Here's the thing: I work for Pearson Education and InformIT. As such, I already know anything I say, do or mention that promotes Pearson Education and InformIT products will be looked at as a nod to staying employed. I get that. I do.
But in all honesty, what I am about to endorse is not a product of wanting to stay employed or a product of a forced corporate hand. No. What I am about to endorse is a product which I have used, compared to similar services and have come away impressed.
Code Academy is one avenue. The Flat Iron School is another. All in though, Pearson Education Learning Labs trumps them both in terms of overall programming learning lessons.
To learn Ruby, or, well, to get a basic education in Ruby, I utilized Code Academy. While the platform provided me with great learning examples, section wrap up quizzes and interactive coding tutorials, I found Code Academy to be missing in the way of context, reflective quizzes and further lessons where learned skills can be applied.
I'll admit, I might hold this position because I am more accustomed to the institutional school learning system wherein an instructor teaches skills with context, quizzes and conversation. As a professional, I now respond better to learning materials presented in a myriad of avenues all designed to strengthen core lessons. Code Academy didn't have this. Pearson Education Learning Labs, on the other hand, has it in spades.
I recommend using Learning Labs because if you are like me, a professional who went to school in the traditional setting (elementary - - > middle school - - > high school - - > university), you will gravitate towards Learning Lessons ability to impart a full learning experience as opposed to a programming context free learning environment.
For a moment, take a second to think about any lesson you have ever been taught. Now think about that lesson without context - without relevant information to inform meaning, purpose and reason. Any single lesson, set aside alone, holds little value. Yet, when strung together, every little lesson informs every other little lesson. This is the essence of education. Small lessons, steadily reinforced over time, educate the pupil with not only information, but more importantly, purpose.
Code Academy and the like provide individual lessons without context. Without context, lessons mean little. With context, individual lessons equate to overall usable education. Usable real world education is what Pearson Education Learning Labs are all about. Context matters. Context informs. Context cements new ideas. Context brings meaning. Without context learning has no tether. We all need a tether. Learning Labs provides it.
I'll admit, the Code Academy live coding platform is stellar. The company has simplified their learning coding environment to provide students with a simple interface designed for one thing and one thing only - learning to code. Their interface is sleek, simple and beautiful. In all honesty, I love the Code Academy student learning code environment. Yet, as mentioned, it offers minimal context.
Learning Labs picks up the ball in this arena by providing professional students with a live code sandbox along with 2 - 3 hours of instructional video, textbook style lessons imparting context/meaning, do it yourself exercises and interactive quizzes.
Again, learning is more than one element. Learning is a life cycle. Pearson Education Learning Labs offers this learning life cycle for professionals interested in learning/beefing up their programming skills.
On August 12, I wrote a blog for InformIT.com called "On the Importance of Continued Learning." The blog covered the need to keep learning in a professional setting because it is the only way to continue to grow, to continue to progress and to keep your job. When it comes to professional learning, no one is going to tell you that you need to learning a new skill or that you need to read certain materials to keep your skill set sharp. In the professional setting, continued learning is the expected default. Let me say that again, in the professional setting, continued learning is the expected default.
Pearson Education Learning Labs offers continued professional learning. You can choose to take advantage of it or you choose to ignore continued learning and fall into professional/personal stagnation. As Dr. Suess so smartly noted, getting stuck in the waiting place is the worst fate of all.
All this said, my endorsement of Learning Labs comes because I believe in the platform. For the professional who followed the same educational track I did, Learning Labs smartly plays into how you have been conditioned to learn and build your skills. Again, Code Academy and The Flat Iron School are great tools yet for the professional looking to advance his/her skills with overall context and life cycle learning, Learning Labs should be your avenue of choice.
Sample Learning Labs Lessons: