Are you finally ready to take up a learning challenge and get some programming skills added to your resume?
Chances are, you may have already been on this path before and found it difficult to reach the set goals. The reasons could be many. Some people simply can not keep up, some — lose motivation, and others find it overwhelming with all the bits and pieces of programming tutorials and information scattered across the internet.
It is always going to be a challenge when you start studying a new subject. But as with any skill honing practice, you can make learning a programming language easier with good preparation and a detailed plan.
If you want to learn to program, you have to make a plan and stick with it. Here we can show you how.
It’s quite straightforward. Let’s find out how to create a clear learning plan for your programming journey that will help you set realistic goals, compare your progress within the time to understand how far you’ve come, and apply practical skills.
Since I’m a tutor in Java, I’ll give you some examples and advice specifically regarding this language. But by analogy, you can draw up a similar plan for any programming language.
Here are some of the benefits of having a learning plan summarised:
Break down a large task into smaller ones. For example:
- learn the general syntax of the language;
- understand classes, objects, and exception handling;
- learn to work with files and I / O streams;
- master multithreading,
- get acquainted with collections;
- learn the basics of web development,
- learn popular frameworks, like Spring and Hibernate, etc..
Create a convenient schedule. For instance:
- every day for 4 hours;
- 2 hours on weekdays and 6 hours on weekends;
- only on weekends, or only on weekdays.
Track progress. You have to track your progress during the studies and compare it with the planned milestones to understand whether you need to strengthen the training schedule or add new topics to your plan.
Summarizing what all was said in this small chapter lets us get down to actually writing a plan. Make it simple and highlight the key aspects and benefits you seek from your learning process.
Are you planning to make programming part of your profession? If so, allocate at least 3–4 hours (on weekdays) for daily training. Thus, in about 3–6 months you will grow to the level of a Junior developer.
Break the learning process into several stages. For example:
- installing the JDK (Java Development Kit) from the Oracle site and IDE (IntelliJ IDEA, Eclipse, or NetBeans);
- learning Java syntax;
- learning Java OOP;
- learning Java Collections;
- studying popular libraries and frameworks;
- learning commonly used APIs (e.g. servlets, JSP, JDBC, JUnit);
- mastering Git, etc.
Try to stick to this plan and find a “golden mean” between theory and practice.
It is important to understand that programming is a practical activity. Many people compare it with the learning of a foreign language. However, it would be more correct to compare it with any sport, for example, swimming, hockey, or tennis. After all, you will not study hockey or tennis from books? Same here, theory alone is not enough. Only daily practice will help you achieve results.
You can learn Java or any other programming language using the well-known Pareto principle (the 80/20 rule), where 20% is theory and 80% is practice. This is not an exaggeration. Learning to program and developing the skills you need takes 4 times more real practice than reading textbooks or watching lectures.
However, there is also a trap here: it’s not always easy for beginners to come up with tasks according to their level and adequately check the correctness and the optimality of the solution. Therefore, it is best to find either a mentor or a course with an emphasis on practice and feedback.
Your goals have to be accessible and trackable otherwise it’s hard to follow the development of your study.
Let’s be honest, offline courses or training with individual tutors are very useful, helping you to set the goals and trace the progress. Usually, they last a certain time, for example, six months, and you know that if you study hard enough, for example, the basics of Core Java you will create a small real-life-based project at the end of the track.
If you are studying on an online course with individual tempo, it is more difficult to understand how much time it takes to study, although it is also possible.
From my experience, I can tell that one course can take from six months to a year. If you are sufficiently motivated it might be done even faster: within three months.
As a tutor, I’ll tell you that even a busy person can decently learn Core Java in a year. And if you are determined to find a new job, allocate another six months, to grasp a few advanced technologies.
Check a vacancies site to understand the additional demands for the position you are interested in. In parallel, you can work out questions for interviews.
Now, when you understand your goals and the time you need to achieve them, let’s move forward, start to monitor the progress.
For instance, you can do the following:
- Set weekly and monthly goals. It is better to make them easily reachable rather than upset yourself by getting behind.
- Analyze the result after the important chapter ends. Write down what exactly was achieved. Ask yourself what went well and should be replicated. Ask yourself what should be improved in the next period, and how.
There are many effective sources you can choose from. Go for multiple platforms for learning, communication, and practice.
Here are some ways you can evaluate any course, be it an online class or a programming book so that you know that you get both a good theoretical foundation along with enough room for practice.
