Learning to Code? Check Out These Awesome Treehouse Features!

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Learning programming skills has become commonplace and, in many cases, necessary for certain jobs.  Responding to this demand, efforts to teach a beginner to code have been popping up in different forms all over the world.  From free online tutorials to expensive boot camps cost up to $20,000, there are a myriad of options to choose from. One of the most popular such endeavors is a website called Team Treehouse that offers high-quality tutorials and workspaces for an affordable price (starting from $25/month).  If rave reviews about Treehouse’s Front-End Web Development track and teaching style aren’t enough, you can even try the platform for free for 2 weeks before deciding whether it is the right place to invest your $25. Considering the average web developer in the United States makes $81,670 and the industry is predicted to grow by at least 20% in the coming years, the investment is probably more than worth it. If you aren’t convinced yet to give Treehouse a try, check out these awesome features:

Tracks

There are 8 available tracks on Treehouse: Web Design, Front-End Web Development, Rails Development, iOS Development, Android Development, PHP Development, WordPress Development, and Starting a Business.  Each track teaches units of information including languages (like HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, Ajax, Ruby, etc.) and allows you to work through examples as you watch the tutorials.Treehouse Tracks           Treehouse Co-Founder Ryan Carson’s favorite feature within the Tracks is the Scheduler.

“Once you pick a Track, you can choose how long you’d like to take to complete the Track. We then calculate how much time you should spend on Treehouse every day and then help keep you on schedule”

 

WorkspacesTreehouse Workspaces

As you follow along with the videos, you can also code along in a workspaces window that allows you to preview your work at any time.  There is no downloading or desktop work necessary.

Forever Expanding Library

One of the best things about Treehouse is their ever-expanding library of tutorials.  Even if you get through all of the tracks, there is always new content being added to its library that you can use to improve your development skills whether you are a novice or expert. Just in the past few weeks, they have come out with several new tutorials, from Git Workshops to Android Animations.  Its candyland for an autodidact!

Forums and the Gamification of Learning

Many online learning platforms employ the use of gamification as an incentive to continue to learn, and Treehouse is no exception.  Users earn points and badges that lead to reward videos that tell fun stories and are great mini-breaks before getting started on the next track. Another one of Ryan’s favorite features falls into this category:

“…getting your answer marked as “Best answer” in the Forum. You get extra points!”

The forums not only provide a space for students to interact as they learn and help solve each other’s issues, they also play into the gamification aspect of Treehouse to inspire users to remain active. Treehouse GamificationSo after reading about all these great, ever-growing features, are you reading to become an awesome developer?  Sign up for your free trial here!

 

“With Treehouse and a little imagination, you can go anywhere…” – Author Unknown

The Most Important Thing Employers Want From You

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It isn’t the ability to code like a champ or your beastly social media savvy (although those are increasingly attractive attributes for many positions) – what employers really want from you is ‘teachability’.  They want to be able to teach you how to do the job their way quickly and efficiently.  To accomplish this, you will need to prove to them your ability to learn things very quickly.

Were you praised for picking things up quickly, ever since you were a child?  Great!  Now do better!  There’s always room for improvement and little more satisfying than being able to tell your boss that you finished the job perfectly- and in a fraction of the allotted time.  It would be great to be able to train yourself to become a more efficient learner so you can pick things up faster on the job, but learning velocity is largely inherent.  Luckily, the trick here isn’t to increase your learning ability.  Instead, the focus should be on preparation.

If you need to write business plans as a part of your job, for example, you should learn how to write a standard business plan on your own first and spend office hours recognizing your company’s unique twist instead of spending extra time to learn from step one all over again. .  Now the job is easier and will get done faster – and you can show off to your supervisor how quickly you picked up their way of doing things.

 

You are your own Yoda.

It’s true – you know yourself better than anyone else.  Why not take advantage of this fact and teach yourself a thing or two about the skills you know you will need for your job?  If you arm your mind with the basics, picking up your company’s twist on things will be easier (and quicker!).

You can learn awesome stuff from all over the internet now – from tutorials on Lydia or YouTube to full blown free Ivy League classes from Coursera, teaching yourself is the thing to do!

