10 hours a day and use the rest of your time to watch TV, movies, or play video games, then you're right that university is basically useless.

If your goal is to work 10-12 hours a day in a futile attempt to keep your job long enough to pay back your crushing student loan, then skipping university is basically useless. FTFY.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (2)

Dystopian Rebel (714995) | about 2 years ago | (#42095347)

Research opportunities -- maybe at the PhD level, but the private sector doesn't like to hire software PhDs for a good reason.

Highly skilled mentors and teachers -- who are counting on their university pensions instead of learning what's happening in the real world of software development. I don't blame them for seeking safety, but let's not pretend that 90% of professors are "highly skilled mentors and teachers".

Real-world community -- of people who are just as lost. Might as well used Reddit.

Regular social contact with relatively capable people -- Based on statistical understanding alone, I must declare this point to be bovine excrement.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42096085)

Research opportunities -- maybe at the PhD level, but the private sector doesn't like to hire software PhDs for a good reason.

You're looking in the wrong industries. There are certain programming jobs where they will only hire PhDs.
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Apple hired Chris Lattner [wikipedia.org] because of his phd and phd work.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (2)

fwarren (579763) | about 2 years ago | (#42096089)

The "Highly skilled mentors and teachers" had this point of view.

20% of the class will pass no matter what, so ignore those students. Do not answer their questions. It is not about improving them or preparing them for employment or future studies. The short tem goal is of getting the most students to pass the coruse. Providing any mentoring to those students who will pass anyways is a waste of time.

Then there are 20% who will fail no matter what. They will not grasp the material in the 10 or 12 weeks they have to work through it. Once again, ignore these students, since we are not willing to cheat on their behalf, we cant save them, they are a waste of time as well.

That leaves 60% of the class who may fail or pass. All of these students can be helped to the point to where they will at leat pass. Focus all of your energy on these students. If you do, you can have 75% to 80% of your class pass every course.

In my case, since I was in that first 20%, I got nothing. I was told my questions were not going to be answered because they would confuse other students. No recommendations on what I could study to further my understanding of the topic. No critique of my code. Any investment in me would be a waste of time.

As it turns out. I did not get along well with the faculty. For what I was paying in tuition and books, I wanted some value for it. I read the book already. The teacher just repeated what was in the book for the slower students and proctored and corrected tests to prove I had read the material. I expeted more value for my money that that. I kept pressuring the faculaty to share with me some of that "Highly Skilled" stuff they were so famous for.

I think this is a reflection of the institution I was attending. I think other institutions may be better, but I am not sure how much better.

Also, I went to college in my mid 40's. I have a world view that is jaded by 25 years of work experience. I was paying for the education myself and expected I would learn something more that if I just read a book on my own. Another issue is I have worked for bosses from hell, been fired, dealt with plant closures, family members dying, etc. I am not intimadated by a professor who is 2 years older than me, does not like me, and thinks no matter the quality of the work I turn in, that giving me an F will put me in my place. It is the other way around. If I did a half assed job like they were doing, my employer would fire me. I am paying a PREMIUM for their time and attention. They had better provide some value for it or expect to hear from me about it.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (1)

crazyjj (2598719) | about 2 years ago | (#42096747)

Yes, "triage [wikipedia.org] teaching," which means the the over-achievers are basically wasting their money (especially at the undergrad level).

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42100925)

Yes, "triage [wikipedia.org] teaching," which means the the over-achievers are basically wasting their money (especially at the undergrad level).

Sad, but true, though it only applies to 1% or so: the college admissions process mostly gets people into a university where they can actually be challenged if they choose to be. Most misplaced people can transfer up (to MIT, Caltech, Ivy) and do really well. The outlier successes are the dropouts from the elite schools: there are about zero Penn State, U Texas, etc, dropouts who set the world on fire with their great ideas.

Heard a funny rant from our of our exceptional guys last month: he noted that dropping out of college seemed a predictor of being in a senior position, so, if getting a top degree seems easy, you probably shouldn't waste your time getting it.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (1)

fliptout (9217) | about 2 years ago | (#42096893)

You went to the wrong school.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 2 years ago | (#42097973)

This may be your particular institution. If is not hard to find professors willing to go the extra distance for the more motivated students. And there's always the opportunity for independent study with a professor or joining a research project (even if not doing research and just coding for it), etc. And most professors do have regularly scheduled office hours where you can ask any questions you like.

I do think what you say is more often true in lower division courses, especially the heavily populated ones like calculus or physics that all students are required to take.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 2 years ago | (#42097907)

"Software" PhDs? Never heard of them. Or do you mean mathematics, computer science, and computer engineering PhDs? Companies do hire them, but maybe not in the huge numbers that they hire grunt techies. They don't hire PhDs in large numbers because there's a feeling that they cost more, however they also come with a lot of usefulness, the ability to think and reason beyond today's current programming fads, they've proven that they can take on a large and complex project on their own and manage it, etc.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (1)

kye4u (2686257) | about 2 years ago | (#42093829)

Regular universities don't sell you the knowledge.....

They sell you there resources, connections,network, and reputation. Very difficult to get your foot in the door for a job if all you have is knowledge and skill.

Why? It takes work for companies to actually spend the time and effort to evaluate each potential candidate for a job and figure out the candidate's actual knowledge and skill set.

The easiest thing for an employer to do to filter out resumes/applicants is to trust the brand name. It is the same thing that people do in a grocery store when they want to choose a product that is produced by many companies. It is a heuristic to conserve mental energy and a way of life.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (1)

WOOFYGOOFY (1334993) | about 2 years ago | (#42094593)

The easiest thing for an employer to do to filter out resumes/applicants is to trust the brand name. It is the same thing that people do in a grocery store when they want to choose a product that is produced by many companies. It is a heuristic to conserve mental energy and a way of life.