- Read reviews of the book or the online course
- Get references from peers
- Research using online forums, discussion groups to find which books or courses are good
- Make sure the course curriculum is directed towards your particular learning goals. A good course structure is a logical learning path with well-defined subparts and tasks that helps you track your learning progress
The next thing to consider is who are you learning from? Pay attention to the credibility of the course creators and choose creators who are actual programmers and do have the expertise as they claim. Read the reviews, credibility of the certificates given out on completion of the course.
Additionally, you can look out for the availability of a mobile app for an online course and in-built code validators to help you quickly get your hands-on coding.
Here are some high-quality online learning platforms that you can check out to get started with programming courses.
CodeGym is an online learning gamified course that specializes in Java programming for beginners. It helps learners to practice the Java language offering over 1200 coding tasks in different levels of difficulty.
CodeGym covers all Core Java topics and even more. You’ll learn the basics of the language, OOP, multithreading, and collections. By solving the tasks, you will quickly move towards the implementation of real-life tasks, such as simple video games or a restaurant emulator.
There is a built-in validator that checks solutions. If there is something wrong with the solution, the validator sends tips due to help.
This course boasts over 1000 hours of best quality programming videos for everyone from beginners to experts looking to learn a language from scratch or expand their knowledge.
You can try out the 7-day trial, along with clear sections outlining the time you must follow to avoid wasting time. This approach helps a lot to plan tasks and track results.
As a beginner without prior knowledge of programming, you will learn the basic structure of Java, console programming, and will get basic tips for creating, reading, and updating the data.
In addition, the level of each milestone of the course is indicated, from beginner or basic to intermediate and finally to advanced.
This is one of the world’s most popular MOOC-based online learning providers. Udacity was born out of an experiment at Stanford University in which Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig offered their online course Introducing Artificial Intelligence to everyone free of charge.
Now the purpose of the platform is to help beginners improve their skills and move up the career ladder. The platform catalog has over 200 courses including data science, cloud data, programming languages including Java, and more.
Therefore, everyone who wants to improve their knowledge and skills can choose among several training options: free and paid courses. The latter have much wider functionality, there is support for tutors, certificates that you can add to your CV.
Codecademy is an interactive online platform that offers courses in 14 different programming languages, including Java. As well as other areas, including web development, computer science, and data science, internal programming.
The platform has a convenient web-based IDE where you can write code and immediately test it, a section with useful life hacks for completing the task, and a section of frequently asked questions.
Students can choose the most optimal way of teaching from the three suggested. This can be a free course, Codecademy Pro, and Codecademy Intensive. For beginners who are just getting acquainted with the field of IT, basic courses will be enough, but if you want to get additional programs, take tests, pay attention to two paid tariffs.
After completing the course, students can complete simple, hands-on activities such as creating a simple app, for example, your own clone of a classical video game (such as Arkanoid or Space Invaders).
Sometimes you may need more information than what your programming book or online course material could give you. It is always possible to google a specific question, but it is better to have several trustworthy additional resources to get more information. So that is what experts in the field highly recommend doing:
- First of all, don’t forget to check Java documentation as it is the basis of this programming language. It’s always good to dig to the core of the language.
- Use books, YouTube videos (Derek Banas, ProgrammingKnowledge, thenewboston) tutorials (Tutorial Teachers, TutsPlus, Learn JS),blogs (Softwarehow, SitePoint, David Walsh)
- Use any opportunity to master your practical experience after learning each theory chapter. It can be online exercises, games, and even contests for aspiring programmers.
One of the biggest mistakes newcomers make is trying to handle all programming difficulties on their own. So, don’t hesitate to turn for help from more experienced fellow programmers. Here are some communities that you can join and get a lot of useful tips and recommendations:
- Stack Overflow: this forum was founded in 2008. At this moment it has over 50 million users. You have to log in, ask questions, and there will be some advanced users able to help.
- Reddit: this platform proposes various communication from users over the world.
- Coderanch: This one is good for both beginners and advanced users. If you are a newbie, you can even learn Java here. Also, the Topics section has articles on coding.
- HackerNews: on this forum, you can find the news about cybersecurity and hacking.
- freeCodeCamp: this source to learn coding for free, along with videos, news, and interactive classes.
Such communities also let you find a huge deal of coding resources, libraries, extensive open-source projects, and more where you can also contribute and share your experiences.
Programming is a long journey, and there will be something new to learn every new day. It can be challenging and rewarding at the same time. Do not hesitate to take the first step. Just focus on your everyday goals, and as you complete the things in front of you today, tomorrow, and the day after, you will soon be happy seeing the results and the growth you have had.
First published on JavaRevisited.