Do you have a manual QA team that needs
Make Use of (Almost) Free Knowledge!
I am constantly amazed by just how many people in our industry are not aware of all of the valuable resources at their fingertips (literally). Google and YouTube can provide you with instant answers and demonstrations, but if you’d like a deeper understanding of tools and languages, I recommend (sometimes) free, online classes. I first delved into this arena with Lynda.com when I wanted to take some basic refresher classes. I love this site and still have about 2-3 active classes in progress at any given time. I have found that I need multiple teaching methods to get lessons through my thick skull. Sometimes I find myself not quite grasping a concept. I sometimes watch a video over and over, but something might not quite click. In my search to enhance the subject, I stumbled on even more course offerings in many different formats. It turns out there is a whole online course world where you can spend your time chasing your technological fountain of youth. Let’s categorize them into
- Subscription-Based - pay a monthly or yearly fee and have unlimited access to all courses
- One-Time Charge - buy a course or a series of courses
- Classroom-Based - free online courses based on actual college degrees
- Free Online - anything from tutorials to videos and free curriculum
Lynda was my first love, so I’ll start with subscription-based programs. I’ve used Lynda for everything from GitHub, Java, and Ruby, to something as simple as navigating my new
If you don’t know what a MOOC is, Google it. I work for an educational software company, so when I first heard of MOOCs, I was intrigued. Schools like UVA, Rice, and even MIT contribute FREE classes online. I had to see what this was about, and discovered Coursera. I enrolled in a 12-week, two-part Python class on how to write video games. (How cool is that?) I soon discovered that unlike Lynda, the course required a true commitment. The courses are paced just like a college course (in fact, they are college courses designed for the forum). There were six videos per week, two groups of online practice exercises, two quizzes graded from the automatic grading system, and a weekly program submission. Submissions have deadlines, and points are deducted for assignments turned in late. And In order to receive credit for the submission (on-time or
Free! (Seriously Free!)
Last, but definitely not least, are the free websites. And most tools come with free, online tutorials. If you are like me, you need to enhance them and don’t really want to spend more money. So where is the first place you look? YouTube of course! I’ve watched many a session on YouTube, usually recordings of seminars and the like. I’ve discovered full video tracks of actual college classes, such as Berkeley’s CS162 Operating Systems. Another free, but completely different course package is called Code Academy. This offering contains a limited but expanding number of courses such as Ruby and Python. As you work your way through each chapter, you use their code generator to complete exercises, navigating to the next chapter upon successful completion.
This chart provides a representation of the courses I’ve taken. It should be noted that each course may have its own format and that these curriculums are constantly evolving.
|Name||Cost||Format||User Community Support||Pace|
|Code Academy||Free||Mix of examples and languages||Wiki||Self|
|Coursera||Free||Online college courses||Discussion board and teaching assistants||Time-enforced|
|Udacity||$150/200 month||Online videos with quizzes and projects||One-on-one coaching, facilitated peer support||Time-inspired|
|Code School||$29/month||Focused curriculum of video based courses||Community forum, wiki||Self|
|Lynda||$25/month||Series of videos per course||None||Self|
|Tree House||$25 - $49/month||Focused curriculum of video- based courses||Community forum, wiki||Self|
|Udemy||Per course package||Series of videos per course||Depends on class: community forum||Self|
Just Do It!
Listen to Nike! Get yourself and your teams up to speed. The more you explore, the more you will discover. I literally discovered yet another subscription-based program called Linux Academy as I wrapped up this article! Lack of available talent should never deter a team from becoming a tech-savvy unit.
Joe Nolan is the Mobile QA team lead at Blackboard. He has over 10 years experience leading