Author Topic: Learning on a Computer While at Work?  (Read 6582 times)

lifejoy

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Learning on a Computer While at Work?
« on: April 01, 2013, 03:21:03 PM »
Hi everyone! You've all been incredibly helpful in the past, and I've come back for more sage advice. :)

I work at a job that has a lot of down time on the computer. I fill a lot of that time by reading blogs (MMM and thebillfold are two particular favourites), but I'd like to start making that time more useful.

Apart from reading ebooks online, does anyone have suggestions of skills I could learn while sitting at a desk? Free rice has expanded my vocabulary, but I'm looking to really make this down time valuable.

Suggestions would be much appreciated! Even if it's just more blogs ;)

PhDifferent

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Re: Learning on a Computer While at Work?
« Reply #1 on: April 01, 2013, 03:38:16 PM »
How appropriate! I was just coming here to post this link:

https://www.coursera.org

It's a bunch of online and *free* university courses. Some may be useful, some may be general info - but they're all free! Some of them even send a 'certificate of completion'. No, it's not the same as an 'official' piece of paper from the same university, but it's something and might be a skill that you don't need an official piece of paper so long as you can claim some sort of background knowledge (if folks are looking to use to enhance career prospects). I just signed up for and started (today!) a stats course.

lifejoy

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Re: Learning on a Computer While at Work?
« Reply #2 on: April 01, 2013, 07:34:18 PM »
THANK YOU.

This is just what I needed. :)

.22guy

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Re: Learning on a Computer While at Work?
« Reply #3 on: April 01, 2013, 09:36:54 PM »
Phdifferent,

Do you have any experience with this website?  It looks really cool.  I always enjoyed taking college classes, but having already gotten my MA, I don't want to pay for more college.

Cid47

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Re: Learning on a Computer While at Work?
« Reply #4 on: April 01, 2013, 10:59:23 PM »
edX also has a number of free courses offered by different universities (Harvard, MIT, Berkeley, etc). They also offer certificates of completion/mastery for the courses (direct from the university I think, although I can't confirm this, as I'm still in the middle of my first course). Either way, it's free learnin'.

https://www.edx.org/

Left

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Re: Learning on a Computer While at Work?
« Reply #5 on: April 02, 2013, 03:49:28 AM »
I like bbc's site for learning languages, won't get you speaking well enough to be on your own in a different country but it's a good starting point.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/

PhDifferent

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Re: Learning on a Computer While at Work?
« Reply #6 on: April 02, 2013, 07:38:00 AM »
LibraryJoy - You're welcome! :)

Cid47 - yeah, I've been keeping an eye on that one too! Haven't seen any that are starting soon that I want to take. But, it is on my radar.

.22Guy - I've only recently signed up for it, I'm taking a stats course. I have no idea how employers and the like would react to having completed some of these courses. As for the quality/style, the first weeks worth of lectures for my stats course seemed pretty good and perhaps a little fast-paced given the length of the course. But, again, it's free so there's no harm in trying something out and stopping if you don't like it/it isn't suited to your needs.

igthebold

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Re: Learning on a Computer While at Work?
« Reply #7 on: April 02, 2013, 07:45:55 AM »
What I find interesting about the HCI course I just started is that they will retroactively assign you a certificate of completion based on how you do. E.g. if you do all the work up to a certain standard, you get a "Statement of accomplishment" for the "Studio track." If you do only the quizzes up to a certain standard, you get a Statement of accomplishment for the "Apprentice track."

This may end up gaining more meaning as time goes by. Right now I'm not sure most employers of the HR-machine-faceless-job-board variety would get it. I don't care, personally. I'm doing it to, you know, actually learn something for my job. ;) The certification is a minor carrot.

anastrophe

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Re: Learning on a Computer While at Work?
« Reply #8 on: April 03, 2013, 10:00:00 AM »
I have been teaching myself coding. Python and SQL, because I have actual applications for those languages, but you could learn anything--there are great tutorials and programs online and of course it's job skills too.

rugorak

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Re: Learning on a Computer While at Work?
« Reply #9 on: April 03, 2013, 11:26:55 AM »
I like bbc's site for learning languages, won't get you speaking well enough to be on your own in a different country but it's a good starting point.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/

http://duolingo.com/

I prefer this for language learning. Completely free as well. Much more in depth. Only downside of doing it at work might be that you wouldn't be able to do the speaking pieces as easily (assuming your workplace is like most).

lifejoy

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Re: Learning on a Computer While at Work?
« Reply #10 on: April 04, 2013, 08:56:50 PM »
@anastrophe

- My friend who has programming knowledge made it sound like coding is extremely difficult, and that I was insulting her by suggesting that I could learn it so easily (i.e., outside of school).

