So you finished an online course, now what ?

Start working on real projects with people who know more than you do.

If you are someone who just completed an online course, know that you will forget most of what you’ve learned fairly soon. Chances are, you may have even formed bad habits in how you develop applications by working on dummy projects. From the career perspective, you will soon find it difficult to land a relevant job just by listing the name of the course on your resume. In the majority of cases, you still need tangible evidence that you are capable of actually implementing real-world solutions.

So what’s next ? How can you prepare yourself for what’s coming and take the most advantage out of your online class? Here are the three things you should be doing after completing an online course. You can either go at them yourself or use an online service like Zyring.

1- Work in lab-like environments

A typical Computer Science course consists of classes and projects. When I was a student, I found that for most skill-based courses, working in a lab with others was the best way to develop a skill. Classes provided the information but it was through the labs and hands-on projects that I gained fluency in a technology.

To draw a parallel, learning how to develop is like learning to play a music instrument. Though you may need to understand music theory to begin playing, you can never quiet gain mastery unless you practice religiously. Similarly, technical classes on their own don’t aid you in your effort to build development skills until you constantly code, break things, and debug.

However, there is an absence of labs in online courses. The courses that do offer projects treat them as second class citizens, with student work being verified automatically without any explanation of the best practices. These courses fail to provide variety and a medium for experimentation and human interaction. As a result, you acquire the rudimentary knowledge to be dangerous but not enough to become a great developer.

2- Become an apprentice

Historically, the path to becoming a master of one’s trade was through the practice of apprenticeship. In medieval Germany, for instance, the journeyman (i.e., the apprentice) travelled town to town, working in different workshops until mastery was achieved.

Overtime, we have come to lose the tradition of apprenticeship, especially in the field of technology. Today, one can learn a new skill through convenient online courses that try to transmit knowledge from the experts to the novice. However, studies have shown that skills are not developed by merely gaining information from another, they are developed through active observation and work with experts (1, 2, 3, 4).

By learning a new technology on your own or with mediocre people, you risk becoming mediocre yourself. Instead, repeatedly expose yourself to the performance, process, and results of experts. To become great, you need to observe instances of greatness.

3- Build a portfolio

Prior and relevant work experience is one of the key requirements for landing a job. So much so that a usual question posed at interviews is: “Tell me about a recent project in which you….”. The purpose of this inquiry is to have you highlight some of the specific challenges that you faced and overcame, especially when involving a team. If your prior experiences in that field are limited to online courses, you will not have the opportunity to be exposed to complex problems, particularly in team projects.

So, merely completing online courses is not enough to get you a job, or even an interview for that matter. You need relevant experience working on real world projects with others, and you want to be able to showcase them and talk about them.

Easier said than done

If you’re relatively new to the area, how can you define and work on meaningful projects? If you define it yourself, how do you ensure that it gives you the experience you need? How do you expose your work to peers and employers? How do you find an expert? How can you identify if a said person is an expert if you are a novice yourself?

Zyring is the service that we envision solving these very challenges.

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