My Experience With Free Code Camp (so far)

I’m nearing completion of my front-end certification, which will put me roughly one-fifth of the way through the Free Code Camp full stack certification course. Today I thought I’d take a minute to talk about my experience so far.

The Full Stack Development Certification program offered through Free Code Camp is broken up into five sections:

  • Front End Development Certification
  • Data Visualization Certification
  • Back End Development Certification
  • Video Challenges
  • Full Stack Development Certification

Each section is broken up into many sub-sections, and each challenge builds on skills learned previously. Each section has an estimated time to complete, but if it seems like a sizable time investment at first glance know that most have found the estimates to be quite conservative. Of course any previous experience you’ve had in the subject will reduce the amount of time needed to complete these challenges, and some may struggle where others have no difficulty. I don’t compare my progress with others because nobody is really starting this from the same place.

Things I Like About Free Code Camp

First I want to say that I have never worked in any official capacity as a coder, so I can only guess at what that kind of work environment would be like. That being said, one of the things I like most about this course is that I’m given a task with a few hints on how to proceed, then left to research a solution on my own. I feel this is similar to a real world situation where I would not have someone holding my hand, and encourages me to learn how to find solutions rather than have them fed to me. This seems to be exactly what the course designers intended. Included in the instructions of most challenges is a reminder to “Read-Search-Ask”. This method of self-help really speaks to me.

To facilitate the “Ask” portion, there are dedicated chat rooms for getting help and I’ve found that not only are the chat rooms well populated, but everyone seems to be really helpful. Also I’ve found the sub-Reddit for Free Code Camp sees a lot of activity and has some really great people.

Things I Wish I Had Figured Out Much Sooner

In many of the challenges they make mention of checking your output on the console. This is excellent advice that I use for every challenge. However, they do not tell you exactly how to go about this. Perhaps it’s self-evident or common knowledge they expect everyone to have, but this is one thing I had to figure out for myself. On the off-chance any of you who are reading this do not know what I’m talking about, first I suggest using the Chrome web browser. Then, press ctrl+shift+j to open the developer’s console. When working on the challenges, adding:

console.log(whateverYouWantToPassToTheConsole);

Will allow you to see the values of variables, outcome of functions, etc. as your code executes.

What I Don’t Like

Sometimes, I just get stuck. I Google. I ask in chat. I pour over similar problems on Stack Overflow, and yet I remain stuck. The nature of the internet, and the sheer number of people who have done this course, means that there are solutions to every challenge in this course posted somewhere. This in and of itself is not a bad thing. However, the temptation to just copy someone else’s solution and go on with my day is very real. Knowing that I’ll have missed out on understanding a key concept has so far kept me from submitting answers without understanding the solution, but the temptation is there.

I figure I’m about 30 days away from completing the Front End Development Certification, assuming nothing really jams me up. I’m not in a hurry and I’d like to retain as much as possible through this process. I’m really looking forward to seeing the quality of my projects improve as I advace through the course.

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