Thank you for stopping in to read the blog. My sincerest apologies for being away from it for so long. To say we’ve been busy lately is an understatement! There are many big changes on the horizon for OST, and an enormous amount of our energy is dedicated to implementing them right now. Please bear with us and stay tuned. In the meantime, I’ll make a concerted effort to blog more frequently and keep you informed of the latest OST news — feel free to nudge or even nag us on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/OReillySchool) or Twitter (http://twitter.com/OReillySchool) to keep us on our toes.
For this blog, I’d like to share with you a recent PC World review of OST by Sharon Machlis, who completed Inroduction to PHP, Perl Programming 1: Introduction to Perl, and PHP/SQL 1: Introduction to Database Programming in 2010 and early 2011.
Here is what she writes:
O’Reilly School of Technology
I’m finishing up my third class with this partnership between the O’Reilly tech publisher and University of Illinois. The school offers certificates in skills like programming, database administration and Linux/Unix administration, although classes are offered individually as well.
I can’t vouch for how much sway this training holds with would-be employers, since I’ve yet to apply for an IT job. But I can say that the skills I’ve picked up have helped me solve real-world problems, such as automating drudge work with scripting and crafting database queries using SQL.
You take these classes at your own pace — a mixed blessing for those of us who need flexibility but also tend to perform better on deadline than “whenever you finish.” Classes are text-only (no video or screencasts), but also include a lab environment/development sandbox where you can practice coding without installing software on your own system. After each lesson, there are quizzes and/or coding assignments to hand in to demonstrate you’ve absorbed what was explained. Assignments are graded pass/fail.
The course mentor who does your grading is also available to answer questions by e-mail. I’ve found this ranges from “won’t help unless the question is directly related to the syllabus” to “way above-and-beyond helpful.”
Classes come with a free e-book related to the subject of your course, although the book isn’t a textbook to use in conjunction with your instruction.
The courses are definitely useful, even if they occasionally move too slowly at some times and too quickly at others for my tastes. I do end up with new or improved skills, which is of course the point.
Courses are usually around $300 or $400, although there are occasional sales such as this month’s 25% off.
Advantages: Access to an instructor so you can get questions answered, graded assignments make it more likely you’ll do needed work to absorb what was taught, certificate series allow you to build on what you’ve learned in other courses.
Disadvantages: Interaction with instructors limited to e-mail, no interaction at all with other students, fairly pricey for static text classes.
Since most reviewers tend to skim through our materials without trying any examples, let alone completing three full courses, I have to give full credit to Sharon for a thorough and fair review. However, I was taken aback at a few things — especially her reaction to our instructors, in each of whom we take immense pride. It compelled me to respond in her comments section:
Thanks so much for an honest and thorough review of the O’Reilly School of Technology. Although I agree with many of the points you made, I’m hoping to get clarifications of a few.
The one that worries me most is the description of your instructor interaction ranging from “won’t help unless directly related to the syllabus” to “way above-and-beyond helpful”. OST’s biggest source of pride has always been the close relationship that each student enjoys with his/her instructor. Therefore, if you were ever refused help at any time because the question wasn’t related directly to the syllabus, this is a big problem to us that we would want to rectify immediately. If you’d rather not post the details here, you can email me at email@example.com so that we can make it right for you and future students.
You are correct in that as of today, there is not enough student-to-student interaction. We are working hard to improve this situation in a meaningful way, ie. without resorting to tired concepts such as plain discussion boards or chats. Please stay tuned in 2011/2012 as these solutions come about.
Finally, I do respectfully take issue with the idea that OST’s courses are “static text classes”. We certainly shun video and simulations in our IT courses; however, this is deliberate in order to focus on learn-by-doing using the Sandbox practice methodology. This way, rather than watching someone else talk about programming, you are doing the actual programming yourself (in a guided way of course), and gaining valuable experience in the meantime. The real-world projects can even be kept beyond coursework as a portfolio to show potential employers — something that has landed more than a few of our graduates good jobs in IT.
Again, thanks so much for your honest assessment, and looking forward to your comments.
So far I haven’t received a response from Sharon, but I sincerely hope I do. It’s important that our students are aware of the great respect and appreciation we have for them and their opinions about our courses. If a student feels they aren’t receiving adequate attention, then we need to fix that! All student criticism, positive or negative, is extremely important to us, and may alert us to ways we can improve our courses. That’s why I met with Sharon’s instructors myself to review their interactions with her. From all I was able to gather, it seems that a good rapport was established between the student and her instructors and she progressed really well in the course with their help.
Even so, I want to make it clear to everybody that we take your constructive criticism seriously. We welcome your comments, especially those that direct us into areas of our courses and methods that may be improved upon. We are constantly seeking ways to make OST better, to ensure the utmost in quality of our curriculum, teaching methods, communications, and services. Most importantly, we strive to create and facilitate the best learning experience possible for each of our students.
So my question to you is, what can we do to make the student experience better? I welcome any and all comments, suggestions, and questions. Let’s talk!