The first step is to narrow down the skills you should master for your industry.  A visual designer, for example, might benefit from learning HTML basics while a marketer could take their work to the next level by building solid creative writing and copywriting skills.

Figuring out what exactly you need to learn is the hard part – now, you can just Google it and decide which resource (tutorial, class, article, e-book) you like best and get started!

 

Be the Tortoise.

Remember that story about the tortoise and hare where the hare gets really arrogant and ends up losing a race to the tortoise?  It actually applies to your career progression really well.  The worst thing you can do is to come off as being full of yourself to your co-workers or boss.  Not only does that essentially flash a bright neon sign saying ‘Not Willing to Learn’ above your head, it also sets you up for a whole lot of lost opportunities.

Learning can come in the form of actively seeking knowledge by studying or taking a class, but it can also happen simply on the job if a good mentor takes a liking to you.  A mentor at work can provide important insight, fast-tracking tips, and invaluable feedback – but no potential mentor is going to take interest in the new kid who thinks she knows everything.  Remember to project the humble student within!

 

Be Proactive.

Being able to pick things up quickly, having great tech skills, and busting through assignments are obviously amazing achievements to have under your belt – but keep in mind that everyone on your team will try to display these things.  Going out of your way to add value even when you weren’t specifically instructed to do so shows that you care about the team’s performance as a whole, not just your own.  If you are a copywriter at a startup and you know about an upcoming feature-release or company re-branding, offer up your ideas right away and even provide samples to show that you’ve really thought about it.

Of course, it is always important to keep in mind that your ideas are suggestions that your supervisors can choose not to take and you shouldn’t overload them either.  Imposing on someone else’s pet project can become annoying, even though you’re really just trying to help.  Just remember, be humble and realize that you are the student.  Soak up the experience of your co-workers and throw in some of your own fresher ideas without overdoing it.  You will have impressed your boss before you know it!

How to Get Your Dream Job Without the Required Experience

Ambition of a young architect

Right major?  Check.  Enough software knowledge?  Check.  Cultural Fit?  Check.  Sufficient years of experience?  Uh-oh.

You’re looking at the job listing for your ideal gig just a little while after graduation and feel the excitement mounting inside of you with every requirement you know you can fulfill.  Then you see that you need 2 years of work experience – which you don’t have as a new grad.  Ugh.  Do you pull back and look for a position that you don’t want as much?  Do you resign yourself to a job you know will bore you for the next couple of years?

No.  Stop and think like a hiring manager. They are looking for candidates who know their stuff.  It just so happens that the general consensus says knowing your stuff requires some experience in the industry.  This study by McKinsey & Co. and Chegg even says that college graduates are under prepared but overqualified for employment…a finding that will naturally push hiring managers away from hiring recent grads.

So clearly, your next step should be to prove that you are sufficiently prepared for employment.  How?  Build a portfolio of work similar to what you would be doing on the job and submit it with your job application.  Refocus the potential employer’s attention on your skills and potential and away from metrics that don’t necessarily describe what you can do properly.  Here’s how.

 

Step 1 – MOOCs:  Learning the Skills

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are classes from well known Universities that professors modify for distance learning to allow access to any student for free.  Many of these courses teach exactly the same material as what the professors teach in their traditional classes, but you can take them in your spare time without spending money to build your knowledge and skills base.

Keep in mind that your major and college classes are not the full span of your capabilities.  An English degree is a great base for a copywriting career, but taking a few classes on your own time in marketing techniques can give your writing the boost you need to land that job at an ad agency.

Websites like Coursera and EdX provide great platforms for MOOCs.  It is important, however, to record your work for the class.  The assignments and projects you complete are great additions to your professional portfolio, as they legitimize the coursework you do through MOOCs.  You can keep track of all this by downloading your work as you complete it, or by using websites like Accredible to transfer all of your online coursework to one place that can be linked to the rest of your portfolio.

