Online Learning

As promised in my last post, here is a list of some websites with free classes and/or tutorials.  These types of classes are often called Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs for short.  They’re mainly from big-name ivy league universities like MIT, Harvard, Stanford, etc. and cover all kinds of subjects, not just computer science.

  • edX – online classes – I’m taking CS50x (Intro to CS), an excellent class so far, and great for beginners.  There’s still time to enroll in this class if you want to take it.  It’s pass/fail and you get a certificate of completion if you pass.  Scroll down the main page or click “Find Courses” to see what they have.
  • Stanford Engineering Everywhere – online classes – click on Courses
  • Coursera – online classes – click on Courses
  • cplusplus.com – tutorials, discussion forums, and other stuff – in the upper-right box is a link to “C++ Language Tutorial.”  I downloaded the pdf version to my phone and I study C++ while I’m standing in line or what-have-you.
  • Cprogramming.com – tutorials, lots of them
  • MIT OpenCourseWare – online classes – these are online versions of a couple thousand of the classes they teach on campus.  There’s an Intro to C++ class and you can find the rest of their computer science stuff by going to Courses > Find courses by: Department > School of Engineering > Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
  • OpenCourseWare Consortium – keeps an ongoing list of OpenCourseWare websites offered by universities around the world

Please let me know if there are others that ought to be added here.  Best of luck to you in your endeavors!

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The GNOME Outreach Program for Women

Gee, where to start??  I have so much news to share!  (It just won’t all sound like good news at first, heh.)

I suppose I should begin by saying that the ongoing dearth of jobs within my traditional line of work (sysadmin and computer repair, mainly) has caused me to do quite a bit of soul-searching regarding my chosen career path.  These days, I’m expected to know a lot more and do a lot more than I did in the 1990’s, often for less pay than I got back then.  (!)  Despite years of hacking away on Commodore 64 BASIC as a little girl, and a couple of classes on the LAMP stack and web programming in college, I’ve never really considered myself much of a programmer.  Some recent discussions with a programmer who is near and dear to me, however, made me realize that I’ve probably underestimated my skills in this department.  I decided to give it another look.  After some in-depth research on job prospects, pay scale, necessary skills, and so on, I decided it was time to make a career change and go into programming.

I soon began looking into what kinds of internships and scholarships there might be for women wanting to study computer science (CS).  When I did, I was amazed, pleased, and bewildered to discover that there seem to be plenty.  Why bewildered?  Because CS is apparently crying out for more women, offering abundant aid in an attempt to improve the lopsided gender ratio… and meanwhile, there are almost no women in my own field and no one seems to care much.  Strange, that.  Maybe female hardware/network geeks are so rare that there aren’t enough of us to decry our own rarity with sufficient volume. Maybe people see the lopsidedness here to be so far gone it’s beyond repair.  Maybe too many people just take it for granted that all such geeks are bound to be men.  I don’t know.  What I can say for sure is that when the bubble burst in 2000-2001, it took many of our would-be jobs with it.  Perhaps it’s a moot point, at this stage.  In any case, the apparent wealth of programs to get women into CS was and is very encouraging.  I began joining mailing lists for female developers and taking an online CS class from Harvard University.  (I’ll post the link for this and many other free online courses in a separate post in the near future.)

On a mailing list aimed at women programmers interested in FOSS (which must unfortunately remain nameless due to privacy rules), some members posted information about full-time internships available through the GNOME Foundation called the Outreach Program for Women (OPW).  It’s a worldwide competition for a limited number of internships.  If you win, you get $5000 USD for a 3-month internship from January 2 to April 2.  In order to apply, you have to submit a small contribution to a FOSS project with one of the participating organizations.  The description said you don’t absolutely have to have coding skills to complete a project and apply.  Unfortunately, what little background I have is mostly obsolete (C64 BASIC, anyone? {cue crickets}), with a smattering of PHP and some mostly-forgotten JavaScript. Knowing this, I decided I’d likely have to start off with a web design or documentation task instead, and perhaps that would open up an opportunity along the way to take on a minor programming-related task or two, should I happen to be awarded an internship.

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