This is the fourth post in my summer project to blog my progress as I move through the online HTML course I am taking through the Women's Coding Collective (WCC). In my pre-course post, I mentioned my motives, my sponsors, my initial likes & dislikes, and, in the open spirit of HASTAC's collaboratory model, I issued a call for the community to join me (and some did!). In my second post, I outlined the course model, my opinion of the course program as a student in the course, and my instructor-centric admiration of the method and model of the WCC. In the third post, I wrote about messy code, misplaced spaces, tools I find indispensable, and the art of learning to write basic code.
This course came to a close this week and I’ve successfully conquered each of the course challenges.
A fluency with HTML requires far more time and far more practice than a two week course can allow and the WCC instructors planned this course accordingly. The WCC instructors used the first week to expose us to the fundamentals of HTML and to facilitate challenges that would push us to begin using our HTML knowledge to make pages. The second week built on the basics and focused on pointing us to external resources that we could use for continued individual practice. In week two, we learned about coding fill-in input forms, about reading source code to learn source code, about annotating/commenting on our own source code within the code, and about the noncoded logistics, including details about servers, web hosts, FTP, of creating a website.
By the end of the two-week course, I feel properly refreshed on my HTML skills. I had indeed forgotten some of the important nuances. Perhaps more importantly though, I am walking away with a toolbox of new resources. The most significant of the resources is my WCC HTML course content itself – even though the course is complete, I have unlimited access to my own course content. It is as if I have paid for a little mini-coursebook and I am able to file it away for later.
Why pay for a course through the WCC? Though many here on HASTAC regularly blog enthusiastic praise of sources that offer free online courses, I’d like to make a case for the paid course…and for WCC in particular.
Nota bene: The WCC is a fee-based course but they do want to make it possible for all to participate. You can use this code for $17 off your first course: http://thewc.co/pal-tuha. If you need more support, contact the WCC for more options.
Why take a WCC course?
- Instructor availability: In the course of my 2 weeks, no less than 3 different instructors engaged with my study-group comments. If I posted a question in our study group soliciting instructor feedback, one of the instructors almost instantly replied, no matter the time of day. What sets the WCC apart from many other online courses is that each WCC course has one or two professional on-demand instructors AND, the WCC employs an instructional support staff to aid the instructors and the students so that we are never without assistance. This model, in my case, resulted in nearly instant response to my questions and in personalized instruction based on my questions and interests.
- Instructional methods: I had one instructor send me a personalized gif explaining how to organize my code and another who created a specially-made instructional screencast video to help me tidy that code. Gifs! Videos! The WCC proves they are brilliantly pedagogical.
- The resources: In addition to the archived WCC course content, there are many other resources I accumulated during my course. I mention some of my favorites in my third post.
- Quick progress: Though the course was just a refresher for me, the newbies to HTML would have progressed from knowing little to having coded their own pages with images, links, lists, and forms. In just two weeks!
- The "always available to you" archive of my course: At the end of our two-week course we were sent a message that said, "If you didn't get through all the challenges in time, no worries, the material will always be available to you and the study group will remain open. "
- The classmates and the class size: As I mentioned last week, the collaborative energy of the small-sized course was infectious. Example: I posted a useful resource for my classmates in our study group and nearly all of my classmates responded with thanks. Unlike many online courses with huge student numbers and/or anonymous classmates, the WCC keeps their courses deliberately small and deliberately personal. The difference this makes, I believe, speaks to the success of the WCC students.
- Short courses with steady challenges throughout the week. The course challenges have scheduled releases but they can be completed at the student’s pace. This is rather brilliant. I have deadlines assigned to me but I can access and complete my challenges at any time during the two-week period. This keeps me motivated to keep on track and yet it respects my busy schedule. When we couple this with a supportively small and dedicated set of classmates – who are all receiving their challenges when I do – I am driven to keep up. And this works to benefit my own instruction.
- The point-based course structure: This structure keeps us competitive and involved. At the head of my course HTML course home page, there lives a grid of image boxes representing each student. An image icon representing each student (and most of us choose to post our own photos which really does work to promote a we're-in-this-together classmate cohesion) is accompanied by our course point score. This encourages a fair amount of competition that subsequently encourages a sustained level of student buy-in. Again, this works to benefit my own instruction.
- The cost: Yes, sure, information wants to be free, but many of us here are instructors ourselves and we work exceedingly hard to provide quality content and support. If we are financially able, we should pay for such high-quality instruction. Shouldn’t we? And the fee structure too, I’d guess, helps with student retention. If you pay for a two-week course, you are probably more likely to stick it out…and to be an active participant. And this works to benefit our own instruction. The WCC is sensitive to their fee-based model and they offer coupons (here’s one for $17 off for you to use for your first course) and payment options for those unable to pay the full amount.
- It would be great to have a longer course. Though I understand that a two-week model is ideal for a sustained level of student buy-in (most MOOCs have epic drop-out rates), I think this course is so well maintained that the momentum of excitement would continue for a full month. Note from co-founder Professor Noll: The WCC does offer four week in-person courses if you are lucky enough to live in Boston.
- It would be great to have a fuller preview of course content. If I had known how basic this course would be, I would have reviewed HTML on my own and jumped ahead to a more advanced WCC course. That said, I do not regret a minute of my basic HTML instruction. I’ve learned much more than coding. In addition to the coding tips, I took notes on the course organization, the instructional method, and the pedagogical tools used by the WCC instructors.
I enjoyed the course so much that I'll be starting my WCC CSS course next week. Join me!