A Review of the O'Reilly School of Technology Perl Course (OST)
Why I Chose O'Reilly
I enrolled in the O'Reilly School of Technology with the idea in mind that I would work toward their Open Source Programming Certificate.
A certificate from O'Reilly was particularly appealing to me because, at the time, they we awarded through the University of Illinois Office of Online & Continuing Education (the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is one of the best computer science schools.)
O'Reilly also publishes and sells great programming books, so I figured that taking their online courses was the perfect option.
Signing Up for My Class
I decided to start out with the Perl 1: Introduction to Perl course. The O'Reilly School of Technology gives pretty good deals when you enroll in entire certificate series, but I decided to just start out with one class to test it out.
Signing up was simple and, with a coupon, I only paid $288.55 for the course. Included in the purchase price was a copy of "Learning Perl" by Randal L. Schwartz, Tom Phoenix, and brian d foy (he prefers his name to be lowercase.)
O'Reilly immediately sent me a message with details on accessing the course. I was on my way!
Initially, I was really excited about learning Perl. I'd written code before, in Ruby, and I was really interested in learning another language.
During the first part of the course, I learned the usual stuff you'd expect in programming:
- Printing strings
- Basic math
- Built-in functions
While these things were easy concepts for me, I found numerous bugs with information presented in the text (the course text, not "Learning Perl") and would submit bug reports to O'Reilly.
Along with the bugs, I had a really hard time with a concept I was learning. I posted my issue in my programming blog. The blog's feed was part of IronMan, a blog aggregator for Perl. A number of Perl programmers commented on my blog about the content I was learning, particularly related to the order in which concepts were taught.
"Context" was a major issue for me. I did not get it. When I finally did grasp it, they threw in subroutines, I didn't get it at all.
I felt like throwing in the towel, but I decided I would plug through it when one of the authors of the book, "Learning Perl" sent me an email asking me not to quit Perl, (despite his fairly lengthy argument that the course was doing a nightmare job of presenting information.)
I was very close to the end of the course, a chapter or two, when I ran into more bugs in the material. I just couldn't learn with the thought in mind that, "This isn't how I should be learning," so I quit.
I felt like I couldn't learn Perl if I was this frustrated and confused before I even tried to code anything myself! Furthermore, with a text that showed buggy code as an example of "good Perl code", I felt like I really didn't stand a chance of learning it.
Would you take a course through OST?
O'Reilly After Quitting
My instructor for the class was very helpful in going over the code and giving hints on how to solve problems. I didn't talk to him about grammatical errors in the text, because I felt that would have been petty. In fact, when I quit, my instructor asked why and I simply said I no longer had time for it.
A good while after quitting, I decided that despite the fact that I had a horrible time with the text, I should go back and finish it. O'Reilly boasted that if you put down what you're learning, you can always pick up in the future. I logged into my account to pay the monthly lab fee to get started again and saw that I would also have to pay a reinstatement fee ranging from $59.70 to $149.40. That was when I decided I was done with the program.
- The example code often had errors.
- Grammatical errors in the learning material.
- The material was taught in a weird order.
- I was often frustrated and confused.
- Members of the Perl community urged me to quit the program.
- Re-instatement fee if you want to continue using the program after pausing for a while.
- The staff was very friendly.
- After blogging about having trouble with the material, the author of one of the books contacted me and offered to help (huge pro for the Perl community.)
- The "free" book, "Learning Perl" actually helped a lot.
- The publisher prints phenomenal books (the animal books.)
Despite the ease of signing up to O'Reilly and the amazingly nice people who work for them (my instructor and Georgia), I found the course text to be extremely difficult to follow. It introduced concepts in a strange order and its sample code was full of bugs, making it very difficult for me to solve problems in my own code.
While I couldn't recommend O'Reilly School of Technology, I want to note that I only took this one course through O'Reilly. I highly doubt that this is a wholly accurate reflection of their entire course series. However, I was both very disappointed in the course and the renewal fee (which I didn't pay.)
I give them two stars. Their staff is very friendly and their Sandbox software is really easy-to-use.
I do still have my copy of "Learning Perl" which is what I'll refer to in the future if I do choose to give Perl another try.