And to ease their employers lot, , students should expect to go into debt.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 2 years ago | (#42098139)

It's nearly impossible to get a good assessment of a younger person from their resume. It's too small. Even in an interview it can be difficult to assess someone accurately for purposes of having a long term hire. Later on it gets easier as the resume has more experience, there are past employers to call and ask questions, etc. So having a degree while it may seem minor does give a lot more confidence to someone doing the hiring compared to the self taught online course taking applicant.

Maybe it's not "fair" but it's real life and real life is not fair. Yes, college can be expensive. That's another unfair part of life. You can make up for it with extra part time jobs and hard work, but you don't make up for it by taking shortcuts with education.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (2)

jythie (914043) | about 2 years ago | (#42093835)

Meh, if one approaches a brick and mortar university as 'no knowledge, just prestige' then one is wasting their time and money...... and they have only themselves to blame. A good school has incredible resources for learning...

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (1)

bengoerz (581218) | about 2 years ago | (#42093849)

I think the fact that so many good programmers are self-taught highlights how coding is a poor fit for the pen-and-paper of traditional academia.

If these online schools get talented coders past HR - and save mileage and minutes in the process - how is this not a good thing?

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (1)

jythie (914043) | about 2 years ago | (#42093937)

I am not so sure about the 'fact that so many good programmers are self-taught' element. Over the years I have been very unimpressed with such people.. often they can produce stuff that from the outside works ok, but their lack of trained background really ends up showing through when you have to maintain their code. They are 'good' for certain types of projects.. code that is going to be baked and never touched again.. but I would not call them 'good' programmers in general. They don't know the patterns, they don't know the lessons people figured out decades ago...

Granted there are plenty of awful traditionally trained programmers... but in hiring I tend to be wary of 'self taught' programmers, even really bright ones.. and have been consistently disappointed with them.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42094217)

Being self-taught has its advantages, but unfortunately school costs too much. A good CS school (UIUC) costs just under $200k [illinois.edu] for four years if you're not a resident of the state. Pay my tuition and I'd come out of there in four years with a PhD (12 semesters including summers).

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 2 years ago | (#42098341)

So attend a school within your own state. Or combine the self-taught technical part with a real education in another field (ie, get a degree in math or literature). Employers will respect that much more than someone who took some classes online but has nothing else in the background. Also pad it all with a lot of part time work or internships, employers will respect that as well.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42094329)

The main advantage of a "self taught" programmer is that you can give them a problem and expect them to find the solution on their own without a lot of hand-holding or direct oversight, because that's how they learned to work.

The main disadvantage of "self taught" programmers is that they have a lower chance of picking the "best practice" solution for any given problem because often the distinguishing feature of the "best practice" over other solutions is that it's the one they teach at universities and therefore the one formally trained programmers expect to see when they maintain your code.

The optimal programmer is going to be someone who has both self directed and formal training.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (2)

AuMatar (183847) | about 2 years ago | (#42094627)

I know an awful lot of "self taught" programmers who are completely incapable of finding any solution that can't be googled for. They came up in the age of web based everything, self taught on php and javascript, and are used to everything being in a library or on stack overflow. Ask them to leave their narrow little box and they can't do it.

The best coders have formal training and the passion to code outside of their classes as well. Whether they're self taught or not doesn't matter, what matters is the additional practice and learning you get form doing more than just your assignments. That may be where the original myth of the self taught programmer comes from- there's a positive correlation between self taught and being passionate about programming. But the majority of the good ones still have formal schooling as well.

I'm self taught myself- I learned on TI calculator basic in high school then taught myself C++. And dear god was my code completely lacking in any real understanding of what I was doing. It was a combination of formal learning in college and practice done while in college that made me good, not being self taught.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | about 2 years ago | (#42095731)

I know an awful lot of "self taught" programmers who are completely incapable of finding any solution that can't be googled for.

In my opinion, people in general lack critical thinking skills. I've noticed quite a few people with degrees that display similar symptoms of ignorance.

And dear god was my code completely lacking in any real understanding of what I was doing.

It sounds like your self-teaching was inadequate. Information doesn't just come from universities; if you have the right resources and enough willpower, you can train yourself quite well, and perhaps even more efficiently than a college/university could. Not everyone is capable of educating themselves properly, but there are people who are.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (1)

AuMatar (183847) | about 2 years ago | (#42096265)

And here's the problem- without someone teaching you, its pretty impossible to know that your level of skill is adequate or inadequate until looking at it in hindsight. Thus the biggest problem with the straight out of high school crowd- they think they're a lot better than they are.

You can train yourself on your own, but you will NEVER do so more efficiently than under a teacher and program. Its completely impossible, if for no other reason than the program knows what you need to teach yourself next and you don't. That alone eliminates a great deal of wasted time.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | about 2 years ago | (#42096743)

its pretty impossible to know that your level of skill is adequate or inadequate until looking at it in hindsight.

Which is pretty much what should be happening to begin with. You will improve over time and then be able to look back at your old work and laugh. Of course, a teacher being there allows that to happen more immediately.

Studying the code of skilled programmers is very helpful, too.

but you will NEVER do so more efficiently than under a teacher and program.

Never? As in, it's 100% impossible for anyone to ever do it? I object to that. Someone who learns at a fast pace may only be held back by having to complete mundane assignments, being told what to do and when to do it, and having to attend a class. As I said, I don't think this is the case for a lot of people, but I also think it's wrong to say that it's never true. There are plenty of ways to get information, and getting information on what you need to know is no different.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 2 years ago | (#42098503)

You are also describing a rote class. They're not all that way. A teacher does not mean just someone sitting at the front of a class droning on and one. A teacher teaches. If you have a teacher who teaches then you will absolutely to better with that person than alone.

Plus, even with the dumbest teacher and the most boring class you still always have the opportunity to do both, go to the boring class and teach yourself at home or the library.

If you "opt out" of the system you will only hurt yourself in the long run (and probably the short run). But of course, teenagers think they know more about this than anyone else and you'll never convince them otherwise.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | about 2 years ago | (#42098691)

You are also describing a rote class.

It doesn't even have to be a rote class.

