Video vs. Interactive and Multi-Media Content for Programming Courses
Oct 01, 2021 · 7 min read
At some point in our career, we all have watched coding tutorials on YouTube or followed some coding courses on Udemy to stay up to date on a specific technology or learn completely new skills. Myself, included.
And as an instructor, creating those video-based and coding-along courses/tutorials are great as it helps to quickly and easily share our knowledge on a topic by screencasting our code on VS Code.
But here's the catch.
The resources created this way that we share for free on YouTube or through paid courses on Udemy (or elsewhere) are passive learning and do not help our viewers.
Who wants in 2021 to sit for hours in front of a screen watching someone coding, especially after being forced at home during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Plus, I'm asking you. Have you ever applied the skills taught in these videos in a real-world project?
Are you even able to remember what you have seen from those videos a few weeks later?
Or, in other words, are you really learning something from those video-based courses apart from a few tips here and there?
Finally, I want you to think about it. Is the coding-along format really efficient to teach a new skill in software development?
It is what I will explore in this article and provide you with a better alternative based on interactive and multi-media content where your students can learn at their own pace and practice along the way.
I will cover:
- What's wrong with video-based and coding-along courses?
- Why should you use interactive and multi-media content?
- Getting started
In some way, video-based only courses are a double-edged sword. Let me explain.
On one side, platforms like YouTube or Udemy have allowed people to share an incredible amount of high-skilled knowledge on the internet, either for free or a few bucks. In addition, creating videos has become very easy and inexpensive as anyone with a smartphone can do it.
As a consequence, it has allowed more and more people across the globe to access this knowledge and acquire some kind of education through those resources.
However, on the other side, video-based only courses are by far not the best way to learn any skill as practical as programming or software development in general.
As I often say, you don't learn how to drive a car or be a better driver only by watching others unless you are an artificial intelligence. Software development is no different.
Coding requires a significant amount of practice to really acquire the skill and being able to use it in different situations outside of the classroom.
Indeed, if you just stay passive in front of your screen, watching the instructor building an application with X and Y technologies, then there is a good chance that you won't remember anything. And even if you try to code along by pausing the video several times along the way and reproducing instruction-by-instruction what the instructor is typing, I bet you won't be able to apply what you've "learned" in another context/project.
Learning this way is not practical at all, let alone fun.
In summary, in video-based only (or coding-along) courses, the skill taught do not stick for long or at all, and worst than that, you rarely can use it elsewhere.
Moreover, for an instructor, producing high-quality video content can be challenging and sometimes requires expensive gear (such as a good microphone, a decent camera if you plan to film yourself, etc...). I don't even mention the time needed to film and edit all those videos. Plus, if you need to update some content of your course because the web framework you are teaching about has released a new version, you'll have to re-record entire videos.
Nevertheless, videos are an excellent medium as part of a multi-media content course to emphasize or show something specific such as before asking your students to complete an exercise or to give them your solution of a coding assignment.
From now on, you should be convinced (I hope so) that videos only is not great to teach and learn technical skills.
Students need high-quality content which is interactive, practical, and allows them to learn at their own pace by practicing over and over again until they get it.
In case you are still not convinced about it, check out how Josh Comeau made $550k in revenue when he opened the pre-orders for his CSS for JS Developers online course that combines videos, articles, interactive widgets, and mini-games.
Impressive, isn't it?
So, why using several media types and building an interactive online course is so important?
One of the main reasons is that people are not looking to learn a new skill or stay up to date just for fun. No, people are looking to acquire real employable skills which could help them scale up their careers.
It is essential you always think about what problem(s) you are solving with your online course for your students and how they could get the most out of it in their career.
All this to say that you need way more than just passive learning. Indeed, no one will want to recruit someone that claims to know how to create web applications with React JS only after watching videos passively on YouTube or Udemy and reproducing every keystroke from the instructor without thinking by himself.
You need to make your students think and really get a grasp of what you are teaching. The only way I know is by making your students practice by themself (with some guidance from you, of course), make mistakes, think and try again, and build something meaningful that they would be proud of. Large and real-world projects are a great way to do that.
Also, they need to learn gradually and be reassured that they completely understand everything from what they are learning. As the instructor, you could do that by providing them with practical exercises, quizzes, and mini-challenges for example.
So, instead of showing everything to your students through videos only, and giving them no time to think and assess their knowledge, use several types of media throughout your online course and make your course as interactive as possible. Your students will thank you for that as their learning experience will be richer and more fun, and they will feel more engaged.
Alright! Now that you know how important it is to create online courses based on interactive multi-media content, you can start building your own online course.