reading and tinkering

Udacity Frontend Nanodegree - Jan '15

Notes of a student.

Project 1: Mockup to Website

Notes | Demo | Repo

Project 2: Interactive Résumé

Notes | Demo | Repo

Project 3: Classic Arcade Game Clone

Notes | Demo | Repo

Project 4: Website Optimization

Notes | Demo | Repo

Project 5: Neighborhood Map

Notes | Demo | Repo

Project 6: JavaScript Testing

Notes | Demo | Repo

Conclusions - Aug '15

Why did I take this course?

My personal reasons aren't really relevant, in short to prevent the mind from atrophying while I had nothing better to do. I'd always been curious about programming but wasn't able to just pick it up naturally and I knew I would need a structured approach to make any headway. It is only useful to point out that I didn't do this course with a view to gaining employment, improving my C.V., getting a promotion etc. as I'm pretty much retired at this point.

The Good

The Udacity people. They are an energetic team with a belief in their vision. Everything else falls into place after that. Evidenced by continual improvements and tweaks. Every week there are new improvements to the experience that are sometimes subtle but really serve to show they are paying attention to the little things and care about what they are doing.

The 50% back for completion was a stroke of genius. Even though I totally slowed down to half-pace once that came in. It leaves an extra nice taste in the mouth. I don't know if I can take another course, if I can't get that offer again!

The Bad

The constant pushing of career stuff. I know they need to sell their product, but you'd hope that once you're on a course that they'd be done? Nope, now they want you to work for them by advertising them all over github, facebook, twitter, linkedin.

They're trying to build a community, but it's just not working yet. One thing that made me (and probably a few other beginners) feel intimidated was that many people were already skilled up and only taking the course to get the certification. This meant they could complete it in triple-time and left the rest of us feeling a bit slow. It also didn't help that these are exactly the type that liked introducing themselves on the forums and listing their experience, I think it put newbs off. I tried to participate, occasionally, usually when I was procrastinating about doing project work though.

The Ugly (or The MTurks and the Case of the Contractor Economy)

It turns out everything not done by Udacity was weak. And this includes a few of the courses. If Udacity staff had made those courses, even if they started out weak, they would have gotten stronger every day. You can't get continuous improvement with a product you've bought from a contractor. I'm sure they will replace them with their own courses over time. They'll have to, to keep up with front-end development anyway.

The other big, big problem was the project feedback. This is what we're paying for and for this reason it needs to be done right. It shouldn't be outsourced. Crazy. It's killing the experience because it can make the whole thing feel like a scam. It's true this feeling is in-part caused by the fact that the courses are free, so all the focus gets shifted to the feedback. They need to keep the courses free, but they also need to solve this problem.

There was one exception to all this, a thing that came direct from Udacity, but also felt like a robot was trying fake a friendship, and that was the regular emails that get sent out.

In summary

Thoroughly enjoyable experience. Really glad to have done it. Would recommend it to anyone, but I would definitely make sure they were fully aware that there are many rough edges. Maybe all 'college' educations are like this, maybe this is way better than them, I wouldn't know, not being edumacated myself.