If you have a teacher who teaches then you will absolutely to better with that person than alone.

Depends on the student. There is no 'one size fits all' solution for education.

Plus, even with the dumbest teacher and the most boring class you still always have the opportunity to do both, go to the boring class and teach yourself at home or the library.

Except that then you'd be wasting your time in the class.

If you "opt out" of the system you will only hurt yourself in the long run

But there are people who do not do as well in the formal education environment for various reasons.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 2 years ago | (#42099035)

Formal education environments always allow the student to work on their own in their free time. So "student on their own plus in class" is greater than or equal to "student on their own".

I think that the student who doesn't do well in a formal education environment will have great troubles in a self directed environment, especially an experimental one designed to teach the student a very narrow focus of material. Will that student have the discipline to branch out from the narrow focus (ie, more than web building or mobile app building), will that student bother to learn theory, will that student take the time to learn a foreign language or literature?

We've always had young people from the beginning of time think they know more than their teachers.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | about 2 years ago | (#42099239)

Formal education environments always allow the student to work on their own in their free time.

Not without soaking up their time.

I think that the student who doesn't do well in a formal education environment will have great troubles in a self directed environment, especially an experimental one designed to teach the student a very narrow focus of material. Will that student have the discipline to branch out from the narrow focus (ie, more than web building or mobile app building), will that student bother to learn theory, will that student take the time to learn a foreign language or literature?

I don't see why not.

We've always had young people from the beginning of time think they know more than their teachers.

I don't see why you keep mentioning this.

The entire point is that formal education is not a one-size-fits-all solution to everything; there are almost always exceptions.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42108121)

We've always had young people from the beginning of time think they know more than their teachers.

The teacher may (or may not) know the topic better than the student, but what the teacher always knows better than the student is how to teach the topic to a group. The student almost certainly knows better than the teacher how he/she learns.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42099021)

You can train yourself on your own, but you will NEVER do so more efficiently than under a teacher and program. Its completely impossible, if for no other reason than the program knows what you need to teach yourself next and you don't.

I beg to differ. You can review any number of course syllabi and course progressions on the WWW and follow the same path, or choose one of your own. Some things do have prerequisites, and it's pretty easy to figure out what you need under your belt before proceeding on a given topic. Once you master the basics, a lot of the advanced stuff can be studied in almost any order.

I've been able to advance very quickly (much more so than in class) by picking up a basic text, skipping what I already know, and moving on to the next chapter. A lot of texts follow pretty much the same progression as do a lot of teacher-directed programs. The only real difference I've found is that the teacher often makes the class study things I already know, and skips stuff I would rather be learning!

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 2 years ago | (#42098419)

I think this is because programming has become a somewhat mass market job these days. People tend to say "coders" instead of "programmers", when in the past a coder was a flunky's job. Companies also want hordes of programmers similar to how companies in the past wanted hordes of factory floor workers. Students go into computers because it's a job not because they think it's a fun thing to do as a life long career or because they are deeply fascinated by how things work. So in the 70'/80's you would see computer oriented people actively seeking out to learn everything about them, and the hacker culture grew up with that mindset, but lately it seems like students are more interested in finding out how to do the least amount of learning in order to get a steady hob.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (1)

fwarren (579763) | about 2 years ago | (#42096267)

While in college I was the only student that learened to code "old school". I have written out a lot of code in the past on paper. Even now, I still doodle out pseudo code on paper and then sometimes refine it into actual code.

We had an intructor at one point asked for a simple 10 line progam be written down on a test. Out of 60 students I am the only one that was able to produce running code. Everyone else was so used to relying on Intelesense that their code was riddled with syntax errors. They were to used to relying on the IDE to provlde the proper name of the function and the order and type of paramaters it needed.

What has made me a better programmer? A combination of reading on problem solving, data structures, writing maintainable code AND actually having to read and fix code that I wrote more than 5 years before, as well as porting other peoples software. A "trick" is no good if you can't modify it 5 years later without spending a week reverse engineering it.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | about 2 years ago | (#42096783)

Everyone else was so used to relying on Intelesense that their code was riddled with syntax errors.

I'd say actually understanding the material is far more important than being able to write down compilable code on a piece of paper. That might be more of a problem is compilation was extremely difficult, but you rarely need to write perfect code on a piece of paper.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (1)

fwarren (579763) | about 2 years ago | (#42096181)

I started out coding as a hobby in my teens. I have something most kids in there mid 20's do not have when they get out of college.

Perspective.

How do I know my code is maintainable? I a have looked at code I have written 5 years ago, 10 years ago, or longer and had to maintain it. I have adjusted my coding paractices accordingly. If something I wrote 5 years ago is broke or needs to be modified and I can't figure out the logic, flow of the program, the data structures, etc by the comments, variable and function names, then I have done something wrong.

The more I have to revrse engineer my work, the more I suck at maintainability. When I code nowdays, I can read it 5 years from now just fine. Most college students I have delt with can fix code they wrote last term. Actual coding practices related to maintainabilty are taught be the threat of an employer drop kicking you to the street. Not by theory taught at College.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 2 years ago | (#42098303)

I dont' know. I don't see that many good "self taught" programmers. I do see a lot of self taught grunt programmers though. Maybe they're good for the current fashion but they have difficulty when adapting to changing fashions, and they have a terrible breadth of knowledge.

Breadth of knowledge is vital. It trains the brain to think. If you can only do one thing in life then you will run into problems often and the brain gets flabby. Breadth of knowledge helps you understand what the code you write is for (ie, application knowledge), helps you understand the mathematics within it (so you're not always bugging the project lead for help because you skipped those courses), helps you understand the requirements, you can talk to customers and coworkers, etc.

Now you can theoretically be self taught and do well, provided you continue teaching yourself even after getting the job. You can't stop.