What are your thoughts?

anastrophe

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Re: Learning on a Computer While at Work?
« Reply #11 on: April 05, 2013, 07:17:55 AM »
@anastrophe

- My friend who has programming knowledge made it sound like coding is extremely difficult, and that I was insulting her by suggesting that I could learn it so easily (i.e., outside of school).

What are your thoughts?

Well, that's like saying you can't learn to read music or play an instrument well without a degree. Lots of incredibly talented and famous musicians did just that, and since computers became ubiquitous (even before) smart kids with free time have been creating little programs and turning some of them into startups too. I'm sure school makes it easier in some ways and it's more direct, but the idea that a person can't teach themselves something difficult is silly.

Also? People are different. Maybe your friend is not motivated and smart enough to teach herself programming, but you are.

rugorak

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Re: Learning on a Computer While at Work?
« Reply #12 on: April 05, 2013, 11:19:31 AM »
@anastrophe

- My friend who has programming knowledge made it sound like coding is extremely difficult, and that I was insulting her by suggesting that I could learn it so easily (i.e., outside of school).

What are your thoughts?

I have a computer science degree and I would disagree with this statement. Plenty of people learn very complicated things on their own. Knowledge and method are about 10% of learning. The rest is effort, desire, and time. Formal education can be great but it isn't the end all be all for learning.

Specific to coding there are some important lessons I find people who learned on their own miss out on compared to those with formal education. But they are not huge things. They are usually things for working with others like readability of your code and comments. Those who are self taught tend not to ever think about that so don't learn it. Also I find people who are self taught tend not to learn enough theory. So they don't always think of things in terms of efficiency. Again easily remedied. Those with formal education are taught about how small inefficiencies can compound and make things really bad. Self taught people tend no not see it when starting out so don't think about it until they get to much bigger projects.

lifejoy

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Re: Learning on a Computer While at Work?
« Reply #13 on: April 09, 2013, 09:23:01 AM »
Thanks for your insight!

igthebold

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Re: Learning on a Computer While at Work?
« Reply #14 on: April 09, 2013, 12:38:52 PM »
As far as programming goes, formal education is good for covering the unknown unknowns. However, you can get those gradually by 1) apprenticing, 2) pair-programming with a better programmer, 3) programming for long enough, 4) reading articles on the Internet, etc.

I recommend the book, The Pragmatic Programmer, which will give you a great introduction to the craft of programming, but also last a while for you as a reference as you grow in various areas.

I'm surprised used copies are so expensive, but it is a very good book.

Freda

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Re: Learning on a Computer While at Work?
« Reply #15 on: April 09, 2013, 02:24:34 PM »
Try Duolingo!  You can learn the basics of a foreign language.

DK

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Re: Learning on a Computer While at Work?
« Reply #16 on: April 09, 2013, 03:31:20 PM »
Per coding - I would recommend the book Code Complete, too. Lot's of little insights in there.

I think there is benefit to going the school route due to theory and teaching examples, able to ask questions, work with others, etc. But you could also learn on your own how to do it. One of the classes I learned the most in was the c# independant study i took before i graduated, so self-taught is definitely something that can be done.

marz1982

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Re: Learning on a Computer While at Work?
« Reply #17 on: April 09, 2013, 06:02:17 PM »
- My friend who has programming knowledge made it sound like coding is extremely difficult, and that I was insulting her by suggesting that I could learn it so easily (i.e., outside of school).

Completely disagree :)  I'm a software developer, and have had both formal training and self-taught certain languages.  I found it very easy to understand the different concepts of programming.  You can get started with just the basics fairly quickly, then it will take time to get experience and broaden your knowledge.  As with any skill, the more you practice, the easier it gets.  There's an initial hurdle of "Oh crap, this is hard, brain hurting...", you just need to push past that until it becomes familiar.  With formal training, you get that hand-holding automatically.

Also depends on what you're programming and language being used, perhaps your friend is working on extremely low level systems, artificial intelligence, graphics or mathematics based applications?  But to create a small application that performs some function you need, or a website to display some information - not hard at all.

Pick up any "programming for dummies" book at the library and work your way through, if you have any questions or problems you can Google for solutions - generally someone else has already encountered the problem and has been answered.

If you want to learn a very useful skill in the IT environment, pick up a SQL for beginners book, setup a small database for yourself, and learn how to query a database, write procedures, do updates etc.  SQL has some programming concepts as well.

Some useful links :

http://jimmy-li.net/blog/programming/how-to-get-started-in-web-development/ - some good advice
http://www.codecademy.com - Code Academy
https://www.khanacademy.org/ - Khan Academy