 

Step 2 – Speculative Projects/Case Studies:  Applying the Skills

There are case studies all over the internet – taking a few and using skills you learned from college and your MOOCs to write an analysis for each can help get your feet wet in the kind of thinking you need to solve problems in your industry.

Speculative or freelancing projects are also great ways to simulate what you will be doing later in a full time job.  Telling a small or mid-sized business or nonprofit organization that you are willing to help them out for free or little charge is an easy way to land some of these projects – this is time you are spending building work experience regardless of the amount you are getting paid.

Specifically working with nonprofit organizations in a volunteer position not only gives you the added experience for your newly developed skills, it also shows a more human side of your personality.  Maybe your volunteer work for Habitat for Humanity relates to your passion for fighting poverty, or perhaps your commitment to proper healthcare is showcased through your extensive work with the Red Cross.  Talking about your volunteer work in an interview is also great way to transition to you personal qualities and cultural fit.

 

Step 3 – Research:  Effectively Showcasing the Skills

Know what’s going on!  Read the news, find new articles on techniques and technology, and learn to use the newest software.  Once your profile gets you to an interview, you still need to prove that you can hit the ground running upon receiving an offer.

Having background knowledge about developments the company and its industry can help you come up with possible solutions to their problems before you are even working there – there is no better way than that to show that you would be an asset to the team.

Follow those three steps and you can show the hiring manager that you are perfect for your dream job because even though you don’t have years under your belt, you have the necessary skills and can demonstrate initiative to continue building more in the future.

He Flunked, Was Rejected, Went Bankrupt…And Then Founded The Walt Disney Company

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An actor, animator, filmmaker, and wildly successful businessman, its kind of shocking at first to hear that Walt Disney only had around 9 years of formal education.  He started school at the ripe old age of 7 and dropped out at 16 to join the military.  Unfortunately (or fortunately) for him, he was rejected for being underage and spent a year in France with the Red Cross instead.  After returning to the United States, Disney received his first job as a cartoonist in 1919, and the rest is history.

 

“Children have got to be free to lead their own lives.” – Sebastian, The Little Mermaid

small_2917335255Despite having strict parents, Walt grew up doing what he wanted when he wanted.  He was a shrewd businessman even as a child.  After his father, Elias, bought a newspaper delivery route, Walt was made to work for him without pay.  He knew how to make the best of his situation, though.  From delivering medicines for the local pharmacy on his route to selling extra papers without his father’s knowledge, Walt developed a thriving business of his own without any help, encouragement, or formal education.  This continued throughout his few years in high school and, of course, eventually led to exemplary management of the Walt Disney Company.

 

“The very things that hold you down are going to lift you up.” – Timothy Mouse, Dumbo

Classes came second to work for Walt during his schooling years.  His exhausting work schedule left little time to study, which had a heavy impact on his grades.  Even as he worked such a demanding schedule and small_6635533755trudged through school, however, Walt always found time to indulge in his passion for drawing.  He traded his cartoons for haircuts, became the cartoonist for his school’s newspaper, and later submitted to magazines and drew for his co-workers in Paris – all learned from just a couple of brief stints in art classes.

All the work, discipline, and cartoons did very little for Walt’s grades as a child, but he grew up to build The Walt Disney Company – so it is difficult to argue against the merits of his childhood activities.  He learned how to run a business, work with colleagues, and develop a skill that would redefine animation and serve as a catalyst into a new age of cinema.

 

“If your heart is in your dream, no request is too extreme.” – Jiminy Cricket, Pinocchio

Walt’s success can really be attributed more to his attitude than any form of education (and perhaps even small_2486345776experience).  “Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.”  This was the philosophy he lived by: to achieve excellence and watch the theaters fill up as his reward.  This attitude inspired Walt to take risks (like starting a business) that sometimes caused him to fail (he had to declare bankruptcy in 1922), but then he got back up again and made Alice in Wonderland.  

Teaching yourself anything can seem like an insurmountable challenge when you get a good look at just how much there is to learn, but the real magic is in the learning, not the teaching itself.  A teacher (whether its a person, software, book, or audio recording) can only teach as well as its student can learn.  Walt is an ultimate example of a sponge learner – he soaked up his experiences so well, he never even needed a teacher to hold his hand.