The problem with online schools is that they cater to the self taught lazy people, those who think breadth of knowledge is useless, those who think theory is pointless and never used in real life, those who only care about today's fashionable choices, etc. For those sorts of students we already have an educational choice for them, they're called trade schools. Now if you find an online school that teaches theory along with practice, science along with sociology and arts, and requires a full education before granting a degree then that would be acceptable. However I don't trust any online school that is used as a shortcut alternative to a real education.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42093893)

Speak for yourself. I learned enough in college to land a job as a developer and be good at it. Granted, I know people who did the minimum and got the minimum.

The companies I've worked for over the years have all required a traditional degree and pay well for it. No Khaaaaan academy or code school or DeVry.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (1)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#42094025)

I learned enough in college to land a job as a developer and be good at it

How? I'm mostly serious AC not joking around. Show me a curriculum covering at least some systems analysis, any version control and/or other team software at all, any debugging at all, working on problems longer than 200 lines, MODERN development techniques/styles/fads, and enough business knowledge to fit in.

You may have learned that stuff on your own while attending school, but that's not an achievement of the school. I've never even heard of a school that teaches developer skills. There's thousands of higher ed schools that try to training to pound out syntactically correct code, or try to educate to become a computer scientist specializing in sort algorithms or whatever. But not dev skills.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42094215)

Information Systems:

University basics (Writing, Literature, History, General Chemistry, General Physics, electives)
School of Business core (finance, marketing, management, communication, business calculus, statistics, etc).

A couple of years of C++, Systems Analysis and Design (OO), Java, Database Design, Networks, General hardware, Sys Admin (UNIX and Windows), Web design, VB, COBOL, Powerbuilder, some other odds and ends, Projects in IS (built a scheduling system for a real dentist office). That was 12 years ago. Hopefully they're staying current.

There could have been a lot more, but I think it took exactly three minutes to figure out version control the first time I needed it.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (1)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | about 2 years ago | (#42094271)

Version control is trivial to learn on the job, but the fact that you mention it seems to suggest that you're in the "teach the technology" camp, rather than "teach the theory". A theoretician can be trained to use any technology, but it doesn't always work the other way round. Every technology has its quirks, and ever practitioner has their hacks, and often these hacks go from master to student, and students from the "teach the technology" camp tend to hack the task with the code they know, rather than go looking for an implementation of the appropriate theoretical construct in the chosen system.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42100483)

How? I'm mostly serious AC not joking around. Show me a curriculum covering at least some systems analysis, any version control and/or other team software at all, any debugging at all, working on problems longer than 200 lines, MODERN development techniques/styles/fads, and enough business knowledge to fit in.

You may have learned that stuff on your own while attending school, but that's not an achievement of the school. I've never even heard of a school that teaches developer skills. There's thousands of higher ed schools that try to training to pound out syntactically correct code, or try to educate to become a computer scientist specializing in sort algorithms or whatever. But not dev skills.

ROFL. People who need a full instructor-led class on how to use trivial things like version control and team software are not the sort of people that companies talk about when they say they need more H1-B visas because they can't find qualified employees, if you get my drift.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 2 years ago | (#42101811)

Oh come on, plenty of schools teach version control (or at least suggest using it), and make you work on large projects. I did in my compiler class, and my OS class.

Which incidentally taught me knowledge that's a lot harder to pick up than a version control, or modern development fads (woohoo! I'm agile!). I've made plenty of money because of my ability to read assembly output, parse complex things, and understand algorithmic complexity, and that's a lot harder to 'pick up' than git or svn.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 2 years ago | (#42101915)

Oh yeah, and I should mention, now that I'm in the real world, and have worked with the code of people who didn't learn threading in the university,

The knowledge I gained about synchronization alone is almost worth the entire degree. Worth much more than any modern development technique. It's so sad to watch other people struggle miserably at it (and even more sad to have to clean up their messes).

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (2)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | about 2 years ago | (#42094235)

They sell you their prestige, their accreditation, their confirmation that you at least showed up to class for four years and jumped through the basic hoops.

These online schools will give you knowledge. But it's always been possible to get that outside of the traditional classroom anyway. There are plenty of self-taught programmers out there (and in plenty of other fields to).

But the thing they're lacking right now is the ability to give you a piece of paper that will get you past HR to a job interview.

Reread the article, and you'll find that even the people working in the online education sector don't agree with you. (Well, Thrun might do.) Codecademy's Gregg Pollack talks about them giving the basic skills:

“Self-guided learning can only take you so far. At some point you need to be put in an environment where you’re working with somebody on projects and being mentored. There’s certainly a piece of the puzzle there that we’re not dealing with yet, that a lot of these online self-guided tools aren’t dealing with yet.”

Note how quick he is to point out that "we" doesn't just mean Codecademy, but everyone in the online learning space. My experience with online learning is limited, but the Udacity course I took (CS253 Web Development) seemed more like a worked example of a programming project than a genuine university course. Plenty of good information, but mostly closely directed to the task at hand, with little scope to genuinely explore alternatives. As a degree-qualified coder, I found it pretty useful, but I could see all the decision-points that they skipped -- a newbie wouldn't. That leaves us with the usual curse of the self-taught/boot-camped coder: they only know one single, blinkered way of doing things. (Sadly many physical campuses are walking blindly down the path towards single-technology bootcampship, but that's a different rant.)

My dream for online learning is to see it become a super-powered replacement for the traditional first year, teaching basic skills quicker and in more depth and breadth than tutorials and traditional homework alone can do. Injecting a technical element into even the artsiest degree scheme, so that we overcome the curse of the technologically and statistically-illiterate hordes who make our management decisions while still leaving them plenty of time to cover the traditional material in their degree schemes.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 2 years ago | (#42097761)

I feel that if a student does not want to attend a traditional education experience that they should be prepared to not join the traditional job market. Yes universities certainly have some problems but you have to put up with it if you want to deal with the real world that wants university degrees. And almost all universities do provide a large amount of freedom for a motivated student to excel, where they tend to fail most are with the unmotivated students.

