With many in the tech world touting online learning as one of the main trends this year, there's never been a better time to upskill and improve your C.V. by getting a little bit more technical. Though specialisation is vital in the digital marketing profession because of the diversity and breadth of topics covered (only a select few can excel in all areas), the need to at least understand the layer of code that sits behind a Facebook app, or the design assets that go into a sticky landing page, has never been more important.
Many traditional marketers carry skills like copy writing, branding and strategic media buying - all of which can be easily projected onto the web - but technical skills are just as important. Strong developers have become the new startup rockstars and beautiful design is now a prerequisite for any new app or product being developed.
While a step into the unknown world of code or HTML may be daunting, it's a great time to start, as multiple intuitive, interactive, user friendly and low-cost learning sites begin to crop up. In general, students won't be designing e-commerce sites, or developing web apps within a week, but what you will get is a good grounding in a powerful skill, and another important string to your bow.
Don't Fear The Internet
A brilliant starting point for those with little or no HTML experience, Don't Fear The Internet
is a beautifully designed, free tutorial site specialising in basic training for non-web designers. A new video is posted regularly, using irreverent examples to help beginners understand how to manipulate HTML, CSS and some PHP to build a basic site, and you'll begin with a very basic, but informative, overview of how the web actually works.
A free site combining gamification principles like badges and rewards with the tedious - but worthwhile - process of learning to code, Codeacademy has become renowned for making the skill of simple programming possible for anyone, rewarding users for each course completed. The education startup offers an interface that prompts users to solve coding problems, and is incredibly interactive, allowing you to learn in-browser, a common omission of standard video learning sites.
Codeacademy launched "Code Yearâ€ in January, which invited users to receive one programming lesson per week in 2012, and has seen user numbers grow to over one million in the past week. High profile users of the service include the Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg and The White House both users of the service, and now there's also a new course creator tool in beta.
A startup founded by Ryan Carson (the brains behind the Future of Web Apps conference, and Think Vitamin, an influential web design blog), Treehouse stems from Carson's own experience of education, and his feeling that millions of people can't afford a quality technical education, or if they can, it's out of date immediately when they graduate.
With three separate strands, encompassing web design, web development and iOS development, Treehouse is again based on gaming principles, video and interactive testing, with badges available for each area. The site offers Gold and Silver plans ($49 and $25 monthly) and promises agility in teaching which you won't find in a university classroom.
Carson has said he hopes to disrupt traditional education with Treehouse, and plans are afoot to combine the service with the HR functions of large multinationals to offer pay scales and career opportunities based on successful completion of goals on the site.
Tuts Plus Premium
A sister site to the huge Tuts+ network of educational blogs and tutorials, Tuts+ Premium is an online marketplace of educational resources, from ebooks on Photoshop to courses on JQuery. Mainly focused on design, a yearly membership costs $15 per month, which gives you access to all the material behind the Tuts paywall (ebooks, video courses, tutorials and source files). The free 30 day introduction to HTML and CSS is highly recommended for beginners, or for those looking for a taster of what to expect if they purchase membership.
A little like Tuts+, Lynda.com is a huge resource of software training videos, and is perhaps most useful for intermediate users with a basis in their craft, who are looking to improve on more certain specific areas. Lynda focuses on keeping skills current as technology advances, and offers thousands of videos on numerous topics, via different instructors.
One critique is that there are quite a lot of similar videos, and finding an instructor to suit you can be time consuming, but the monthly sub. fee of $25 is definitely worth it if you're looking to maintain your skills and learn new ones via the massive database.
One of the main trends for the web this year will be the increasing freedom of educational information, and with many feeling that traditional educational systems are outdated when it comes to teaching students the basics, it seems that resources like the above are destined to grow.
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