There is a lot of criticism over the education system these days, and I’ve written about it in the past as well. Online education is becoming popular these days and it’s interesting to see how things are improving.

In the past, online education was rough. I took a Cisco course in highschool that was insanely boring. Read all these articles, then take a quiz, get your grade. Did I learn anything? Nope. I felt like I was, the teachers felt like we were learning, but nothing stuck. If something doesn’t stick with you, did you really learn it?

Programming is one of the topics that can be better taught online. This past weekend Code School had all of their courses for free. I took the opportunity to go through as many courses as possible in the two days I had available. It was wonderful.

Combining a bit of personality and cheesiness, the courses were each unique. Every one had a different theme that made them rememberable. CSS Cross Country took skiing persona, which fit nicely into the idea of making your design clean and simple.

Rails For Zombies

The format of each course is well laid out. First you watch a short video, and then complete a series of challenges on each. There are several sets of videos and challenges for each; building upon what you learned in the last section. At the end of the course you feel confident about what you learned, and the videos and challenges are great references for building things on your own. Having done most, if not all, of the topics before, it was interesting to see how they’d play out for someone experienced in the field of web development. Going through the courses solidified my understanding of lots of topics, even though I skipped the videos and went directly to the challenges in most.

While the content is great, you sometimes finish the course thinking “Cool, this isn’t hard, but I still have no idea where to start building a real program.” This is probably inherent to any educational course. The student needs to be able to have an idea of what they want to build, and through that, they begin to see how what they’ve learned applies to a real world application.

Completing courses wins you awesome prizes, sometimes Code School cash for future purchases, sometimes you get a month of Railscasts or another discount. Code School is without a doubt one of the best places to get your feet wet with some seriously great topics in web development. Pair that with Railscasts and Peepcode video casts to teach you more specific implementations, and you’ll be a long ways down the path to becoming a great developer.

It’s awesome to see online education becoming a viable alternative to learning. With the incredibly affordable pricing, accessibility, and community, I can’t see a reason why the internet couldn’t become the default learning platform in the future.

If you’re interested in learning Rails, give the Rails for Zombies Code School course a shot. It’s free, and a great way to try before you buy.

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