Intro to Coding and Design Course with Future Learn
I needed something challenging to keep my mind off of things so I enrolled in Intro to Coding and Design with Future Learn.
I heard about Future Learn via a friend and decided to check it out for myself. Right away I searched for a learning to code course and was happy to see that this is free and supported by The Institute of Coding and the University of Leeds.
If you’ve been a reader of the blog for a while you will know that I’ve recommended other free coding courses in the past. I’ll be using this blog post as a coding log to show my progress with the course and notes I can look back on. Hopefully it inspires you to join in or look into an online coding course too.
About the Course
There are 3 modules within this course:
- Learn to code for the web
- Computer programming for everyone
- Creating a great user experience for mobile apps
Duration: 6 weeks
Certificate: Certificate of Achievement and FutureLearn Digital Award
Each module has been set out to work at your own pace with a guideline of 2 hours per week 6 weeks total recommended learning although you can work at your own pace. There is a Certificate of Achievement for each course module which after completion of the full course you will be awarded a FutureLearn Digital Award.
Learn to code for the web
Having done some coding before I was excited to get stuck in, however there was no actual coding on day one. I did learn a few things I’d either never come across before or they just hadn’t stuck. This course is laid out nice and simply so I’m retaining the information.
Fun fact: Tim Berners – Lee is the inventor of the world wide web
DNS stands for Domain Name System
URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator
Deconstructing a URL
The module on Deconstructing a URL was very helpful. I made some colour coded notes on this in my notebook so I can remember the terms. Mostly things I use everyday but never learned the proper terms for.
Coding Language Basics
Next we covered the coding language basics and their uses:
- HTML: Hypertext Markup
- CSS: Cascading Style Sheets
These are known as front-end languages which shape the user side of the website what we see, while Back-End code is behind the scenes relating to data and logic.
The course is set out for a couple of hours work per week but seeing as I want to keep up with #100DaysofCode and do a bit each day, I continued.
Today in the course video, we were reminded that coding is an important skill for anyone in tech, including Digital Marketing which is what I do.
We got hands on by inspecting the code of the Future Learn website and manipulating it via the source code and the help of the picker icon. We also focused on the rules of CSS, including what is a selector, property, declaration and value. I made some rather colourful notes on this in my book but I really liked the way it was broken down and easy to understand.
A share graphic popped up after I completed Week One of the course so of course I made a humble brag on my socials about my progress.
Today I started on Week Two of the course. I was tired and had to go workout before dinner, so I didn’t spend too much time but did read the articles and logged back in to my CodePen account, which is what we will need going forward. I was reminded of the Pikachu pen that I created about 2 years ago when I was taking the FreeCodeCamp course. 😅
Today’s task is to solve the HTML exercise for the Restaurante Alcazar website. This was exciting to actually get into CodePen and started writing some code and following the comments to make some magic on the page.
Restaurante Alcazar Website
Tables: Still confusing but getting better
Tables will forever confuse me. I don’t know whether to blame my learning difficulty dyscalculia or I just haven’t practiced it well enough. Being a WordPress user, I use blocks, widgets and stackables daily, it’s so easy to click and boom it’s done.
It was interesting to actually write the code that shows a restaurant menu in a table with prices. It took me a few tries and I did end up in W3 schools to look for examples but I got there in the end. The cells and rows were puzzling but I wrote the code out by hand in my notebook a few times to let it sink in.
This exercise made me hungry because the image used for the restaurant website was a tortilla española. 😂
After I was happy with my coding for this exercise, the course showed a video on how course tutor Tom completes it and explanations of how he did it. I really liked this and my own code wasn’t far off. At this point, I am 69% through with this part of the course. Nice.
Ah day 5 and I was feeling like a hot mess. I had stomach ache so I didn’t work on the course, but I did join in with the #CodeNewbie twitter chat and set my intentions for the week ahead. I intend on completing this section of the course this week. I also dabbled in handwritten code, going over tables as I feel like writing it out helps me retain the information.
Today was almost a no go to, but I told myself I’d have a go at the CSS exercise for the Restaurante Alcazar website. A bit of styling really improved it but I had trouble following the instructions for the flexbox that is supposed to show 3 divs at the bottom of the site.
Maybe it’s because I’m tired and still feeling a bit off from yesterday but I just couldn’t get it and I had to watch the tutorial video to see where I was going wrong. I wasn’t far off but I wouldn’t have figured it out by myself.
