Software Developer Learning Resources

Seems that more and more resources are sprouting up online for software developers, most of which are pretty basic courses. “Learn to code in Java”, “Create a website in 30 days”, “Android Development Basics”, and the like. Then there’s the university courses that allow you to earn college credit for cheap, or just audit the course for free. I’ve browsed a variety of these online resources, and my experience has been pretty mixed. Sometimes they help me, but other times I feel like a physical book is a much better choice.

Even within a single company, I find courses that I get a lot out of, and others that basically just waste my time. Pluralsight is one such company. I often see one of their course titles that interests me, but when I actually take the course it’s hit or miss whether or not it helps me out. I recently took a few SQL Server courses, but I didn’t get out of them what I was looking for. I was left feeling that my time would have been better spent reading books on the same topics.

My learning style may have a lot to do with whether or not online courses benefit me. For me, watching a course or listening to someone explain something isn’t enough for things to sink in. I like to see the big picture, play with things, and discover on my own how and why something works the way it does. Generally after I’ve spent some time in discovery, then I can watch someone else explain a topic and pick up on everything they’re saying.

Overall, physical books seem the best way for me to learn. With a book in front of me I can read something at the pace that I’m comfortable with, and if I think I missed something I can easily redirect my eyes to read it again. Then I can pause, think about what I’ve read, try it out on my computer, re-read it, reach an “aha” moment, then proceed on to the next section of the book.

I have a hard time doing the same with online resources, mainly because the controls are cumbersome. Sometimes I play the skip-forward, skip-back game, wasting time trying to find the spot that I need to get back to. Then by the time I find it, I’ve lost my context. I also find that most online instructors rush to get to the next section of the video. I don’t know if they’re on a strict time budget, if they’re concerned about keeping their audience’s attention, or what. The courses that benefit me the most are the ones that take time to explain the same concepts in different ways before moving on.

Those are just some of my thoughts regarding online developer resources. I’d love to hear other developers’ experiences though.

Which online resources have you tried?
Which online resources worked best for you?
Do you generally learn more from books or from videos?
Have you paid for courses that turned out to be a bust?
Are your choices dictated by your learning style, or can you adapt to any resource?
Are there particular resources out there that mesh well with multiple learning styles?
Have you taken any courses that should charge an arm and a leg because they’re so good?