jQuery and JavaScript: Treehouse

(Previous: jQuery and JavaScript: Codecademy)


My next stop for jQuery and JavaScript tutorials was at Treehouse. Treehouse offers two jQuery tutorials: jQuery Basics, Using jQuery Plugins (and AJAX Basics, which ended up being a detailed explanation of how the jQuery “.ajax()” function works), as well as JavaScript Basics, JavaScript Loops, Objects, and Arrays, Interactive Web Pages with JavaScript, and Object-Oriented JavaScript.

Treehouse also offers “tracks” for their members, in case you’re not sure what to start with, or what you might need to reach your goal. I went with the Full Stack JavaScript track, but there are a lot more to choose from, depending on your interests.

While I’m generally wary of paying for online content, I found Treehouse to be well worth my $25/month membership. The videos are generally well organized, and come with “workspaces” where you can work on projects along with the person in the video. There are also forums where members can paste their problematic code and get feedback.

My favorite part of the JavaScript courses was the way that structures I had learned before–for-loops, while-loops, etc., were linked directly to an actual webpage so that you could start manipulating the DOM very early in the learning process. In other JavaScript tutorials I’ve looked at, the early JavaScript learning takes place far away from HTML and CSS (probably to keep things simple), but I loved this approach, since it let me see the value of learning the concepts early on with simple, easy-to-understand results available at the click of a preview button.

My other highlight from these tutorials was jQuery Plugins. A lot of the jQuery exercises were difficult for me to fully understand the first time through, but when I saw how the plugins worked, a light went on for me: if you understand how jQuery works, it enables you to use pre-written jQuery that other people have already written, and modify it to fit your needs. So things like the picture carousel that you can build from scratch on Codecademy, sticky navigation bars that stay on top of a page when you scroll down, and thousands of other options are suddenly at your fingertips with just a few slight modifications. So cool.

That being said, not everything is seamless. The set of courses above is split between two teachers, with very different teaching styles. One goes slowly, step by step, preferring depth of understanding over knowing all the options, and the other goes quickly, referring to extra projects you might want to try as a side note (in one tutorial, he mentions a practice project with only 30 seconds left to go in the video), and modifying code so fast that I learned to keep my mouse hovering over the pause button so I would be able to see the code on screen and check what I had written.

Here’s the thing–while each of these teachers clearly has a group of learners who prefer their style over the other one, neither of their teaching styles is necessarily better (although people in the forums would occasionally comment on one side or the other). In fact, as a former teacher, I would argue that learning from different teachers with different perspectives, different strengths, and different weaknesses helps you to clarify the material in ways you wouldn’t otherwise. But it also means that lessons sometimes overlap with each other, that there is no one right way to do things, and that you have to do a little extra research from time to time.

One of the great extras that I found on Treehouse was all of the extra content that was included in the teachers’ notes and in the forums. Teachers and students often link to documentation and other outside resources to help those who are stuck, and I found myself adding page after page to my “Favorites” tab so I could come back and read more later.

I would definitely recommend the jQuery and JavaScript courses on Treehouse, especially for learners who want more in-depth content than you might find on Codecademy and other free sites. It’s a good set of content that helps beginning learners transition into intermediate learners by getting lots of hands-on practice, and the community is really helpful and responsive.

(Next: Coding Dojo: Algorithm Platform)

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