I got there in the end and managed to complete activity two, hopefully I can finish up this part of the course tomorrow.
WordPress really is the easiest way to create a restaurant website but it’s great to be able to work with the code.
I went over DOCTYPE declaration and then watched the video from Naomi Sharif who works in eCommerce, she explained about her day to day as a professional web dev.
After that I was ready to take the end of unit test which I scored 100%! Woohoo! I now have a certificate of achievement for this part of the course.
Days Eight, Nine, Ten
Guess who took a break from 100 Days Of Code? Haha, yep me. I know some people like to go back to day 1 when this happens but I find that very demotivating personally, so my 100 days of code is going to be more like 120 days of code. LOL.
I have a very legit reason for my absence. We were dog sitting the most adorable pup and just wanted to enjoy our time, especially since losing Rambo a couple of months ago. I think it’s important to take a break from the screens too even if it’s just to take a nap, chat with a friend or play with your dog.
After a quick gloat over my shiny new certificate, I decided to start the next unit of this course, Computer Programming for Everyone. That sounds positive, so let’s dive in!
Computer Programming for Everyone
Here’s what’s on the course map for the next 2 weeks, or however long it takes to complete.
- Summarise key developments in the advent of computer technology.
- Identify where algorithms are used in the real world.
- Describe the features and advantages of text-based coding languages.
- Discuss the roles and responsibilities involved in making software.
- Solve basic block-language programming exercises.
- Solve more advanced block language exercises with expressive solutions.
I was excited to get stuck into some computer history, with fun quizzes and facts.
Did you know? Charles Babbage designed the first general purpose computer in the 1830’s!
A lazy Sunday but I was raring to go and joined in with the CodeNewbie Twitter chat. I set my intentions for the week:
Goal: To complete the full Intro to Coding and Design Course by next weekend.
So I spent the day under the air con learning some major milestones in computing. I found it fascinating to learn about tech through the ages including some important Women In Tech like Grace Hopper and Margaret Hamilton. I’ll definitely be doing some further reading on these ladies.
It got me thinking about tech advances which have the most impact on my life.
The iPhone by far has the most impact as it allows me to stay in contact with my family (who live in a different country) and is a huge part of daily life working as a Digital Marketer, Blogger and Social Media Manager.
Being able to create content on the fly and having that privilege of online access is something that we take for granted. Even those days when social media gets a bit much, I think I’d feel very cut off from the world without it.
Yeah I didn’t do any coding but I did work on 2 different WordPress sites. What can I say? Another day added on to my 100DaysOfCoding LOL.
How Can Code Solve Problems?
Yikes, as soon as I saw the word algorithm I tensed up. I needn’t have worried, we looked into simple problems such as converting Celsius into Fahrenheit which was handy.
More complex algorithms were explained such as getting from A to B on a map and the complexity the variables would add to the algorithm such as mode of transport, one way streets and so on.
Apparently writing code comes in week 2 of this module.
Problem: How to make the perfect cup of tea
Some things you need to know. I am British, but haven’t drank tea in the ‘British way’ for sometime so when we were told to list the steps to make the perfect cup of tea, I got twitchy haha. I only drink tea in the winter and I drink it black.
- Fill the kettle with water
- Get a mug
- Put teabag in mug
- When water has boiled, pour into mug
- Leave to steep
- Remove teabag
- Add milk or not
- Add sweetener or sugar or not
- Stir tea
At the end of this task we had to think about research. If more research was done before making the tea, would there be more of less options or steps.
Real World Applications of Coding
We learned about micro controllers, which are tiny reprogrammable chips and how they are used in many of our day to day electronics such as the washing machine. The input would be the dials and switches and the output the beeping when the washing load is complete. Micro controllers can also be found in Bluetooth devices.
Completed some exercises using Blockly Games, a visual programming system made by Google. It runs inside the browser and let’s you solve puzzles with code.
I found Blockly really fun at first until I started getting confused with numbers, just another of my Dyscalculia problems and means I have to work harder.
Day Seventeen + Eighteen
Dog sitting took total priority on day 17, as our family welcomed a small blue Chihuahua. Say hello to our pup-nephew, Cooper. He likes to eat, sleep, annoy his brother Chester and zoom (not the video conference kind). Once he’s ready for the outdoors, we will be taking him for adventures, like we do with our other pup-nephew Chester.
