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Smarter Textbooks

Textbooks with online content that goes along with the reading can be very effective if done right.

Photo of Donji YD
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What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

I picked up this book online called, "A Smarter Way to Learn Javascript." I tried many different types of online/in-classroom classes, and this book has been the best fit for my style of learning how to program. The basic idea is you have short chapters and each chapter only covers one new concept. Each chapter builds on the previous knowledge so when you learn something new, you are also practicing the previous chapters. When you finish reading a chapter, there is a very short online test that you take. This book has a couple of things going for it: 1. Complimentary online learning software (That is Extremely Accessible) 2. Digestible lesson segments 3. Affordable *** Complimentary Learning Software *** When you finish a chapter, you take an online test that helps you to internalize what you just read in the book. The software has many strengths. Its biggest strength is it's accessibility. You don't have to log into some complicated login system where you have to set up a username and password. All the lessons are completely open to the public. Check it out for yourself: The next strength of the online learning tool is it didn't cost the author Mark Myers that much to make. It has an extremely simple design, yet offers high levels of interactivity. *** Digestible Lesson Segments *** There is the perfect amount of work to do to make a daily habit of doing chapters in the book. Lessons only take in total 45 minutes for myself to complete and that includes the reading and the online content. (I'm not particularly fast either) Each chapter of the book only focuses on one concept at a time, so I never feel overwhelmed. *** Affordable *** This book was only $18. It is much better than many classes I've paid $300+ for.


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Photo of Caitlin Sikora

Hey Donji,

I am taking an online class to learn C++ right now, but mine is through a university and is definitely not cheap. That said, the structure of the class has been similar to the structure that you describe here, and for learning programming, it has been very effective. I do think that for higher level programming classes, I would need more detailed feedback than I can get from the online forum to understand the nuances. Maybe there is a way of combining structures like this with in-person meet-ups or discussion forums to create a complete educational experience. Have you found that you wanted more detailed information?


Photo of Patricio Toussaint

Thanks for joining the challenge! Thanks for sharing your experience! Do you know more people that you could interview in order to share their experiences with you? Maybe we could get more insights from them!

Photo of Donji YD

Yes I do, my classmates. Good idea!

Photo of Shane Zhao

Lovely to see you and Patricio connect Donji! Yes, we'd love to hear some personal insights and stories from your classmates around the topic of affordable higher ed. Check out the OpenIDEO Interview Toolkit for some handy tips on conducting interviews:

Photo of Shane Zhao

Also, take a look at Matt's post to see how great insights can be gained from a quick 10min interview:

Photo of Luisa Fernanda

It's great to have you join this challenge. If you were to go back in time, will you replace the experience of going to college and go a self taught route using these type of books?

Photo of Donji YD

Not at all, I found that I learned more from interacting with my teachers and peers than any textbook, but that mostly applied to soft skills. For the hard skills classes, I found that most of the books given out were not effective. These hybrid textbooks that are simply designed would be a much better format of book.

I would say that classes that make you buy expensive, hard to use books makes college all the more expensive. Plus, what is the opportunity cost of not having an excellent textbook?