 

“You just need to believe in yourself.” – Rex, Toy Storysmall_9594201177

So basically: Walt Disney went to school for 9 years, flunked most of the time, dropped out of high school, never went to college, taught himself to be a businessman and cartoonist purely by learning while doing, and became the roots of one of the most admired companies in the world.  He must have done something right.

 

“Hakuna Matata!” – Timon and Pumbaa, The Lion King

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photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/expressmonorail/3108405260/”>Express Monorail</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>
 

Buzzwords Decoded: Innovation

Innovation - Ideas Light Bulb Hatching

Definition: Merriam-Webster Dictionary

1:  the introduction of something new

2:  a new idea, method, or device :  novelty

 

How to Use it Incorrectly

If there were beauty pageants for buzzwords, ‘innovation’ would be the declining star whose career took a lethal hit because of overexposure.  Innovation is the introduction of a new idea or method, which requires creativity.  So saying that you are, “an innovative, results oriented, go-getter” (which is pretty much what everyone says on their resumes, cover letters, and online profiles) is a fantastic way to ensure that whomever is reading about you will have glazed-over eyes within five seconds.

As a rule of thumb, glazed-over eyes generally mean your document is about to get trashed.  An extremely shocked expression will also achieve the same ends.  An obscene action in the middle of the street to get attention for your school play is not innovative – it is obnoxious.  Try to play it off as innovation to someone conservative or older, and you’ll be bringing on the shock factor.

 

How to Use it Properly

Three words:  Back.  It.  Up.

The reason “innovative, results oriented, go-getter” sounds silly is because it is difficult to simply take a candidate’s word for it that these terms describe them.  If it is important that your potential employer know that you are innovative, be sure to refer to actions or activities you have been a part of that required you to be innovative and the results of said innovation.

If you are throwing in buzzwords for the sake of resume or cover letter computer scanners, you know they don’t belong.  Keep in mind that after the computer decides you have enough buzzwords, a real person will also read your documents.  So if it just looks like buzzword bogus, you still won’t get that interview!

 

Take Away

If you are going to claim that you are innovative, you should show it with your use of the word and design and format of your application.  Being boring and formulaic contradicts your claim and makes your other claims questionable as well.  Solution: Be creative and provide proof for every claim you make!

Which Harry Potter Character Are You?

Old glasses on a letter

J.K. Rowling had not introduced the Wizarding World to the Wonderful World of Online Learning by the time the last installment to the Harry Potter series came out, but still, it is interesting to think about how students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry would have used MOOCs.  Here are a few Harry Potter characters and how they might use MOOCs.  Check out which ones you relate to the most!

Harry Potter

Favorite Subject:  Defense Against the Dark Arts

Struggles In:  Potionslarge__5130526465

Having conjured a corporeal patronus at 13, Harry is clearly a smart kid – a bit distracted (for obvious reasons), but intelligent.  His biggest issue in the entire series is usually that he doesn’t know certain things about the Wizarding World due to his Muggle upbringing.  The best way to counter this?  Hogwarts is Here.  HIH is an online learning platform dedicated to all things magical.  If you’re muggleborn or a half-blood like Harry who grew up with muggles, this is the best way to introduce yourself to the Wizarding World.  Some would also suggest Gilderoy Lockhart’s bestsellers, but his fraudulent behavior was exposed during Harry’s second year so his sources are unreliable.

Hermione Granger

Favorite Subject:  Transfiguration

Struggles In:  Defense Against the Dark Arts

For people like Hermione, knowledge is power.  But when a certain crazy Hitler-esque dude comes knocking so he can rip his soul by killing you, practical instinct becomes essential as well.  Buried in her books, Hermione’s dueling skills are not quite up to her standards for every other subject.  She can use online learning to enroll in theory and lecture based classes, but use forums and skype to interact with her peers and get tips on how to improve her dueling skills.  MOOCs can provide Hermione with a diverse network of people with whom she can discuss her weaknesses and how to fix them.  Said network can also help set Ms. Granger back on the right path when “she needs to get her priorities straight” and a certain Ronald Weasley is not available to do so.