On day 18 I had a terrible migraine, so I had to take the day off. I watched High Score on Netflix for some computer and gaming history. I highly recommend you watch it. It was so interesting to see the origins of text-based adventure games and learn about how arcade machines were ‘upgraded’ back then using hacks.
I’m really glad that I took a break.
After a couple of days rest, I’m back at it with a fresh attitude. Things make a bit more sense today and the heatwave has gone. It’s not easy to think clearly when it’s 43ºC degrees!
Day Twenty + Twenty-One
Two more days away from the screens, we had a big change at home because of the pandemic and its effects on tourism. I’m thankful for all of the online resources to upskill and take my mind off of things.
Today’s task involved looking for jobs on LinkedIn using the search term: Junior Software Developer.
My search produced 3 results: one of the job requirements for a Junior Dev was travelling once a month, another job for an entry level Junior Dev required the candidate to be fluent in English, Spanish and German. The other job was listed incorrectly and there was no remote work available, it was all in the city.
I then searched the terms: QA, Software Project Management, Product Ownership to which there were zero results for my area.
This concludes the module of Computer Programming for Everyone. Look another shiny certificate!
Day Twenty-Three + Twenty-Four
Another break. Yep! Next time I do this I probably won’t log my break days and just follow on. It made sense to me at first to count the non-coding days, but looking back on this it’s not really necessary.
After yet another break, it’s time to delve into the final module of this course: Creating a Great User Experience for Mobile Apps.
Creating a Great User Experience for Mobile Apps
We start off this module by exploring the history of the Smartphone and its evolution from the Personal Digital Assistant or PDA. It’s crazy to think how long smartphones have been in our lives. We looked into the importance of the touchscreen and interface.
I was interested to learn about the available Toolkits available for iOS and Android developers. This allows them to piece together visual elements and parts to create an app.
Another pause, we had another heatwave which brought on a migraine along with the stresses of 2020.
Week Two of the course starts with looking at the User Journey and the making and testing of a simple app including design features and pathways.
I enjoyed the though process behind this part of the course.
Instead of thinking what your app does, consider the problem it solves. While I’m not making any apps in real life, the thinking behind it can apply to most things online, from writing a detailed blog post, to designing a website. Reverse engineering the answer and coming up with a solution.
My idea was a Halloween Countdown app called ‘How Many Days Until Halloween?’
Target user: people who love Halloween and own an iPhone.
Key Idea: Halloween Countdown
What the App does: The app counts down the days until Halloween (31st October) every year and when the user taps on the app, they will see a countdown with how many days there are left until Halloween.
I downloaded the Marvel app which is great for testing prototypes. My app only has one screen so the User Journey was easy to create with 3 boxes or post-it notes.
I had a lot of ideas about my imaginary app including (no idea how I would do it) grabbing the API of UnSplash’s Halloween photos and displaying a different spooky photo to the user each day.
We looked into the different kinds of prototypes and when it’s a good idea to use pen and paper or something a bit more technical such as a Works Like Prototype in order to move to User Testing.
We then touched on Discovery Research and how the results of User Testing and how the observations can help you makes changes to your app and find out if it’s even something the market needs in the first place!
After that we looked at the Agile process and how teams often work in Sprints or 2 week chunks then review, test, evaluate before the next Sprint. If you have seen the tv series Silicon Valley then you will be familiar with Jared’s Scrum board in which he organizes the work loads simply on post it notes. Jared actually inspired me to make my own scrum board, which can be used for anything really, not just tech projects.
I can’t believe we’re at the end of the course. Thank you so for joining me. I hope you enjoyed this review and I will be sharing more coding and tech courses on here in the future.
Overall I really enjoyed it. There are some things that I know I’m not going to go further with such as the app design, but as with most online learning, you find little nuggets along the way that spark big ideas. I learned a lot about computer history and I’m going to look in that a little more as it was so interesting learning about inspiring key figures.
Intro to Coding and Design took me about a month to complete, with breaks. There’s not an awful lot of coding involved in this course (the first module on Learn to Code for the Web is where you will find more hands on exercises), but this is really great starting point for anyone wanting to get into Computer Science and learn about the industry. I really enjoyed the teaching style and learning map, so I’ll definitely look into more FutureLearn courses as part of my future online learning.
Have you taken any online courses recently? Can you recommend any?