Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Free Code Camp - The 5 Most Common Pitfalls

What up peeps!  I feel like every day gets better and better, I just gotta' say life is good, No brag, just fact :-)

I thought I would give some insight/feedback to those of you who are following along as I go through Free Code Camp. If you are currently going through the course, or thinking about starting Free Code Camp hopefully this will help.

There are 54 challenges that you must complete in the course prep work.  The challenges are supposed to take 100 hours to finish.  After completing the prep work, you will then spend another 900 hours coding for non profits.  Finally you will be turned loose into the coding world, where you will secure an awesome dev job and change the world :-)

It's amazing how many people have started Free Code Camp:  13,796 at the time of this writing.  Only 140 students have made it out to the other side and are currently working for non profits.

Before you get the cool coding dream job, where everything is rainbows and unicorns, you must first pass the challenges!  Think of it like Navy Seal training bootcamp where only the most determined people that never give up will ever make it out.  You can quit whenever you want for any reason, no one will think less of you, but I hope you don't!

I haven't completed all of the 54 challenges yet, I've done 34 of the 54 challenges, I have conquered the beast challenge.  Challenge 34 is by far the toughest and longest challenge of Free Code Camp.  My plan is to go through the course and learn enough Javascript, Node, and Angular to be able to write an app, that I've been wanting to make for a long time.

I write code that works, but probably isn't pretty.  I have a very long way to go till I can call myself a full blown developer.  This post and the following posts are meant to help make learning to code easier for you.

"I'm basically stumbling around in the dark looking for a light switch and writing about my struggles here so you can hopefully find the light switch easier :-)"

Enough said, here's what I've found out about Free Code Camp so far:

NOTE:  I love Free Code Camp, this is in no way meant to be a knock to them or their mission.  Also Free Code Camp is always updating and improving, the things I say below apply to when this post was originally written.

Common Pitfalls

#1  Students are more focused on socializing than in actually learning how to code.

I love the chat room on Free Code Camp and think it's awesome. However I see students staying on the chat room for hours just talking about stuff that has nothing to do with learning to code.  I'm all for socializing, but if your goal is to learn how to code, don't waste too much time in the chat room.

#2  Students don't take learning as seriously because the course is free.

Again it's awesome what Free Code Camp is doing!  One of the downsides I find is that students who are taking the course are not very driven.  I understand students have other things to do, and may be just doing this on the side, but don't let that make you complacent.  I can see why paid bootcamps students tend to work harder because they have so much invested, they really must succeed.

#3 The prep work takes much longer then you think it will, so students get discouraged.

The 54 prep work challenges take far more than 100 hours to complete.  I would say 200 hours is more accurate.  Students start learning to code and then feel like they are slow, because they aren't completing the challenges anywhere close to the  suggested 100 hour guideline.  I can't complete the course in 100 hours, unless I cheat and try to zip through the material without actually learning.

#4 Challenge #34 is a BEAST!

This goes hand in hand with the previous point.  Students are making momentum and then hit challenge 34 and sit there for a month or more.  The other issue with #34 is that they are constantly making more challenges to complete.  When I started #34 there was a total of 30 coding challenges.  By the time I completed 33 coding challenges there were now 43 coding challenges.  At what point can you move on?  I hear they are going to make 100 coding challenges total for #34.  #34 already takes half of the the entire course time.  As more and more coding challenges are made for #34, are students going to have to spend 350 - 500 hours to complete the prep work?

#5  The new free version of learning Node.js is terrible

 The free version of learning node is so “buggy” that it is simply unusable in my opinion.  You will waste far too much time trying to use the tools, than time spent actually learning Node.js.  I appreciate what is trying to do, but it's just not there yet.  I know students need to complete the course work in order to move on to the next challenge.  I personally am using Tree House to learn Node.js.  I would suggest doing the Tree House Node.js course and then clicking on "Challenge Completed" on the Free Code Camp Node.js Challenge.  I'm not saying to be dishonest, I'm saying learn Node.js however works for you and then move on.

Free Code Camp is pretty sweet, they are kicking butt over there blazing a path through an unknown new territory. We should all be grateful and thankful for what they are doing.  I plan on making several more posts like this to show you how I navigated the course, how to get unstuck on challenges you are facing, and especially on how to conquer the beast challenge :-)

Keep coding peeps!