Ron Weasley

Favorite Subject:  Lunch

Struggles In:  Everything

Ron struggles with developing an interest in learning.  He has trouble with paying attention in pretty much all his classes, so MOOCs are perfect for him to find introductory or 101 level courses.  He can use these to develop a basic understanding of the skills he will learn in class before term begins so that he can learn the details at a quicker pace.  Some introductory psychology will likely be beneficial for Mr. Weasley as well – they may expand his emotional range (which is currently that of a teaspoon).

Neville Longbottommedium_5000467933

Favorite Subject:  Herbology

Struggles In:  Potions

Poor Neville – a beast at potions and the abilities of a grindylow in every other subject.  Why?  Fear.  As Neville proves at the end of the series, he is no less capable than Harry.  He is, however, sheltered and scared to a fault.  Taking introductory classes like Ron would be helpful to Neville, but also using MOOC certificates and portfolios (like those at learning.accredible.com) to increase his confidence would do wonders for his performance.

Severus Snape

Favorite Subject:  Potionslarge__5110510098

Struggles In:  Unknown

Severus Snape is simply a poor communicator who can’t make friends or develop relationships with his professors, so MOOCs are perfect for him!  He can use forums to interact with his peers and fellow professors to avoid speaking to them in person.  Snape proves himself to be among the most intelligent wizards introduced by Rowling time and time again, so MOOCs can prove to be a great way for him to slowly develop social skills as well.

Draco Malfoy

Favorite Subject:  Potions

Struggles In:  Care of Magical Creatureslarge__5097284050 (1)

For Care of Magical Creatures, Draco Malfoy really just needs some tutorials on how to care for the animals and especially on how to act around them.  While traditional MOOCs certainly would hurt him, simply using YouTube to develop smaller skills would be Malfoy’s best bet at using online learning to improve his Hogwart’s experience.

Albus Dumbledore

Favorite Subject:  Transfiguration

Struggles In:  Nothinglarge__8996773123

Dumbledore doesn’t really need a MOOC since he’s good at everything…he just needs to see this video.

Tom Marvolo Riddle

Favorite Subject:  Evil
Struggles In:  Not Being a Sociopath

small_2746504545If you can relate to Tom Riddle (AKA Lord Voldemort), then you should probably see a therapist immediately before you start a genocide.  But first, visiting a few anger management MOOCs and tutorials would be a good idea.  So would finding a tutorial on how to mend a ripped up soul.  Maybe by using stem cell research?

 

 

A Trelawney prophecy the day before this article was written predicted that the vast majority of you readers would be of muggle or muggleborn origin.  As such, for you all, Hogwarts Is Here is highly recommended.  Like Harry, you can catch up on the basics of the upcoming term’s classes and learn about the history of the Wizarding World.  Get started today!

Making it Easier to Finish That MOOC

Finish Line

It sounds like it would be pretty classy, telling an interviewer (or a date) that you’re studying English Literature & the Classics at Harvard.  Luckily, MOOCs allow you the luxury of saying just that (without having to pay any tuition!).

What definitely wouldn’t be so classy is saying you dropped out of the class after a week.  Of course, we all run into scheduling problems and there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything.  But that doesn’t mean you need to give up on your dreams of becoming a modern day Shakespeare!

Try ‘Always Open’ MOOCs

You go to a MOOC platform site and sign up for a computer science class that you need to take next semester at your home university.  You are excited because binary isn’t really your thing and this class will help you prepare for the next semester to make it easier for your to follow along during lectures.  Then, your boss calls and tells you you are scheduled to for dinner service every night next week.  You know you won’t be able to handle univeristy homework, school, and your new computer science MOOC at the same time.  With a heavy heart, you put the MOOC on the backburner and end up so behind, you have to give up on the 12-week MOOC altogether.

