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Online Learning Tips and Tricks

In my role I spend a lot of time teaching myself new technologies, as we all do. Over the years I've discovered that while everyone has a different learning strategy that works for them, there are a few general patterns that are often helpful. This can apply to following tutorials, reading docs to get you started, or really anything in between. Best of luck!

Use the simplest type of data at the start

Sticky note with the word simple

Don't introduce additional complexities when you're looking at a piece of syntax or a new tool for the first time. Focus on getting it working and understanding what is happening. The simplest way to do this is to avoid introducing any complexities related to the data itself. Start with a simple string, or an object, it will depend on what you're working on. You can iterate to the more complicated use case (that likely mirrors what you're actually attempting to do).

Test at every step to stay on track

Children's wooden building blocks

One of the worst parts about programming is encountering an error that you don't know the source of. It's easier to narrow down when you already know what you're working on. When you're learning, it's better to move forward with implementation in small chunks. After each small chunk that will compile you test and look for errors. That way it's easier to find the source of that new error you just triggered.

Don't mimic!

I Love Lucy mimic scene

This is the one that gets most people, because tutorials seem to imply otherwise. It's wonderful to follow along with a pre-determined set of instructions. However, when you do that you aren't engaging your thinking/connection making brain, you're mimicking. You can break out of this pattern by changing variable names or data in order to force yourself to engage with the concepts and take a lateral step away from the walk through.

There are so many other online learning recommendations that can be made. I encourage you to share yours in the comments!

Top comments (3)

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Scott Simontis

Simplicity gets me every time. I'll decide to code something and next thing I know, I'm several hours into trying to script out a build environment in Docker for all the code I haven't actually written yet...being realistic is really difficult for me!