A Recommended Course on Udemy.com

Upon completion of Rob Percival’s course, The Complete Web Developer Course – Build 14 Websites on Udemy.com, I’d like to give the course a positive recommendation. The course guides you through setting up all the behind-the-scenes parts of a website and how to create web functionality using the most common technologies. I’ve done a minimum of web work over the years but since it was never a part of my 8-to-5 I didn’t get into too much detail. It was nice to have been led through it in an approachable and organized fashion.

The course is divided into 11 sections as follows:

  1. Getting Started and HTML
  2. CSS
  3. Javascript
  4. jQuery
  5. Twitter Bootstrap
  6. WordPress
  7. PHP
  8. MySQL
  9. APIs
  10. Mobile Apps
  11. What Now?

The early sections have more lectures where you need the most guidance and include fewer as you go. The sections on Javascript, jQuery, and PHP lead you through the basic language constructs. It’s hard for me to say just how good of an introduction they are to programming in general, or how effective they would be for a novice, but they cover the basics. Most programming languages only do a handful of things anyway; most of the knowledge is in the special commands and the APIs. There are plenty of additional courses and references that go into more detail but what’s covered in this introduction is more than appropriate. Each lecture runs anywhere from a couple of minutes to a bit over an hour. Each section also includes one or two major projects which summarize and build upon everything covered to that point. Those tend to be the longest items.

The instructor has a pleasant and clear delivery (the just-so British accent probably doesn’t hurt) and has actually provided several popular courses. This particular course may be the most popular and highly rated on the site. If it isn’t it’s close.

I will probably offer a five-star review for the course but I would not say it’s perfect. It’s easy to leave a few loose ends, particularly with someone as experienced as this instructor, and I spent quite a bit of time trying to tie them up. Web searching (which often leads to StackOverflow) helps some, but Udemy’s own discussion forums, which are attached to each lecture within a course, can be very helpful, particularly in a course with so many students. I’m guessing there aren’t too many new errors students can make so many questions you may have are likely to be addressed right there. You’re likely to avoid the most obvious errors just by paying close attention and being diligent.

Many lectures are followed by a page which offers a download of the code written during the previous demonstration. They usually match what’s in the lectures, but not always. You should definitely save your own work and your own comments and notes.

Another issue that can cause problems is that a course like this inevitably references many resources from elsewhere on the web, and those resources can change. I encountered specific problems working through one of the projects using the Google Maps API and the problems I encountered in the Mobile Apps section were close to catastrophic. The basic ideas were still good but there were major changes in required tools, security issues, and configurations that it took more hours than I care to discuss to plow through. I’m thick-headed enough that I did most of it, and the instructor has specifically noted that he plans an update (he has courses on developing for both iOS and Android which I hope are more up-to-date), though I can’t say when. The student comments on the issue go back at least seven months at this point. This process has also left some unwanted plaque in my system that I’m going to have to clean out.

In the Mobile Apps section, and in any complex lecture, it’s probably a good idea to check the student comments first. Knowing about major issues ahead of time could save you a lot of wasted effort. I’m tempted to suggest that the section on Mobile Apps shouldn’t even be there. It only covers adapting one basic HTML5 app to both the Android and iOS and given the problems I encountered (the source app has problems of its own that I had to debug) it seems to be promising more than it can really deliver. The course was pretty solid until the end left a sour taste. Other students shared the same opinion. To the good I got a better ‘education’ than I’d planned…

This entropy is likely to get worse over time. We’ll see how well this instructor and others choose to respond. My guess, given the level of engagement and interaction I see, is that this course is likely to be kept up-to-date, though updates may take time. The courses can also be expanded occasionally and I’m aware that several have announced additions.

Edit, Feb 4, 2017: The provider for this course has released an updated 2.0 version and remains an engaged and popular instructor.

I had previously worked though a few of these subjects on Code Academy but I found the Udemy format superior because the lectures only lead you through the steps, you have to do them on your own in your own environment. The benefit of that approach is that you have all your work when you’re done and some working websites as well. You also get to do all the searching and configuring and everything else. In Code Academy you work in their fishbowl, which hides some important context. That said, Code Academy has the virtue of being free while the Udemy courses are (mostly) paid.

If you are clever—and patient—you can often find Udemy courses at a pretty steep discount. These opportunities come by more often if you have already subscribed to one or more of the courses. The site also provides lifetime access to all courses you sign up for so it might be a good idea to load up on more when they go on sale, on the theory that you’ll get to them eventually. I paid only $24 for my first two courses and only $10 for six subsequent ones. Now I just have to figure out which one to take next…

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