It’s no surprise that some of our most popular courses are coding courses. And, with an instructor like Alan Simpson, it makes perfect sense. Alan has published over 100 computer and coding books, has been professionally developing web apps for over a decade, and currently teaches four of our coding courses.
We took some time to interview Alan and get his take on the industry, as well as share a little bit more about his experience teaching.
Name: Alan Simpson
Me: What do you enjoy most about teaching online coding courses?
Alan: I was a book author for many years. The one thing that is missing from that is contact with the students. With an online course, you get pace and can structure the material to facilitate learning. Plus, you can answer questions for people, which really helps with the whole learning process.
And, students discussing things among themselves in the online discussion areas is an added bonus. They help each other learn, and teach each other new things. It’s an outstanding learning environment for everyone.
Me: Do you have any hobbies outside of the courses you teach?
Alan: I like sailing, snow skiing, and trail riding on my mountain bike. I really like all kinds of nature activities, to tell you the truth. Which some people seem to think is off for someone in a nerdy profession like myself. But on the nerdy side, I also like digital video and digital photography a lot.
Me: What was the most interesting coding project you’ve worked on?
Alan: There have been so many. Though lately I was faced with a situation where multiple offices needed to schedule multiple events on strange schedules like “the second Tuesday of every other month from 6:00 to 9:00” and other very specific time slots. Each office had its own schedules, and those schedules could change at any time.
They wanted be able to open up a calendar showing all the filled and available timeslots going forward, and have the ability to assign a person to the “next available” time slot, or any available time slot. And of course then had the need to un-schedule and re-schedule and so forth, all of the time.
Making that all work in a Web browser, so they can do it online from any Internet-connected computer in the world, turned out to be an interesting challenge. Tough on the brain cells. But I got it working.
Me: What is your favorite coding language?
Me: When you were first learning to code, what were the things you had a tough time with, and how did you work through it?
Alan: Computers have no brains so you can’t tell them what to do in plain English. You have to reduce your vocabulary to a couple dozen words and a few basic concepts of how to store and access information. It’s so much simpler than what we do with our own brains, that it’s actually hard. It was hard for me, anyway. And I see it’s often hard for others. We just don’t normally break things down into such small, simple steps. But once you get the hang of that… and understand that you’re just trying to explain things to a really dumb machine… using very simple language, you get over a hump, a bump in the learning curve, and from there on out, it all makes sense, and learning becomes a lot easier.
You need a lot of hands-on practice too. Actually writing code has made be the developer I am today. I always encourage people to just keep trying things out, see what happens. That’s how you learn. And you don’t have to worry about breaking something. If the code is bad, then you get a weird result or no result. But you don’t break anything or do any permanent harm.
Me: What advice would you give someone who is interested in pursuing a career in development and/or programming?
Want to learn more about Alan Simpson? Visit his website at http://alansimpson.me or enroll in one of his courses today!