Thursday, February 13, 2014

Learning by Reading

There's so many websites coming out of nowhere interested in "disrupting" education by offering it for free / cheap on the internet: Udacity, Khan Academy, Treehouse, Codeacademy, etc, etc. I like the idea of learning in the internet, and I love how polished most of these courses are (especially Treehouse and Codeacademy). But there's one thing that keeps me from actually completing such courses: all of them are video-only: you have to watch through video after video - each being just a few minutes - then they interrupt you listening to the teacher and give you a - sometimes completely unnecessary ("what did I just tell you in the last 10 seconds?") - quiz to complete. Then you're off to watch two or more short videos again until the next quiz approaches.

I'm sure this technique works great for some people. I can imagine this works perfectly for people who are just starting in a specific area (e.g. computer science), but it doesn't work for me. It annoys me, it makes me feel unproductive and I end up quitting the course.

What I like to do is read about a topic as much as possible until I feel confident enough to start applying the technique / programming language / framework / whatever learned in a little project. However, watching through several videos and completing little quizzes feels like a waste of time to me...

Another problem, which is why I actually decided to write this post is that I want to learn things while I'm commuting. Watching a video doesn't work because I have to put my phone away every 5 minutes or so (not to speak of a lack of mobile clients for aforementioned education providers).
One thing I actually tried is listening to the videos only. That kind of works, but it's super hard to stay focused while you're on the go and you probably only catch half of the content in the end.

So to sum all that up / TLDR; why is there nothing like Udacity that allows me to learn things by reading shorter articles?

Of course there's books. A friend of mine told me about those things lately. The problem I have with books is that they are longer than they should be by design. Authors try to put as much information into a book as possible and try to phrase everything as lengthy as possible.