Now, imagine that this computer science MOOC was actually an open course that could be completed at any time.  You could turn in assignments whenever you wanted, could watch any of the lectures at any time, and could take as long as you needed for each project.  In this case, you could just start the class a week later than originally planned and not be at all behind.  Guess what?  There actually are great courses like this.  One is the CS50X Intro to Computer Science course from Harvard on edX.  It is an open class that is available for a full year and can be taken at any time within that time frame.  It is a highly praised MOOC with positive reviews from alumni and critics alike, and works around your schedule.

But wait…the offer doesn’t stop there!  What if you could have short open courses that take up a small amount of time and offer a whole lot of content?

Cut it Down

Platforms like Udemy and Khan Academy offer shorter tutorial-style classes that will probably not give you an in depth education in a particular subject area, but will provide a solid introduction.  You can complete such classes in a couple days or less, making them a great choice when your schedule is too busy for a long term class commitment.  You can cut down class time without halting your learning experience completely.

Cutting down on time commitment can also simply mean taking fewer MOOCs at once and being careful not to bite off more than you can chew.  The key to is plan a solid strategy.

Strategize

When you commit to earning a college degree with a particular major, you tend to plan out which classes you want to take and the best times to take them.  Knowing this in advance helps you plan your surrounding schedule in a way that it won’t impede on study time during a particularly tough term.

Doing the same with MOOCs is a great idea.  Planning out your time in 12-15 week blocks (a la semesters) will help you figure out when to take longer business core MOOCs and shorter ‘How to Make Marketing Plans’ tutorials so that you are able to learn everything you need within the time frame you want.

Apply these strategies, and you’ll be reading Shakespearean English in no time! Next you can make yourself sound even classier by adding foreign language and culture classes to your Accredible To-Learn List. Happy  Learning!

Startup Spotlight: Quizlet

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We’re kicking off an exploration of start-ups with a well-known favorite: Quizlet. Quizlet, offers innovative digital study tools that help students around the world do better in school – they grew out of a simple flashcard web app written by founder Andrew Sutherland when he was just a high schooler. Now, according to Quantcast, Quizlet ranks in the top 100 most visited sites in the U.S.! They’ve certainly come a long way, and some might question its claim to being a “startup,” but we’ve got the inside scoop on the passion, energy, and culture that makes this well-established edtech company very much a quintessential startup.

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Karoun and David battle it out at the Quizlet ping pong table.

For starters, Quizlet, despite having a successful web, iOS, and Android app with a combined 20 million unique visitors each month, is actually comprised of a very small, extremely hard-working team; in fact, they only have seven full-time developers making the learning awesome for all those students every day! General Manager Thompson Paine explains that Quizlet has a high bar for talent because on such a small team with so many users, each person must be able and willing to punch above their weight, and confidently own and drive on new problems and projects. But talent isn’t the only thing that matters: what makes Quizlet especially amazing is that everyone is committed to education and doing good.

Amalia shows off some impressive whiteboarding skills.

Amalia adds some holiday cheer, Quizlet-style.

To get a sense of how such a small group of people can reach millions (yes, millions!) of students on a daily basis, take a look at their week: it all starts on Sunday. Every team member is committed to thinking carefully about what he or she wants to accomplish that week, and they come together to discuss their plans during a Monday lunch. This helps them start the week focused with strong accountability. On Friday, they wrap the week with a discussion of their highs and lows of the week. Quizlet’s focus and enthusiasm for constantly improving an already amazing learning tool is really inspiring!

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Arun to talk more about his particular role as an Android developer.

 

Career Focus: Android Developer

We’re picking the brain of the man behind Quizlet’s Android app: Arun Saigal.

Accredible: What do you do as an Android developer at Quizlet?

Arun:  I hit buttons! No, but really, I do a lot of listening to users to figure out what they want, work with my team to design and build out different parts so there’s a seamless experience from web to mobile app. My job is to make sure that you can learn anything you want anywhere and everywhere you want—specifically on Android devices. Working in a startup, I get to be involved in all parts of the development phases.

Accredible: What’s your favorite part of your job?

