Coding for Good

Can You Learn Programming Over the Internet?

Despite the high rate of unemployment, many tech companies are struggling to find qualified employees. In order to address this gap, Good Magazine and the Apollo Group created Coding for Good, a set of 16 coding tutorials in HTML, CSS, Javascript, Canvas and other programming languages.

Once you've completed all 16 lessons, you can submit a final project that shows off your new skills. Participants who submit the top three projects will be flown to Los Angeles, and may be hired to work for Good Magazine.

I recently spoke to James Taylor, who's a student/participant at Coding for Good, about his experiences there.

COLLEGE OPTIONAL CAREERS: How did you find out about Coding for Good?

JAMES TAYLOR: I had just left a job that I'd been working at for a year. I subscribe to Good Magazine's email updates, and I got an email from them about Coding for Good. Since I was looking for a job, this email caught me at the right time.

I come from a design background. Traditionally, desigining and programming were two different jobs. I'm seeing these two jobs coming together. Designers are more and more expected to code, while coders are more and more expected to design. In today's job marketplace, you need to be a media production ninja. Coding skills are not optional.

"In today's job marketplace, you need to be a media production ninja."

CC: How would you explain coding to someone who doesn't know anything about it?

JT: Coding is just knowing how to talk to a computer to get it to do what you want it to. You don't have to know everything about a coding language to know how to code. If you know how the programming language works, you can build on that to communicate with the computer, and create whatever you want.

CC: Is there a difference between coding and programming?

JT: Not really. Both coding and programming refer to same thing: writing a list of instructions for the computer to carry out.

CC: What do you hope to get out of the class?

JT: It would be really fun to work at Good magazine. I like their magazine, their infographics, and their basic values. I've also had many opportunities to talk to people at the magazine. Coding for Good has these weekly office hours for us to get familiar with the people who work there. They strike me as a great group of people. Even if I don't end up working for Good, I'll still have this skill set.

CC: How else do you think educators and employers can address the skills gap?

JT: I see two things happening. One, programming languages are becoming easier and easier for people to use. That encourages more people to hop into programming when they might otherwise be intimidated by it.

I'm also seeing coding taught at earlier and earlier levels at schooling. There are some really cool ways to get kids to learn programming. It's interesting to see it getting nice and simple.

Some of the tutorials offered through Coding for Good. Click here to read them.

CC: What advice do you have to someone interested in learning programming/coding, who isn't sure where to start?

JT: It's so easy to learn programming online. Find yourself a nice, good, solid set of tutorials, and work your way through those. I don't think I'll ever pay for another cent of education in programming. You can find so much of what you need on the internet. It's almost easier to learn it on the internet than in class.

When there's no grade attached to your performance, when you're in a class for your own personal benefit, it can be hard to stay motivated. If you're on your own, it's easy to get inspired by a whole new thing every single day.

Try to set up little, bite-sized challenges for yourself after you complete a tutorial. They're light, and they help you grow as a programmer. The challenge is creating these projects for yourself.

I recommend that you carve out a nice block of time, and focus on programming without distractions. Learning programming is like learning a foreign language. Sometimes, you have to get completely immersed in it.

You can learn more about Coding for Good at http://cfg.good.is.

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