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Want to Learn JavaScript? Treehouse May be a Place to Start.

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JavaScript (JS) is one of the most used programming languages on the web — on front end and now even the backend.

After acknowledging that I needed to learn JavaScript better, I decided to take action by signing up with Team Treehouse.

In the past, I have heard good things about Treehouse courses. Before signing up I browsed the Treehouse library and noticed they have a wide selection of JavaScript classes. It seemed like a great place to get going.

However, because I had never taken an online JS class before, I wanted to start with the basics. You know, go back to the fundamentals.

So I decided to start with the JavaScript Basics course as part of my recommitment to the JavaScript language.

This Was My First Time Learning with Treehouse

While Treehouse has been around for some time (since 2011), back in October of this year (2014) was the first time I signed up to be a member. I've heard good things about their classes in the past, but for some reason I never felt compelled to check out their courses.

To me, Lynda.com seemed like a much more reputable option. (Lynda was the first online learning platform I used.)

But boy was I wrong. While Lynda has many more course offerings, and release new courses basically every day, Treehouse has more offerings relevant to what I am trying to learn: web development/design.

On the other hand, Lynda has a wide spectrum of courses in many areas: design, development, business, photography, animation, video, and so on.

Anyways, I could write a whole article comparing Treehouse with Lynda. I just wanted to explain why it had taken me over a year to sign up with Treehouse.

In any case, let's continue and look at Treehouse's JavaScript Basics class.

The Online Learning Experience With Treehouse

All of the Treehouse courses share similar features and components, such as:

  • Workspaces where you can follow along with the instructor by coding right in the browser in a separate window. These workspaces allow you to avoid the hassle of setting up an environment on your machine.
  • Quizzes throughout the course that include multiple choice and fill in the blank question types.
  • Coding Challenges where you are given step-by-step instructions, and code the program right in the browser. Then, your program is checked. (So kind of like a quiz.)
  • Discussion forums where you can post questions and interact with other students taking the course.

Overall, all Team Treehouse courses seem to follow a similar pattern: short video, quiz, code challenge, video, video, quiz, and so on.

Using the Team Treehouse Interface

Treehouse has a modern, easy to use (for the most part) interface.

The only problem I experienced on their interface was that sometimes it could be difficult finding the courses I had already started.

Actually, as I just went back and attempted to find the JavaScript Basics Course, it was not as easy to find as it could have been. I had to go back into the course library and search for it, rather than it still being present on my home screen.

Moreover, some of the navigation setup was a little unclear to me. (At least initially. Not any longer since I have become accustomed to it.)

My Thoughts on The JavaScript Basics Course

This course is taught by Dave McFarland. Dave is an O'Reilly author and has written several books such as “JavaScript & jQuery: The Missing Manual” as well as “CSS3: The Missing Manual”. Not to mention a long list of others. So, I trust him.

The JavaScript Basics course is broken down into five sections. Or “achievements”, as Treehouse calls them:

  1. Introducing JavaScript
  2. Storing and Tracking Information with Variables
  3. Working With Numbers
  4. Making Decisions with Conditional Statements
  5. Creating Reusable Code with Functions

What We Actually Worked On

This course was as basic as one could get. It covered the absolute beginnings of learning JavaScript from how to include it in your website file structure to using the browser console with JS.

Dave talked about variables, strings, numbers, booleans and all the other standard, beginner-level programing material.

The end of the course finally introduced functions. However, Dave only touched the surface with the if statement and return statement.

The In-Class Projects

Unlike other online courses I have done in the past, there wasn't a single project we worked on throughout the duration of the course. Instead, there were smaller projects in each achievement section.

For instance, there was a Mad Lib Challenge where you wrote a program that put user-submitted words into sentence blanks. (Just like a Mad Lib you'd do on paper.) Fairly simple — achieved using the document.write method and string concatenation.

Later on there was a random number guessing game project, using the Math.random()function.

Again, for total beginners just trying to get a feel for JavaScript, this course is perfect.

Time it Took to Complete Course

From start to finish, it took me about a week to complete the class.

The course was approximately 6 hours in length. Of course, depending how long it took you to get through the quizzes and coding challenges! 

Personally, I worked on the course about an hour a day. Which is an easy time commitment to make.

Who This Course Would Be Good For

This JavaScript Basics class is ideal for newbies with some HTML experience. (Because it's important to understand HTML to fully grasp how JavaScript works.)

Before going in, I did have prior JS experience. (Not a whole lot, though.) And this class leaned on the easy side for me. There were a few challenges I got stuck on and had to turn to the forum. (But mostly because the wording of the directions left me confused.)

Depending on your level of JavaScript experience, this course could be too easy for you, too. Personally, I didn't mind refreshing some of the JavaScript core components. (As I mentioned previously, once upon a time I dreaded JavaScript — and did everything to avoid it.)

Any Downsides to the Course

As I brought up above, there were a few code challenges that had confusing directions. But aside from that, working through the class was easy. There were not too many roadblocks.

And people in the forum are quite helpful, answering questions within 24 hours usually.

BTW, Here is My Treehouse Profile

For those who are interested, here's my Treehouse profile. (Because it's all about transparency, right?!) On my profile you can see my total “points”. Treehouse gives out points each time you finish an “achievement”.

You can also see some other stuff I have dabbled with, like Git, CSS and Ruby. (However, at the time of writing, most of my points are in JavaScript.)

In Conclusion: The Course is Good For Beginners

Overall, I think this class is good for those who have had no or little previous JavaScript exposure. Or for people like me who want a brush up.

Before I head out, I also want to mention that Treehouse has a great iPad/iPhone app. (And Android.) So I watched many of these course videos on my iPad, while jogging on the treadmill or using the elliptical. I would then go home, take the quizzes and do the code challenges on my computer. (Since typing code on an iPad while using the elliptical is kind of a struggle … and a recipe for a literal headache.)

In the end, with tons of JavaScript classes to choose form, Treehouse is definitely a good place to start learning.

Let me know if you've tried Team Treehouse and if you have a favorite course of theirs.

If you have not taken any courses with Treehouse and are interested in learning more about the platform, continue here to get 3 Months Free on Treehouse's Basic Annual Plan—a $75 value.


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