Arun: I’ve heard people actually say, “I wouldn’t have made it through this course without Quizlet” – the fact that what I do can make that big of a difference for someone’s education is incredible. I love running into people while wearing the Quizlet shirt and hearing people call out “ I love Quizlet!” and really know people are using your product!

Accredible: What were you doing before you joined Quizlet, and what led you to the company?

Arun: I was at MIT. I’ve always been into education and tutoring and teaching…I discovered technology and wanted to leverage it to teach everyone. Andrew (Quizlet’s founder) came to recruit at his alma mater, and I decided to join this small company with a huge impact—somewhere I can come in and really own a piece of transforming education. This is where I felt I could make a meaningful contribution.

Accredible: What are your tips for others who want to be an Android developer?

Arun: Go build something!  Android is Java at the end of the day. In terms of getting started and seeing whether it’s something you’d like to do: go find these programming languages online – and you can build a simple app with basic tools.  If you can do that and be excited, you can get a sense for whether you love it or not. Then go take classes in college or go online and look up tutorials to learn how to program. Between all of the online courses and resources, Youtube, Quizlet, etc. you can pretty much find and learn anything you’re looking for.

Arun and fellow developer Shane take a break on the swings (yes, inside the office!)

Arun and fellow developer Shane take a break on the office swings (and yes, that’s a Justin Bieber piñata hanging above them)!

Accredible:  What would you say is the most essential skill for being a developer?

Arun: (1) Problem-solving. At the end of the day, my role is to problem-solve. (And obviously, having the ability to code.) (2) Being willing to take on the challenge and being okay with failing. A lot of what we do here trying something, failing, and then pushing on till we get it right. (3) And you have to be willing to learn from those mistakes so you can improve yourself and your product.

Accredible: What contributes the most to your success?

Arun: The team. I see the team as our team here and our users—the millions that send feedback—that’s the whole Quizlet family. Everyone is so helpful. They give me the pieces, helping me piece everything together.

Accredible: Thanks, Arun!

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Software Developer David wants YOU to apply!

Interested in working for an edtech company with a fun-loving team? Check out open positions here!

 

Turn education into play: learning through games

From an early age, today’s generation of children develop a keen interest in computer games. By the time they are in full time education, they are often very competent in playing consoles and online games. As a result of this, schools are beginning to channel this interest in computer games into new engaging methods of learning. This involves using educational online games through which children can interact with other pupils using a new exciting medium which increases their interest in learning.

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There are wealth of free educational online games which offer new engaging ways to captivate children’s interest in learning. They offer an interactive medium through which students can improve their technical and media literacy. These skills could be invaluable throughout their adult lives as more of our modern society continues to revolve around technology. These games provide a fun way to develop problem solving strategies and try out intuitive ideas, skills which will significantly increase their employability prospects in the future.

Teachers can also thrive from these new educational opportunities. These games offer teachers a medium through which they can more aptly communicate with their pupils. As Jason Ohler states, educational games allow teachers to communicate with students by ‘speaking their own language with their tools’.
Additionally, these games enable teachers to easily assess the progress of each child. The actions and decisions each child makes during the games allow the teacher to diagnose and assess the progress of their learning from afar, without the child feeling like they are under scrutiny. Educational games are rising in popularity as a learning mechanism, with tutoring companies such as Maths Doctor offering online tutoring services alongside educational games, even providing a free mobile app game allowing children to learn on the move.

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Educational studies have shown that not all students learn in the same way. Some require learning by doing, others from reading a textbook, or by talking through problems with others. Educational games harness all of these alternate styles of learning through a variety of different challenges, ensuring each child is able to achieve their full potential. Each child is engaged throughout the learning process in a way which is specifically tailored to them. Naturally in a large classroom there will be some children who solve a problem faster than others. By using education online games each child can work at their own pace. If they need to take more time on a particular question they can, ensuring that by the time they progress to the next stage they have a full understanding of the topic, rather than simply rushing so as to keep up with the pace of the classroom. Moreover, if a child solves a problem quickly, they are free to proceed to the next stage, rather than waiting for others and thus losing interest in the subject. As a result children are able to develop more positive attitudes towards learning.

