During the last 6 months I did the Full Stack Web Development course on Coursera. Since I’m currently about to finish the course by implementing my final capstone project (https://github.com/tuhrig/mebo), I wanted to share my thoughts about the course and its pros and cons.
About the course
The Full Stack Web Development course consists of 6 single courses. Altogether, they make up the complete course which Coursera calls a specialization.
- Front-End Web UI Frameworks and Tools (4 weeks)
- Multiplatform Mobile App Development with Web Technologies (4 weeks)
- Server-side Development with NodeJS (4 weeks)
- Full Stack Web Development Specialization Capstone Project (8 weeks)
It’s possible to take a single course, but it’s recommended to take all of them and do them one after another in the given order. The complete specialization takes 27 weeks and costs 70 € per course, so 420 € in total.
Course #2: Front-End Web UI Frameworks and Tools
This course focuses on Bootstrap CSS. Although Bootstrap CSS isn’t too complicated, a lot of people don’t understand the principles behind it (e.g. the grid system with its rows and columns). So even if you used Bootstrap CSS before, this course will help you to understand things better.
👍🏼 I recommend this one as it really helps to understand one of the most popular UI frameworks right now.
What the second course was for Bootstrap CSS, this one is for AngularJS. And again, if you know AngularJS there will be nothing new to you. But if you are new to AngularJS this course will find the right tempo to give you a good first glance. However, the course is not really up-to-date with AngularJS’ latest version.
👍🏼 I recommend it, as this course gives you a good introduction to AngularJS.
Course #4: Multiplatform Mobile App Development with Web Technologies
This course is made up around the Ionic Framework for mobile apps. If you are interested in building mobile apps, this course will teach you one out of a thousand possibilities to do it. I think the Ionic Framework is not the worst way to make mobile apps, however the course is still very opinionated and has a very small focus.
👎🏼 Out of all 6 courses, I recommend this one at least. Ionic might be good for some use cases, but the example app made in the course doesn’t benefit from it in any way. It’s just the very same app as made before. Making everything responsive would be a much better approach. This course also relies heavily on installed software like Ionic itself and Android or iOS simulators. If one of those pieces of software don’t run on your device, you are screwed. It took me hours to get the Android simulator to run, before I switched to the iOS simulator which also took me hours.
Course #5: Server-side Development with NodeJS
👍🏼 I can recommend this one to get started with NodeJS and MongoDB, but also to see some draw backs of those very hyped technologies.
Course #6: Full Stack Web Development Specialization Capstone Project
At the end of the course, everybody must implement a final project. The project should show the learned skills and should - of course - use technologies thought in the course. So you are forced to get your hands dirty and write some own code.
👍🏼 This part of the specialization is very interesting, but has some pitfalls, too. It’s important to choose the project idea wisely. The course only takes 8 weeks from which only 2 are dedicated to actual programming. So whatever you implement, it must be small.
Special note: To complete the course, you must deploy your project to IBM’s PaaS Bluemix for which you will get a test account. As I worked with AWS and similar technologies before, this wasn’t too hard for me to do. However, Bluemix is a terrible platform. If you are not familiar with PaaS, plan some extra time to get things working. The course will not prepare you for that in any way.
How Coursera works
Before you take a course at Coursera, you should first understand how the platform works: Courses on Coursera are mode up of online videos, text and PDFs, exercises and assignments. It’s up to the teacher of the course how it is laid out.
Every course runs regularly at some specific date and will end at some specific date. This means a course might start every 2 months beginning at the first of the month and ends 4 weeks later. You must (!) take the course at this period of time. It’s just like a physical class you would take at school or university.
Most courses require assignments to complete them. This means there will be some exercise at the end you must fulfil and upload the solution. Most assignments are peer-graded which means that you must review your classmates and you will be reviewed by them.
At the end, you will get a certificate with a lot of buzzwords for the course.
In my opinion, Coursera is nice, but it’s not the same as a real physical class at university. Especially the peer-graded assignments are a problem. Some people tend to criticize the most odd things, while others just give you the points without even looking at your work. It’s completely up to you how serious you take it.
What I learned
Things I liked to learn
- Course 2: Learning Bootstrap CSS principles from the scratch
- Course 5: NodeJS and MongoDB
- Course 6: CloudFoundry, TravisCI, unit testing for NodeJS
Things I didn’t like after learning them
- Course 4: Ionic, Android and iOS simulators
- Course 6: IBM Bluemix
What I missed
What I missed completely during all 6 courses was testing. None of the courses teach anything about testing, neither in the front end (Jasmine, Protractor) nor in the backend (Mocha, Sinon).
- Course homepage: https://www.coursera.org/specializations/full-stack
- My Capstone Project on GitHub
- Sample app for Bluemix: https://github.com/IBM-Bluemix/node-helloworld
- My blog post about my Coursera Capstone Project
Best regards, Thomas.