Online Learning Avenues for Students of Computer Science and Programming

Studying Computer Science in College

In college, you usually have a lot of free time to do extra stuff.

You can choose between many things – like pitting your wits against friends while playing an exciting network game, or spending hours on Facebook.

How about using that time to gain the edge over your peers in terms of technical skills?

Here’s what I've found useful:

vWorker

vWorker used to be an excellent site to practise your skills and earn some bucks at the same time. As a student, I've picked up projects from vWorker.com related to my course content and benefited greatly.

vWorker has been acquired by Freelancer.com, which itself has had a decent reputation, though the rules are stricter.

Another similar site is oDesk.

I would advise you to avoid big risks on these sites – you don’t want to gain a bad reputation on there.

Online Course Sites

Use the MIT OpenCourseWare and IIT NPTEL to complement your ongoing classes. It works great if you study in advance yourself before content is taught in class – you come better prepared for newer lessons.

A revolutionary trend in online education today is the massive open online course (MOOC) where the learners and course content are spread across the globe. These courses can take you very close to the real deal of enrolling as regular students at the world's leading universities.

In the MOOC category, Coursera offers courses with assignments that need to be submitted before particular dates – this should be more effective if you need some help getting organized.

Another amazing option is edX, a collaboration between MIT, Harvard and UC Berkeley.

Yet another option called Udacity promises to bring world-class education at your fingertips.

If you're looking for courses and would like to choose from several universities at once, the Open Education Database's search feature will come in handy.

Online Discussions

This is an excellent place for many things: teaching others, learning from others, bridging the gap between college and the industry, and vastly improving your written communication skills.

For full fledged online discussions, Usenet forums are the best. To access Usenet, get a newsreader like Thunderbird, and configure it to use the nntp.aioe.org news server. Next, subscribe to the newsgroups of your interest. Note that you can also access and make posts using Google Groups, but that’s usually not recommended, because of the amount of spam that originates from there.

Listed below are some of the more active newsgroups, along with links to their Google Groups online interfaces:

If it’s a technology that’s driven by a particular company, like ASP.NET by Microsoft, the official forums might be more active than Usenet.

For discussions that are more to the point and Question-Answer oriented, StackOverflow and its sister sites on the network of StackExchange sites are unmatched!

Blogging

Blog about what you learn. Blog your troubleshooting steps in solving a tough problem. Once you blog, you will learn how to express yourself better, and will improve your writing skills! Once you get a good following, you could try your luck with some advertising methods and make some money too!

Look out for programming contests

If you think you’re an excellent and fast programmer, you could definitely try your hand at contests such as Google’s Code Jam contest, among others. Alternatively, you could try some of the easier ones which are technology related but don’t really need hardcore (and fast!) programming skills.

Look for contests that actually utilize your skills – not those that only require you to share, like, +1, tweet and pin.

Here’s a quick summary of the options, with their pros and cons:

Learning Opportunity Pros Cons
vWorker
  • You can definitely earn a sizeable sum of pocket money!
  • If you’re lucky, you can directly get hired from here for lucrative projects.
Sometimes it can get a bit unethical – especially when you do someone’s homework in its entirety and get paid for it!
Self-paced Online Courses You have access to the study material from the world’s best colleges. Self-motivation can become a big problem
Instructor-paced Online Courses
  • You can obtain study material from the world’s best colleges.
  • In some cases, interaction with the teachers is facilitated.
  • Self-motivation is a slightly lesser problem here, since you have deadlines to meet.
Sticking to the routine may not be easy, and requires will power!
Usenet You get to interact with some brilliant, purist programmers from around the world. Sometimes, discussions erupt into angry flame wars.
StackOverflow
  • You get to interact with brilliant programmers from around the world.
  • The reputation system is an excellent motivational tool.
  • StackExchange often conducts contests, with amazing prizes to be won (they even give away iPads!)
  • Unfortunately, old topics usually have very less activity.
  • Discussions are discouraged - this can be a drawback for some topics.
Blogging
  • Blogging is a great way to share your knowledge globally, and learn from knowledgeable visitors who'd leave comments on your site.
  • You get to improve your writing skills.
  • You can monetize your blog by putting up ads, if you have sufficiently high traffic.
Self-motivation is a problem if you don’t love writing :)
Programming Contests Great way to win free stuff and get your name heard! Can get tough if you’re not too fast, for contests that demand speed!

Happy Studying!



Comments

Impressive and useful links and info for students who are in college. Selecting any one area and becoming the best in it will really help them to become a great successful entrepreneur one day than being an employee in their whole life. Sharing it :)

Robin.

By Robin

"You can choose between many things – like pitting your wits against your friends while playing an exciting network game, or spending hours on Facebook."

- yeah of course and i do love studying computer science.. This is so cool and awesome.

grade 12

By franchescaolsen

I am a graduate of Computer Science. In my studies, I never selected the field that I love and I want to focus, maybe that's why in the whole time I never succeed in any of them because it was too much to handle. Selecting one area that you like most is really the best thing to do.... to master it and be an expert of that field.

I'll surely share this with my friends. Thanks

Yours truly from Network Installation Service Bucks

By Fred James

Apart from the ones you have mentioned, there are other websites which help anyone learn programming.
CodeAcademy, LearnStreet, CodeSchool, TryRuby and Hackety-Hack are few of such sites that come to mind.

-Classof1

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