The biggest problem with online courses and many "self taught" individuals is the tendency to skip past the boring stuff, avoid classes that give breadth of knowledge or analytical skills, etc. Ie, the student who says "this stuff is useless, I'll never use it in the real world" may want to use online schools but will suffer for it.

Re:Regular universities don't sell you the knowled (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 2 years ago | (#42101765)

Regular universities don't sell you the knowledge

Wow, I don't know what university you attended, but I learned a LOT at my university.

Could I have learned it elsewhere? Sure, anything can be learned elsewhere, but the university was a convenient place to gain a lot of knowledge. I'm sorry yours was so sucky.

Oh good (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42093659)

Presumably these schools will form part of mankind's answer to the growing threat of self-replicating AI robots [slashdot.org] .

Now what about climate change and the other two concerns.

beginners only (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42093671)

Most are offering beginner level courses only. There is no replacement for even complete graduate level courses at this time.

Industry Conspiracy! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42093771)

This is a conspiracy by the high tech industry to make coding (and computer science too) education easily accessed and free so that poor but smart people in Third World countries can learn this stuff. Then when those people who are capable learn this stuff - all those billions and billions of poor people - the high tech industry will have a virtually endless supply of very cheap workers!

Need a custom CRM system?! NO problem! The sales guy with his expensive suit, Exlax watch, and some over priced and over engineered German care will get your business, send it to Elbonia, have it coded for $0.02 on the dollar, have their "tech" support do it for $0.005 on the dollar (compared to the US - now), you'll get a half way decent system, and he'll pocket a very nice commission.

In the meantime, all you guys and gals who busted your asses in school and racked up the student loans (you have to be REAL sharp to work part-time with 15+ credit hours a semester in a CS program!) will be fighting for the few positions left in the US.

Welcome to the brave new world of globalization and cheap communications.

Look at your parent's lifestyle. More than likely, you won't have that - unless you go to Medical school. Cut their lifestyle in half and that's what you'll have, kids. Your parents and grandparents had it relatively easy. Yeah, they'll bitch and moan how they worked "hard" and had to compete! But they didn't have to compete with someone overseas who was just as smart who'd do it for a fraction of what they did it for.

Then again, if your folks are the 1%, you have nothing to worry about. They'll get richer and you'll have a trust fund.

Re:Industry Conspiracy! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42093801)

Gee, sounds exactly like what Peter does over at iScripts. Claims he codes, doesn't know how a PHP session works, passes it all to India. Tech support takes 2 or more weeks and there are so many typos in the code it's not funny (plus certain bits of the code are commented with the REAL author's name).

Re:Industry Conspiracy! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42094153)

The only reason our parents had a good standard of living was because of communism. The capitalists in America knew that if they grind the workers too hard they could form unions and go commie. Now that communism has been defeated There Is No Alternative so you gotta suck it.

Despair... (1)

Lisias (447563) | about 2 years ago | (#42093775)

ANYTHING can be good enough to replace a classroom because the real learning happens in the home's computer, doing the exercises.

The needed knowledge can be reached on books.

A good teacher can help a lot when you are stuck on a problem. But this help can be done using a mailing list.

But the better teacher, using the better books on the most techy classroom of the world is useless if the student don't do the fscking exercises at home, at night. Few hours of algorithm theory in a classroom is just not enough.

Don't expect that going online will change this.

Re:Despair... (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 2 years ago | (#42094725)

ANYTHING can be good enough to replace a classroom because the real learning happens in the home's computer, doing the exercises.

Your lack of understanding of education is astonishing.

The needed knowledge can be reached on books.

I hope the irony of you using "on" in error, when you meant "in" is not lost on you. Whether English is your primary or secondary language, why are you making that mistake? Shouldn't your use of "doing" and books have corrected it by now?

Do you still maintain that classrooms are useless?

Re:Despair... (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | about 2 years ago | (#42095811)

I hope the irony of you using "on" in error, when you meant "in" is not lost on you. Whether English is your primary or secondary language, why are you making that mistake? Shouldn't your use of "doing" and books have corrected it by now?

Unsurprisingly, I see people who have degrees making the same mistakes, but I still would not claim that that alone means that formal education is doomed to fail.

Do you still maintain that classrooms are useless?

I don't think I see anything in your comment that would change anyone's mind.

Re:Despair... (1)

GLMDesigns (2044134) | about a year and a half ago | (#42118167)

The day when AI teaching programs will be the norm is coming very soon. These online schools are just a precursor to what's around the corner. As for "cheap" tech support - there will always be something new. 100 years ago 75% of the people worked on farms now less than 2%. In the 50s and 60s there were huge secretarial pools. Now those are gone. Future technological change will bring new jobs. Morse code came and went. Horse buggies came and went. New skills will always be needed. Now - there may be a time ( the singualarity and all that) when things may be really different (3d printing, photovoltaic cells providing unlimited cheap energy, nutritious, tasteful, lab grown food). But that's something we can't predict today.

Re:Despair... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42172879)

agree, but probably behind these attempts there are well intended intentions to clear up knowledge and to deliver it on a more fashionable, clear way for students, don't you think?

You know a career field is over saturated when... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42093793)

...there are more people in the business of teaching it than actually doing it. Looks like computer science is becoming the new Jazz Studies. When jazz was booming and every major city had dozens of jazz clubs you couldn't pay for a jazz education, you had to learn it by playing out live and practicing all day. Then when jazz peaked and the clubs started closing and the gigs drying up suddenly every university and music school started a jazz studies program and hired a bunch of out of work jazzers to teach it.

Learn by doing (1)

Matt_Bennett (79107) | about 2 years ago | (#42093845)

Classes are great- they give you the deadlines and some basic knowledge, but like any other skill, it must be practiced to be fully developed. Programming can mesh well with online learning- the physical requirements (equipment) are pretty easily available. A class is great, it is only a complement to actually doing something, and that requires commitment from the student.

However, I think "programming" is just way too generic a designator. Knowing how to program is mostly about knowing syntax- it doesn't really show you how to actually do anything terribly useful- that's what the rest of your education is for. An online programming course is awesome, but only taken as part of a whole- the math, science, language, etc. education are also vital aspects to actually getting things done.

