The challenge with MOOCs and online learning

When it comes to software engineering and computer science, almost everything can be learnt online. Whether it be C++, Java, Scala, or algorithms, data structures, or even building REST APIs, there’s a 20 hour video course that shows you exactly how to do it.

In the early 2000s, I learnt programming by reading little and experimenting a lot, and that was the case for a lot of other kids in those nostalgic IRC channels. After reading an article teaching something interesting, I would dissect it for hours in my C++ editor.

Experimentation and concluding for yourself teaches you a lot more than passive acceptance of an MIT video. We could learn core concepts in an hour and spend 19 hours experimenting, but that doesn’t sell. People buy courses that have more hours of videos (especially on Udemy) because that’s supposedly more value for money. Time isn’t money after all.

Every person is unique and can contribute to the world in very unique ways. The next time that you take a HTML/CSS course, how much time do you spend creating your own layouts, as opposed to mindlessly recreating the ones from the course?