In these days of sky-high tuition fees and crippling student debt, the thought of going (or returning) to school to get a degree is almost tear-inducing.
But fret not. While getting a degree is alarmingly expensive, gaining knowledge isn’t. In the movie “Good Will Hunting,” the genius protagonist Will stands up to an Ivy League toughie by taunting him with the fact that he spent 150 grand to get an education which he could have gotten for free at the library.
Will’s quote might be snarky trash-talking, but it rings true. You could learn just about anything that you want as long as you have the proper resources and the right amount of personal motivation. And in this Internet age, there’s no reason to complain about “lack of resources.” There are MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and YouTube videos for just about any topic there is.
If you have aspirations to become an IT professional or computer programmer, then you’re in luck. The best thing about this field is that you don’t need a college degree to break into the industry; just self-study, earn a few certifications in the area that you want to specialize in, do a couple of volunteer or personal projects on the side, and you’re good to go.
Here are some of the best online resources to get you started in your IT career:
Harvard’s CS50x: Intro to Comptuter Science
Harvard’s CS50 is one of the most in-demand courses on-campus, often taken not just by Computer Science majors alone, but students from all academic backgrounds. It’s MOOC version, CS50x, is also just as highly-rated, with the instructor David Malan and his TAs providing entertaining commentary. The whole course is available on different platforms (YouTube, OpenCourseware, iTunes U) but the one that is on eDx.org is the most recommended since it is easily the most interactive out of the lot.
Why should you take this course? Simple, if you really want to “think like a programmer” then this course will teach you the barest fundamentals. All students, regardless of whether they have programming experience or not, will start at the very beginning. To get a feel of how a programmer should think, you will start with playing around with Scratch, a visual programming language. Next you’ll move on to C, to working with Linux, and to learning more advanced programming concepts like debugging, stack overflow, etcetera.
If this sounds very simple to you, then do take note that CS50x also caters to advanced students. Each problem set comes with a “hacker” edition, that challenges more experienced students to harder problems.
Codecademy.com and W3schools.com
Microsoft Virtual Academy
This site is pretty vendor-specific, but you do have to realize that Microsoft is the usual software company of choice in most corporate settings. If you want to take Microsoft certification exams in the future, then this site is an indelible resource. Subjects are divided according to topic (mobile development, app development, virtualization, etcetera) and according to the Microsoft product involved (e.g. Windows Server, Microsoft Azure, Visual Studio, and others). While taking the certifications do cost money, all of the courses and learning materials on this site is FREE. You can check out the academy here.
GitHub and Stack Overflow
If you want to be a programmer, then hang out with other fellow programmers! Github is an open source version control system and code-sharing/social networking site, while Stack Overflow on the other hand, is like Yahoo Answers for geeks. It’s a question and answer site, wherein people post problems and other users get to answer them.
Learning about IT and programming, shouldn’t be a one-man island- it should be a collaborative process. These sites can help you learn more about the experiences of other more experienced programmers, while you also get to help other newbie programmers in return.