Good Teachers are needed... (1)

flogger (524072) | about 2 years ago | (#42093857)

Fist a little background so you can understand a little of my context: I'm a teacher. I've taught in the classroom for 17 years at both the high school level and the college level. I have taught online classes for a Virtual High School. I also use Moodle extensively in my classroom for a blended learning environment. I try to integrate the best of both worlds in my classroom. (I'm lucky enough to work in a district where 80% of the students have internet access at home and plenty of computers available at school for non-net accessible students to use in school.)

Online classes need good instructors to help students past "blocks." It is where good teachers thrive to recognize when a student is learning something in a way that is not quite correct or in partiality. The good teacher can recognize these things and help the student past this educational block. In the "brick and mortar" classroom the teacher has face to face interaction and can see confusion or understanding on students, but a confused student can go unnoticed in the traditional classroom if he or she doesn't give those visual queues and doesn;t ask for assistance. Then the test comes by and it is too late for the student.

In the online classroom the good teacher is right there every step of the way with the student and can see in the work when the student "gets it" and when the student is confused. The teacher doesn't need to rely on an answer to the worst question a teacher can ask in a classroom full of students, "OK, Who doesn;t understand this?" In the online classroom, a well designed curriculum with a good teacher will know if the student gets it or not.

In my years of experience though, I have come across students that are able to figure things out and learn faster than I can teach, students that want to learn anything and everything. These are the students that I learn from as they, through the course of the years, learn more than I have to teach (within the school's limited curriculum.)

These students are wonderful for online classrooms as they tend to be the type of students who "step up" to a challenge and try to figure things out in order to learn. A lot of students in the classroom today just want me to tell them what the answers are. These students will not grow in their education on their own. Gamifying a curriculum can help some of these students.

A lot of teachers are worried about "online schools" as they are afraid that these online classrooms will eliminate the need for teachers. It is the same fear factory workers had with the introduction of robotics. But Teachers will still be needed. Just teachers with different skills.

(Back to class students are coming in....)

Re:Good Teachers are needed... (1)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#42094101)

a confused student can go unnoticed in the traditional classroom if he or she doesn't give those visual queues and doesn't ask for assistance. Then the test comes by and it is too late for the student.

Isn't that a LONG TERM extremely positive outcome? Everybody's gotta learn the lesson that they're responsible to further their own education, and in the long term it seems a heck of a lot less painful to fail a high school test than to get fired from a job a decade later. Learning you'll fail unless you communicate is frankly better learned as a kid in your classroom than as an adult worker in the cube next to me, however infuriating it might be to you at that time. Technological crutch might exist in your classroom, but not in cubieland, so I'm thinking its not necessarily an advantage.

Gamification...? (1)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | about 2 years ago | (#42094473)

These students are wonderful for online classrooms as they tend to be the type of students who "step up" to a challenge and try to figure things out in order to learn. A lot of students in the classroom today just want me to tell them what the answers are. These students will not grow in their education on their own. Gamifying a curriculum can help some of these students.

Funny word that, gamification. I remember when it was a new word, there was an article about it on one of the big sites (Gamasutra, IIRC). One of the more intellectually inclined devs interviewed pointed out that the whole idea of gamification was kind of arse-over-tit, because the whole idea of "fun" in a game comes from the fact that you are constantly learning and applying knowledge to solve problems. Gamification tends to add the accoutrements of gaming -- high score tables, achievements etc -- but ignores the simple lesson from academic studies that learning is the purest form of fun, and all learning is gaming....

sophisticated and high-tech? (2)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#42093911)

learning is now sophisticated and high-tech

How so?

In the 80s I watched videos delivered over cable, and they still are... Of course the deeply underlying protocols that the endusers have no interaction with have changed from FDM NTSC of educational PBS broadcasts to weird internet codecs over a docsis modem, but whatever its not like the end users will tell any difference... 75 ohm coax goes here, video comes out there...

Interactive gamification was done by my kindergarten teacher, its nothing new.

We are the first five or six chapters in a book

My experience in taking some classes is its more like the first five or six classes in a thirty two class undergrad curriculum. Everybody wants to offer freshman classes like intro to programming 101 and first semester calculus, no one wants to offer what I would actually be interested in, like upper level undergrad or grad school classes.

Re:sophisticated and high-tech? (1)

spyke252 (2679761) | about 2 years ago | (#42094123)

I don't know, Stanford Online [stanford.edu] has taught Cryptography and Networking- two upper level undergraduate CS courses at my university. And Coursera [coursera.org] has a Databases course too. Sure, these courses might be vastly outnumbered by the number of "Python Introduction Tutorials", but that doesn't mean they don't exist.

A great time to be an aspiring engineer! (3, Interesting)

Runesabre (732910) | about 2 years ago | (#42093945)

I've been in the game development industry for 18 years now having had the honor of being a major part of great projects like League of Legends and Ultima Online. My original training from the university was COBOL on big iron mainframes but as soon as I started coding professional, I knew I wanted to be a game developer. The public Internet was only accessible if you knew a local ISP and could get your Trumpet Winsock or equivalent configured correctly, Linux was just a quirky, novel whisper, Windows was still 3.11 and a TERRIBLE gaming platform, game publishers controlled the funding (and thus controlled the developers) and games were, for the most part, sold in boxes at brick and mortar store.

Despite having only had one semester of C in college (and never even heard of C++), I would rush home each night to hack away learning game programming from Andre Lamothe's Tricks of the Game Programming Gurus on my Gateway P90 (The Cow!) and landed my first job pretending to know C++ with a crappy demo I created for the interview.

