Learn Something New

One of the things I wanted to do before I retired, was to do some courses on subjects I was interested in. All my life, since I was in kindergarten, someone else chose what I needed to learn. Even when I did my undergraduate degree, I chose the course but what I did was set out in the outline when I signed on and I followed the schedule all the way through the course. But in retirement, I get to choose my own courses and can do whatever I like!

Lots of Free Courses

So it was surprising to me to discover there are a whole lot of courses up to university level which you can do online for nothing! Whatever your heart desire can usually be found online. There are courses on Psychology, English language, History, Health and Medicine, Music and design and lots of other subjects.  Most of these courses are free.

My uni course major was computing so I thought I’d do a course on writing software for the iPad and iPhone. The newspapers and TV make it sound as if kids in school can write this sort of code so I figures that it cant be too hard. After all they talk about 12 year old kids selling apps so why can’t a retired bloke do it? And since the development software was available from Apple for nothing it seemed like the way to go.

Find a Course.

To find the course in the beginning, I used iTunesU which is no longer available. However you can go to Edx.org and find the same thing. There are hundreds of options and lots of courses at various levels available. Many courses are from Universities in America but there are many other courses from Australian sources.

Following the links, I found a course called “Developing iOS Apps” (that means writing software for the iPhone.)  It was from Stanford Uni so it should have credibility. There are actually several courses there, but choosing the latest one is always best – especially in software development.

Prerequisites.

The lectures were easily downloadable and consisted of a video of the lecturer Paul Hegarty delivering the lecture and some online notes and slides to help you follow what is going on. The prerequisite for the course was another course on basic computing but I figured out I was well passed basic computing and so I went straight to lecture 1.

Starting out

From the beginning it was interesting and not at all what I expected. The first lecture was about a particular structure MVP – used in this style of programming. I’d never heard of MVP before but I’m up for most things and it all seemed to make sense.  There was a reading assignment after lecture 1 but I found it terribly boring so like what I did in my previous degree, I skim read the pages. I don’t recommend this approach as you really need this foundation level information later in the course!

Lecture 2

Lecture 2 follows on from lecture one and consisted of a demonstration of what lecture one was about using the Swift language tools. At the end of lecture 2 you are given a project to write a calculator app. As I went through the lecture I was able to mimic the lecturer and what he had on his computer screen.  This is the advantage of online learning. You can stop, have a cup of tea, rewind, pause and then continue as you see fit.

The Assignment.

I tried writing the calculator code and succeeded to a point but I never got the clear button to work the way I thought it should.  But the calculator code was never going  to break any ground anyway because it used reverse polish entry and you can buy a real calculator program where the clear button does work for $1!

Lecture 3 was helpful in getting the calculator code cleaned up and working well and answered some of the questions I had with the code I was writing.  And then I discovered the problem with online courses – you can’t ask questions! But I have to say in hindsight, I’m thankful I never asked the questions I had, because judging by the questions other students asked, I would have looked foolish. Those students were really turned on and asked questions I could barely understand!

The Difficulties.

I have to say I enjoyed the course up to this point but from here on, it got quite difficult.  Some of that was the language used.  They have mutable and immutable arrays these days instead of constants and variable that I was used to and I was forever stopping the lecture to work out which one you can change, which one you can’t change and how that fitted into the code he was talking about. So surprise surprise it seems the world of computing has changed since I did my previous degree 30 years ago. My Cobol skills don’t count anymore. In fact I think I need to start again with the basic computer course and proceed slowly and read the set material with a bit more intent. So I have put off completing the course till I get around to it again. In the meanwhile I did a few other courses on topics as diverse as chemistry, the Bible in Christianity and Judaism, writing material for the internet and public speaking.

So why not give it a go?  Find a courses on iTunesU, and go for it.  You might just learn something!

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