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There is an increased focus within schools on how to apply what a child is learning to real world situations, to show them that what they are learning will benefit their adult careers. Educational games provide an excellent opportunity to demonstrate a child’s ability to apply academic theories to real world problems. The student could be taught the theory of a principle by a teacher and then proceed to solve an applied problem via the medium of an online game. Moreover, because the medium chosen would be a computer game, children will be more likely to volunteer to solve problems and thus further their education.

Ultimately, as technology becomes more integral to our daily lives, these educational online games offer an invaluable experience for children to develop technological skills from an early age. They also provide an exciting opportunity for children to discover an interest in learning through a medium which was previously unavailable to them.

Author bio
This article was written by George Campbell, a freelance writer from Birmingham, England, UK. George has been a teacher for four years and he loves writing about education but he is versatile and also writes across a variety of other topics. You can connect with George on Google+ and follow him on Twitter.

How to Use MOOCs to Support Your Grad School Experience

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By the time my muscle contraction test arrived, I had already forgotten which part did what. I knew the information, but we had covered so much other material that I needed a quick overview to reorient myself. I turned to Youtube’s Crash Course, looking for Hank Green to help me out. In about 12 minutes, I had completely refreshed the concept and dusted off the details.

MOOC is short for Massive Open Online Course, referring to anything from the tutorial style videos on Khan Academy to certificate-for-completion courses offered through Coursera. MOOCs have grown over the last several years to offer material on any subject you can imagine, as in depth or as casual as you could want. In my first semester of graduate school, I’ve found several uses for them.

Student Uses:

- Preparation. For my cardio section of physiology, I prepared for lectures by first watching these videos. I was able to understand lecture material far quicker because I had been exposed to the material already. Using the right MOOC will drastically reduce study time and enable you to engage the lectures when they happen. You have limited access to your professor, so being prepared gives you greater benefit.

- Clarification and Review. As I mentioned above, Crashcourse has helped me refresh some key concepts before reviewing detailed material. In renal physiology, I couldn’t get my head around the flow through the nephrons. I found these tutorials easy to understand and quick enough to leave enough time to study everything else. MOOCs that are more formally organized also have forums, wikis, and other means of interaction that can prove invaluable when professors aren’t available for questions.

- Distraction. If you’re in grad school, you’ve been immersed into your studies in a different and deeper way than in undergrad. You need a brain break. You need something to talk about with friends and family who don’t understand what you’re studying. I love history, so when I need a break, I’ll watch Yale’s history lectures. I don’t have to worry about learning or testing, it’s just fun to use a different part of my brain and learn about something outside of medicine. And I can have a conversation with people apart from my learning.

- Continuing Education. Many MOOCs offer a certificate of completion that requires some testing to receive. This is a great way to show an employer that you’ve invested time and attention to stay current in your area. Accessing that material on your time makes learning while working possible. Once you are out of grad school, chances are that you will need to do this on a regular basis and having a certificate to show you’ve done your work is worth the investment.

Teacher Uses:

- Remedial Use. Many graduate programs could provide remedial education and training without having to develop new curriculum on their own. This allows your program to be more flexible by addressing any idiosyncrasies in your students’ background without making others repeat material they already know.

- Required Reading. Instead of handing out articles to read, or having book after book assigned only to be skimmed through, give your students a list of MOOCs that cover the information. Give them more options than they need and let them pick a few. In the time before starting a course, give them access to a survey MOOC to prepare them for more focused classroom time.

- Peer Instruction. Divide several areas of knowledge between students and have them complete a corresponding MOOC. Then they can present either in groups or individually to teach everyone else and show mastery over an area. Or have students prepare presentations on competing ideas and have a class debate. Covering material outside of the classroom enhances your face to face time.

As more MOOCs become available, the landscape of our education transforms into a hybrid space combining classrooms, computers, living rooms, and offices. Finding ways to make education more efficient and effective means adapting to these new innovations and utilizing MOOCs to supplement your grad school experience.

Written by Ryan English and edited by Laura Morrison, the Content Manager of GradSchools.com. If you’d like to learn more about continuing your education online, find out here.