Fast forward 18 years. Nearly unlimited bandwidth and online distribution capabilities, cheap hosting, many open platforms (from the point of view you don't have to get Publisher buy-in or permission) like Windows, Mac, Linux, Facebook, Android, iPhone for which to develop and run games. High quality game engines, tools and backends are available (Unity, Allegro, SDL, Apache, Glassfish, JBoss, MySQL, Flash, CSS/Javascript, etc). Even funding is now democratic and open with Kickstarter and YCombinator and not gated by publishers. The only limitation is one's ability to inspire people with a great idea. And for those wanting to delve further into hardware, we even have Arduino.

For me personally... I'm on the verge of launching my own personal cross-platform MMO built from the ground up that will run on just about any and every possible comuting platform on the planet and have the potential to reach anyone and everyone around the globe. I never would have dreamed that was possible 18 years ago! It's breathtaking...

Truly an amazing time to be an aspiring engineer!

Re:A great time to be an aspiring engineer! (1)

Runesabre (732910) | about 2 years ago | (#42094429)

As a follow-up...

I remember doing some proof-of-concept testing on a new exotic piece of hardware for running Ultima Online servers in 1999. It was an 8 CPU (the idea of "cores" wasn't a common notion then) machine costing close to $100,000. We decided to stick with our existing configuration of using four quad-CPU machines which were far cheaper comparatively speaking.

Today, I can easily purchase and build my own 24+ core server machine at a fraction of that price and that's assuming I don't simply just rent some "cloud space" (yes, I feel a little dirty saying that haha) for my back-end processing needs. Mindblowing!

Re:A great time to be an aspiring engineer! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42094743)

I don't simply just rent some "cloud space" (yes, I feel a little dirty saying that haha) for my back-end processing needs. Mindblowing!

My back-end processing often causes mindblowing cloud space, and it DEFINITELY makes me feel dirty.

Re:A great time to be an aspiring engineer! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42097319)

I hate you.

Re:A great time to be an aspiring engineer! (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 2 years ago | (#42098809)

Actually, when I was in school we did many of our projects in C however we never once had a "C course" or a "semester in C". All of this was self taught! I only had 3 classes where programming languages were taught: the freshman intro to programming class (Pascal), the later assembly language class, and an elective about comparison of programming languages (Prolog, Lisp, Ada, etc). In absolutely all other classes there was little time spent teaching programming and it was expected that the student put in the necessary effort ot learn them adequately (ie, maybe first 2 lectures would discuss the programming, the TA would help, people could have questions, etc). Very often one of the course books would include one about a language but the student studied it separately from the course.

Personally, I learned C during a lecture in a probability course. We had an assignment, we were allowed to use any language we wanted, so I asked my friend next to me how to do certain Pascal constructs in C. Then I went to do the assignment that night in C and I'm still using C today (as well as other stuff).

So in some sense I feel a bit dismayed that schools actualy feel the need to teach programming languages explicitly.

Re:A great time to be an aspiring engineer! (1)

Runesabre (732910) | about 2 years ago | (#42098973)

My "semester of C" was actually a "Data Structures and Algorithms" class that happened to be taught in C whereas every other class I took was related to COBOL, JCL, CICS on the mainframe (also with a semester in IBM 360 Assembly which was pretty cool!).

Re:A great time to be an aspiring engineer! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42099871)

Dude no offence really, but as a long time player : if you had anything to do with the coding of Leagues of Legend you're a disgrace as a programmer.
UO was nice though.

Re:A great time to be an aspiring engineer! (1)

Runesabre (732910) | about 2 years ago | (#42100081)

Uvlad Brolaf?! lol j/k :-)

There's definitely things I'd like to go back and do better on every project I've been on (UO, TR, SWG, DDO, LoTRO, LoL).

Yes (4, Interesting)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | about 2 years ago | (#42094099)

The teacher is dead. More and more we see that the best way to learn is by doing, having a teacher or prof stand at the front of the classroom and ramble on for hours is not an effective way to learn. When it comes to programming, you need to take a hands on approach, sitting in a chair and listening about how you should write code and how you should structure code will never be as effective as sitting down and programming.

When I learned C we had a prof stand at the front of the room and ramble twice a week for 2 hours, I came out of that class knowing 0% of the C language. I didn't start learning it until I sat down and started to program. Think about trying to teach a student about embedded programming without having them sit down and write embedded style C. I would be surprised if many / any students get there first, second or even third project to work out of the gate. Now instead take the same student, give them an Arduino and tell them to make a motor run, in the same amount of time that you will teach them on the board, they can have a little motor running and they will have acquired a million times as much knowledge.

Would you teach a chef to cook by having them sit in a classroom and never touch an oven? Would you have a firefighter learn to put a fire out by never having them hold a hose? It's pretty clear and obvious that learning by doing is a far more effective method of learning then the old outdated method of sitting there where your talked to.

Rote lecturing is dead (2)

Runesabre (732910) | about 2 years ago | (#42095839)

Rote lecturing as the primary education tool is hopefully on the way out. Teachers in the form of Coaches and Mentors are needed more than ever to help guide and inspire the future generations. I agree with you, this should be a hands-on, two-way interaction and for engineering, can definitely be that way even regardless of geography.

Re:Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42096723)

It always depends on the field. Slashdot is very tech focused, and the above Arduino approach may work with a lot of tech stuff. But how can this apply to sciences, for example? As a chemist, I could not ask a student to sit down and just make a compound without first lecturing them on different reaction mechanisms, nomenclature, etc.

And your last paragraph is somewhat at odds with your thesis. They can certainly coexist. Firefighters usually have some book learning to do before they can just run into a fire. Chefs undoubtedly as well.

There is much to be gained by listening to people who have been there and done that and made some mistakes for you. Learn from them so you can rise past them faster.

I guess tech is somewhat special in that much of the prerequisite knowledge is just "do you know how to use a computer" and the barriers for entry are low (price out any chemicals lately?) So please do not force the tech way of doing things onto every field.

Re:Yes (1)

MrL0G1C (867445) | about 2 years ago | (#42097401)

I didn't find leaning C the same, the teacher taught the theory during the morning (which I somehow learnt even though I slept half the time - too easy) and we did the practical in the afternoon, I guess he was a good teacher because the practical seemed like a formality.

