More Online Course & Learning Platforms #1

It occurred to me recently that I’d missed mentioning a couple of other learning platforms in my 5-part series on the best ones, which ended back on 3/15/20. Rather than go back and add a part 6, I’ll start a new ongoing series for any future ones that might come up as well. Plus, this will provide an opportunity to cover some of the less-than-great ones, which deserve to be mentioned as well.

Packt (grade: C-) | Packt is a somewhat-known publisher of technical books, and has unfortunately acquired a deserved reputation of publishing too many books of dubious quality. More often than not, the books are poorly reviewed for writing & editing and often contain many writing mistakes, ranging from the minor (typos) to the more major (sloppily-formed sentences). In some infrequent cases, the writing quality is so poor that it can actually be difficult to follow what the author meant to say.

Even with that negative, it might not be so bad if the books had some consistent technical merit to them, but even this is not always the case. I’ve seen some books from Packt that were nothing more than a code-along tutorial with screenshots, and others with a lot of words on what to do in certain scenarios, or how to accomplish something, but offered very little explanation and insight for those unfamiliar to the topic. Suffice it to say that I’ve seen enough of Packt’s books (more than 30 of them at this point, in fact), that I would actually recommend against buying one, especially blind. If you’re considering buying a book from Packt, I’d recommend checking its reviews over at first at a minimum.

There are certainly some individual books on Packt that I’d recommend reading and will highlight in a future post, but overall the good titles are vastly outnumbered by the not-so-good ones. Packt now also offers online interactive courses, a few of which I recently started and will also cover in a future post.

Pragmatic Studio (grade: A-) | Pragmatic Studio is somewhat of a niche platform in that it offers content for only a limited set of programming languages that primarily includes Ruby and Elixir, and other technologies like Vue.js and GraphQL. It’s a very good platform on the topics that it covers, but I’d recommend it primarily for those interested in learning either Ruby (along with Rails) or Elixir. The Ruby content in particular is very thorough and accessible, and should be perfect for those new to the language. The Elixir courses are a bit lower-level and assume more knowledge with back-end development in general—and in fact, I might even go so far as to recommend learning some Elixir and getting hands-on with it before doing one of Pragmatic’s courses to get the most out of them.

The main drawback to Pragmatic Studio that I’d cite is that it’s not really for those totally new to programming, as a lot of the content assumes strong familiarity with programming concepts. I’d recommend the platform for those who have a good foundation in another programming language to get the most out of it, whether that’s JavaScript, Python, or one of the object-oriented C-family languages (C++, C#, Java, etc).

Turing School (grade: N/A) | Turing School is a coding bootcamp local to Denver CO and is responsible for a number of graduates that have successfully moved on to working in developer positions around the local tech community. They teach a whole full stack of technologies, with HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and React on the front-end, and Ruby on Rails on the back-end.

Their entire curriculum is available online: Front-End / Back-End. Enough said? 😉