The modern world is pretty darn cool. Between hoverboards (that don't technically hover) and an app that sends someone else to clean up after your dog, it’s sometimes hard to accept that despite all this technology designed to make things easy and painless, some things in life are still difficult. Technology may have made the process of learning easier by changing how we access and consume education, but it hasn't made the actual learning any easier.
In fact, some might say that learning online can magnify many of these challenges. So we spent some time chatting with a handful of our most successful students in the Launch Academy online program to learn more about the challenges they faced and how they pushed through. Throughout the conversations, a few challenges came up again and again. Over the next few weeks, we'll outline the major hurdles in online learning, how to leap over them, and the silver lining that comes with each successful leap.
Imagine an old man throwing down some wisdom, saying something like, "Nothing worth anything in life comes without hard work and a little elbow grease." While we don't have a sage elder on staff to confirm the universal application of that statement, we can confirm that, in the context of learning to code, it's totally correct.
Learning a new skill is rough, and you will run into problems regularly. But when it comes to learning, here's something you have to know: When you hit a bump in the road, that bump is most likely supposed to be there. Yup—those frustrating moments are almost always by design. Not every answer will be at your fingertips, and that’s done on purpose.
Let's explain with a cooking metaphor. Say you’ve gone to cooking classes, and you’ve cooked a lot of food in the past. You've just gone out to eat and had an amazing new dish. It rocked your world. You need to make it at home. You ask the chef about it, but she gives you the runaround, so your only option is to figure out how to make it—sans recipe. It takes a bit of experimenting and maybe some Googling, but eventually you nail it, even without the recipe. How? Because you have all the educational tools, experience, and background in place that makes a logical guess that much easier. The same idea holds true when learning to code.
At the risk of getting all high-brow tweed-jacket on you, this is common in most forms of higher education (not just the Launch Academy curriculum). Many education institutions believe in giving you only the essentials you need to succeed and nothing more. That means that while they'll equip you with all the right tools to solve the problem, you have to be the one to figure out how to apply those tools to solve it.
It isn’t just because they like watching you sweat; this method genuinely strives to teach you something. When you need to apply what you’ve learned in the real world, you can't just raise your hand and ask someone for the right answer. (Ugh, so annoying.) So whether you're learning in a traditional university or at an online coding bootcamp that has a cleverly hidden rocket in their logo, be prepared to solve your own problems. When the going gets tough, just remember it's probably by design.
But it's hard to take comfort in some pseudo-academic philosophy when you're actually experiencing it. Luckily, there are some steps you can take to make your life easier.
Ask a million questions. No, seriously—one million. Knowing more is often the first step to being a better problem solver. Think creatively. Is your initial approach not working? In what other ways could you approach this same problem? If you're still stuck, you're probably not the only one. Time to ask your question publicly and use your instructors and classmates as resources. They are the uncovered gems of online learning.
Pure knowledge is only the first step. The second (and more important) step in problem solving is developing and maintaining good habits that result from the questions you ask. Good habits are formed when you're in the midst of the learning process, so remember that while you're scouring the interwebs or jumping in that question queue. You're not just devoting time to an individual answer, you're refining your ability to communicate your question (even if it’s to a search algorithm). Finding programming resources is a lot like, well, programming. There’s a method and a strategy, and practice really does make perfect.
Much of an online student’s quest for knowledge mimics the actual work experience of a junior web developer at their first tech industry job. Building your research and developing good learning habits will pay dividends for life. Programming isn't something that can be mastered overnight. You’re expected to always be ready to learn, and figure out what you aren’t sure about. Languages and frameworks change all the time. That means by the time you are a Senior Developer, you have probably learned and relearned dozens of different tech stacks. And in those instances, you probably won’t have a teacher offering a gold star when you get it right.
So that's the broad overview of the designed struggle in learning to code. But if you have specific questions about how we implement this into our curriculum, send us an email. We love talking about this stuff. (Really.)
Britni Birt is a former member of the Launch Academy marketing team.