A good teacher makes a huge difference, I'm currently teaching myself Java by watching youtube tutorials, there's too much type this code and not enough explanations of the fundamentals, such as explaining what different syntax does.

Re:Yes (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 2 years ago | (#42098885)

That doesn't sound like a teacher though. It's just a bad class.

Cooking schools actually do have lectures! But they also have the students practice, they have small groups working together, some classes are small, some are larger, lots of individual assignments and homework, etc. This is very much like many universities actually! The difference may be that a lot of universities are much more regimented, but they certainly had homework, they certainly required you to go home and learn what was taught in your own time, they certainly had you write programs or do math problems or research papers, we certainly had labs with actual hardware.

If you took an entire class and did not learn C, then either it was not a class that used C or you failed to learn the C on your own as was expected.

Re:Yes (1)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | about 2 years ago | (#42101619)

A programming class should be taught in a lab on a computer.

Re:Yes (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 2 years ago | (#42102719)

It should be a mix I think, there are some concepts hard to teach by just doing and you need to explain and show what's going on. Ie, recursion, theory, algorithms, data structures, programming, etc. Most lab classes I've been in either included a lecture component or were paired with a different class anyway. I can think of only one class that was a standalone lab. The intro class I took was self-study with a lab but also regular lectures as well (not required).

Re:Yes (2)

autonomouse (1203262) | about 2 years ago | (#42103475)

"College is a place where a professor’s lecture notes go straight to the students’ lecture notes, without passing through the brains of either." Mark Twain

The gig is almost up for Universities (0)

xtal (49134) | about 2 years ago | (#42094163)

The problem for universities is the employers aren't hiring or scaling pay the way they used to, and relative to the return, for the average student, the value proposition is not as good.

Once someone of note starts offering real paper for online classes, or employers start accepting it - something, I think, that is already happening - the ivory tower of cards is going to fall very fast and very hard.

WebPlatform (3, Informative)

WebManWalking (1225366) | about 2 years ago | (#42094433)

http://www.webplatform.org/ [webplatform.org] is an open source online code school for HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, SVG, new web APIs, etc. Some of the brightest minds and most engaging speakers at coder conferences are contributing to it. (Example: Lea Verou for CSS.)

It was only just recently created (October 8th), so it's pretty rudimentary at this point. They characterize it as being in alpha. But have a look-see. If you code or want to code for the web, it's well worth bookmarking and checking back from time to time. And if you really know the subject matter, it's a good place to contribute.

if you can only code you will have a hard time (1)

Dan667 (564390) | about 2 years ago | (#42094489)

for the positions I have filled the candidate needed to be able to collect requirements, manage projects, and interact with people to manage schedules, set expectations, etc. People that only want to code have a niche, but honestly, your job prospects are very slim. You are not going to learn any other skills sitting in a basement doing online tutorials.

Online doesn't work for average students (so far) (3, Insightful)

scruffy (29773) | about 2 years ago | (#42095013)

One of the biggest issues for current MOOCs is the large attrition rate (in the 90% range). Assuming that people signing up are at least average intelligence (on average of course), this suggests that average students are unable, for whatever reasons, to complete these courses. Part of it is that the instructors come from elite universities, are used to teaching elite students, and approach the MOOC in the same way, leaving the average student in the dust. Another part is that average students lack the motivation, discipline, as well as the smarts to learn complex concepts without a real-life instruction.

Re:Online doesn't work for average students (so fa (2)

b3x (586838) | about 2 years ago | (#42097631)

One of the biggest issues for current MOOCs is the large attrition rate (in the 90% range). Assuming that people signing up are at least average intelligence (on average of course), this suggests that average students are unable, for whatever reasons, to complete these courses. Part of it is that the instructors come from elite universities, are used to teaching elite students, and approach the MOOC in the same way, leaving the average student in the dust. Another part is that average students lack the motivation, discipline, as well as the smarts to learn complex concepts without a real-life instruction.

New Years Resolutions also have a high failure rate too, are people too dumb to lose weight? The bottom line is that people change their minds, lose focus, are lazy, have ADD, don't get that job, adjust career goals, on and on and on. You being an elitist, attribute the attrition rate to ignorant peasants attempting to learn the skills of the gods, while the truth is that life happens and people saw something shiny and they signed up ... then forgot about it

Re:Online doesn't work for average students (so fa (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 2 years ago | (#42101829)

In a normal class, if you stop going, you're going to fail. That's enough motivation to keep trying, even when the learning gets hard. And if something's worth learning, it usually does get hard.

Re:Online doesn't work for average students (so fa (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42102311)

I dropped out of several MOOCs - didn't have the time, the material was too hard/not interesting enough, didn't like the way the course was being taught etc. etc. Then the stars lined up just right and I was able to complete a great Functional Programming in Scala course from Coursera. It is an additional advantage of MOOCs over traditional education that (1) the courses I dropped did not cost me thousands of dollars and (2) I did not have to struggle to complete a course despite problems in my own life or a mismatch between the content of the course and my needs and abilities. The courses are non-trivial, just as the courses at any good university are non-trivial. Students of average ability (like me) can expect to complete the courses if they have the background knowledge on which the course builds and if they are willing to work as hard for the course as they would for a course offered at a physical university (10 or more hours of work per week). As always, students of high ability will be able to cruise through the course without breaking a sweat.

Learning code and math (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42095967)

I started http://www.codebymath.com when after home schooling my kid, I saw many ways to teach math (algebra mainly) through coding examples. Today's math books have so little context in them for why one would need to learn something. Check it out and let me know what you think. Thanks.

Tech / IT needs to more trades like at least in th (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 2 years ago | (#42096351)

Tech / IT needs to more trades like at least in the learning / classes part.
The old colleges are still suck in the past in some ways.
Like fixed long time tables.
More theory's based then hands on
Lot's of filler and fluff classes.
Stuff padded out to fill credit hours as well things slimmed down to fit in.

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