Online Course Attendance

Dave, January 1, 2021

First, and foremost, thanks for considering a course! In different times, we might be meeting here face-to-face in Chicago, but as we enter year three of the pandemic, it's all online. This page has a little information about how I offer courses online and what to expect.

General Overview

I have been teaching courses to small groups for more than 13 years, both as on-site corporate training and my open courses in Chicago. Before that, I spent 7 years teaching computer science courses as a university professor. In offering my courses online, my goal is to create an environment where you will be challenged and where you can interact with other participants. All courses are strictly limited to about 12 attendees. They are live-taught and assume your full involvement during the week (meaning approximately 40 hours of work). I do not operate a MOOC. Courses are not passive. Do not register for an online course unless you can fully commit time to it.

Questions and Answers

Q: How is a course delivered online?

A: Zoom is used for live presentation, screen sharing, demos, and voice interaction. Gitter is used for text-chat. All other interaction, including code review, debugging, Q&A, and other code-related issues take place through a shared private GitHub project. Everyone works independently, but out of the same project. This enables better code sharing and discussion.

Q: How is course time structured?

A: All of my courses involve coding projects. In a typical course, approximately one-third of the time is spent in live group discussion. The remaining time is spent on coding. These activities are spread out throughout the day. A typical day might involve 4-6 discussion periods intermixed with coding work.

Q: Are there official "presentations" like at a conference or in college?

A: Not really. As a general rule, I try to structure course material in a way that is more conversational and free-form. Although I will sometimes use prepared slides to help illustrate complicated concepts (i.e., to talk through an illustration or figure), I tend to prefer a mix of live-coding and group discussion over passive "watching." Much of the course discussion takes place in the context of the current coding problem--so instead of going through slides, we would review some part of the code being written and have a discussion centered around that. Topics may vary widely depending on the design choices and techniques used while coding. Every course is different--earlier discussion often impacts the topics of later discussion as the project evolves.

Q: Are sessions recorded?

A: Partially. I record all portions of the course where I am officially presenting material or guiding group discussion. However, significant portions of a class involve individual coding and project work. Those portions are not recorded. During work time, it is more common for group-interaction to utilize online "chat" instead. Just to give you an idea, in a recent online version of the Rafting Trip course, I recorded about 14 hours of video.

Q: How long do I have access to materials?

A: Each course has its own dedicated GitHub project that collects all work and materials. This project lives on indefinitely after a course has concluded. You can access it any time after the course is done. I can't promise that GitHub will exist for all eternity, but my intention is to preserve the course record so that you can look at it later.

Q: Do online courses also include in-person attendees?

A: No. An online course is only offered online.

Q: In what timezone are courses taught?

A: Courses are taught 9:30am-5:30pm in US Central Time (Chicago) with approximately an hour for lunch and a 20 minute afternoon coffee break.

Q: Can I take a course and work my regular job at the same time?

A:It depends--do you want to finish the course? If the answer is "yes", then the answer to this question should probably be "no." My courses are advanced and demand your attention. If you are attempting to multitask, you will likely fail. It highly recommended that you either ask your employer for time off or time for training and development.

Q: How long will you be offering courses online?

A: Although the pandemic prompted me to start offering courses online, I plan to continue offering online courses for the foreseeable future (even when I resume in-person teaching). I've had a positive experience with online courses over the last few years so I will continue to offer that as option.

Q: When do you foresee a return to in-person instruction?

A:At this time, it's very hard to say given the current state of things. However, when in-person courses do return, it will very likely be in the form of a "summer school." If I had to guess, the earliest date might be summer 2023.