Coding Schools and the Learning Process

There are three essential ways to begin a career as a developer. The first is to get a college degree in the subject, which is normally a Bachelor of Computer Science or a Bachelor of Information Technology (amongst other degrees). The second is to teach yourself the trade, which means spending a lot of time with books and in front of your screen working through online tutorials. The third is a new option, coding school. The third option has become extremely popular due to limitations in the first two techniques.

The cost of a college education has continued to skyrocket over the past few decades until it has started to elude the grasp of more than a few people. I’ve read estimates that a college degree now costs between $20,000 and $100,000 in various places. How much you actually pay depends on the school, your personal needs, and the electives you choose. The point is that many people are looking for something less expensive.

A college education also requires a large investment in time. A four year degree may require five or six years to actually complete because most people have to work while they’re going to school. A degree is only four years when you can go full time and apply yourself fully. Someone who is out of work today and needs a job immediately can’t wait for five or six years to get a job.

Teaching yourself is a time-honored method of obtaining new skills. I’ve personally taught myself a considerable number of skills. However, I’m also not trying to market those skills to someone else. My self-taught skills usually come in the areas of crafting or self-sufficiency (or sometimes a new programming language). The problem with being self-taught is that you have no independent assessment of your skills and most employers can’t take time to test them. An employer needs someone with a proven set of skills. Consequently, self-teaching is extremely useful for learning new hobbies or adding to existing (proven) skills, but almost valueless when getting a new job. In addition, few people are actually motivated enough to learn a new skill completely (at the same level as a college graduate) on their own.

Coding schools overcome the problem with self-teaching because they offer proof of your skills and ensure you get a consistent level of training. You get the required sheepskin to show to employers. They also address deficiencies in the college approach. The time factor is favorable because most of these schools promise to teach you basic development skills in three months (compared to the five or six years required by a college). In addition, the cost is significantly less (between $6,000 and $18,000). So, it would seem that going to a coding school is the optimum choice.

Recently people have begun to question the ability of coding schools to fulfill the promises they make. It’s important to consider what a coding school is offering before you go to one. The schools vary greatly in what they offer (you can see reviews of three popular code schools at However, there are similarities between schools. A coding school teaches you the bare basics of a language. You don’t gain the sort of experience that a college graduate would have. In addition, coding schools don’t teach such concepts as application design or how to work in a team environment. You don’t learn the low-level concepts of how application development works. I don’t know if building a compiler is still part of the curriculum at colleges, but it was one of my more important learning experiences because I gained insights into how my code actually ended up turning switches on and off within the chips housed in the computer.

I see coding schools as fulfilling an important role—helping those who do have programming skills to build competence in a new language quickly. In addition, a coding school could provide an entry point for someone who thinks they may want a computer science degree, but isn’t certain. Spending a short time in a coding school is better than spending a year or two in college and only then finding out that computer science isn’t what the person wants. Coding schools could also help people who need to know how to write simple applications as part of another occupation. For example, a researcher could learn the basic skills require to write simple applications to aid in their main occupation.

People learn in different ways. It’s the lesson that readers keep driving home to me. Some people learn with hands on exercises, some by reading, and still others by researching on their own. Coding schools can fulfill an important role in teaching computer science, but they’re not even close to a complete solution. In order to get the full story about computer science, a student must be willing to invest the required time. Until we discover some method for simply pouring information into the minds of people, the time-consuming approach to learning must continue as it has for thousands of year. There really aren’t any shortcuts when it comes to learning. Let me know your thoughts about coding schools at


Beta Readers Needed for MATLAB for Dummies

Math is the basis for a good many human endeavors and we often use it without thinking about it. For example, when you go to the store to buy groceries, the clerk who checks you out relies on math to compute how much you owe. Perhaps you also used math as you shopped to ensure that you didn’t go over your budget. In addition, you might have used math to convert one unit of measure to another so that you’d know how much of a particular item to get. In looking at two similar products, you used math to decide which one offered a better deal. You get the idea. It truly isn’t possible to perform even the simplest task without using math in some way.

As the use of math for performing a task becomes more complex, so does the need for precision, accuracy, and an understanding of how math works. MATLAB is a product designed to help people perform complex math tasks more efficiently, accurately, and with less effort. In addition, you obtain a level of precision that only a computer can provide consistently. However, MATLAB itself is somewhat complex, which is why I’m writing MATLAB for Dummies with my coauthor Jim Sizemore (The Fun Physicist who has extensive MATLAB experience). The two of us want to make your MATLAB experience fun and interesting. With this in mind, we’ve put together the following outline:


  • Part I: Getting Started With MATLAB
    • Chapter 1: Introducing MATLAB and its Many Uses
    • Chapter 2: Starting Your Copy of MATLAB
    • Chapter 3: Interacting with MATLAB
    • Chapter 4: Starting, Storing, and Saving MATLAB Files
  • Part II: Manipulating and Plotting Data in MATLAB
    • Chapter 5: Embracing Vectors, Matrices, and Higher Dimensions
    • Chapter 6: Understanding Plotting Basics
    • Chapter 7: Using Advanced Plotting Features
  • Part III: Streamlining MATLAB
    • Chapter 8: Automating Your Work
    • Chapter 9: Expanding MATLAB’s Power with Functions
    • Chapter 10: Adding Structure to Your Scripts
  • Part IV: Employing Advanced MATLAB Techniques
    • Chapter 11: Importing and Exporting Data
    • Chapter 12: Printing and Publishing Your Work
    • Chapter 13: Recovering from Mistakes
  • Part V: Specific MATLAB Applications
    • Chapter 14: Solving Equations and Finding Roots
    • Chapter 15: Performing Analysis
    • Chapter 16: Creating Super Plots
  • Part VI: Part of Tens
    • Chapter 17: Top Ten Uses of MATLAB
    • Chapter 18: Ten Ways to Make a Living Using MATLAB
  • Appendix A: MATLAB’s Functions
  • Appendix B: MATLAB’s Plotting Routines
  • Appendix C: Geometry, Pre-calculus, and Trigonometry Review

As you can see, this book is going to give you a good start in using all the functionality that MATLAB has to offer. Because of the subject matter, I really want to avoid making any errors in book, which is where you come into play. I’m looking for beta readers who use math as part of their profession and think they might be able to benefit from the functionality that MATLAB provides. As a beta reader, you get to see the material as Jim and I write it. Your comments will help us improve the text and make it easier to use.

In consideration of your time and effort, your name will appear in the Acknowledgements (unless you specifically request that we not provide it). You also get to read the book free of charge. Being a beta reader is both fun and educational. If you have any interest in reviewing this book, please contact me at and will fill in all the details for you.