There are a lot of different online course & learning platforms for aspiring developers available today, and while some of them are great, some are also distinctly inferior, and others are a mixed bag.
In this post, I’ll list and give a letter grade to the platforms I’ve used that I think are some of the worst ones online. Not every platform can be great, and even the best ones often have drawbacks, but the ones listed below take the cake as being ones that are either just not worth paying for, or deserve some extra caution before purchasing a course available on them.
Udemy.com (grade: C+) | Udemy is basically a marketplace offering a ton of different courses on subjects far and wide, of which only a fraction includes tech & software development. So on one hand, it could certainly be considered unfair to assess the platform on a whole, due to the nature of their platform and the amount of courses that they offer. However, with that said, some things can certainly be said about Udemy that don’t really paint it in the best light, and it’s definitely a platform that needs to be carefully considered. First is that Udemy does absolutely no vetting of the instructors who upload courses to their platform, and will host a course uploaded by anyone. That means instructors can range the gamut from knowledgeable teachers (very infrequent, btw!) to people who don’t know how to teach at all.
Unfortunately, for the tech courses, this usually means that the instructors are invariably software developers, who have varying degrees of professional experience and technical competency. Some of the developer-instructors have a lot of years of experience in building software, while others are still early-career, and there are even some who don’t have any professional development experience. It further needs to be said that some developers can be good teachers, but just because someone might be a professional developer, it doesn’t mean they also know how to teach, because a lot of the developer-instructors on Udemy are actually pretty bad teachers. It’s definitely worth pointing out that some of the tech courses on Udemy are really great, and absolutely worth doing, but these better courses are vastly outnumbered by inferior courses that are worth neither the time or money investment (as nominal as that might be at $9.99), and sometimes even the free courses are best left avoided.
Also, I’d further caution that while a course on Udemy may have positive user reviews, that doesn’t always mean that it’s good, because often the people who write the reviews might not be entirely knowledgeable students themselves, and Udemy pushes customers to review a course as soon as they start it, instead of when they complete it. So Udemy’s system is absolutely flawed, but they do have some gems of individual courses, which I’ll be highlighting in the coming weeks.
Pirple.com (grade: C-) | Pirple.com is an odd site and one of the lesser-known ones that you might come across. The first thing to note on Pirple is their oddly-worded Terms & Conditions. I’d recommend reading it before considering one of their courses, as it specifies some harsh terms – no refunds, and termination of user accounts for any reason at any time (?!). The second thing to note is that their courses and pricing model have changed drastically over the past couple of years, so chances are if you buy a course now, its price may be very different next year (either cheaper or more expensive), or it may not even exist.
Previously Pirple was charging $50 or more for some courses, and monthly fees on others, which absolutely wouldn’t have been worth paying, but since all courses are now just $5 for lifetime access (which is a recent change), it may now be worth getting a course or two while that pricing lasts.
Thinkster.io (grade: D) | Thinkster.io bills itself as a platform for learning a lot of different technologies from the front-end to the back-end. At first glance, it certainly seems like a good platform. But if you look a little deeper into their content, you’ll find that Thinkster.io actually has very little to offer. The main “course” they advertise, their Fullstack course, is very “surfacey” and provides code straight-up from a finished GitHub repo without any explanation, and involves copying segments of code that are not explained at all. You’re basically told what to do, but not why, and there’s very little learning going on. Additionally, the content in the Fullstack course and others on Thinkster is often for fairly old versions of frameworks (i.e., Rails 4, Node.js 8, React 15, Angular 2), and the text-heavy presentation contains a lot of links to other resources available on the Internet, instead of providing original content. The platform overall is simply too out-of-date, and the unoriginal text-heavy presentation makes it come across as a very lazy effort. Overall a substandard platform and one I’d recommend staying away from.