I get this question quite frequently – what are, in my opinion, the best e-learning providers for software developers. So, here is my top, sorted by effectiveness:
- Career Academy
- TrainSignal (non-developers)
- Channel9, MVA and others
Note, that none of the top 5 are free, they all provide professional grade training courses with varying degree of effectiveness. In most cases, variation is insignificant, but the ratio of brilliant works resembles the position in this top.
These guys rock. Having more than 100 trainers and hundreds of courses in the library, they provide access to the whole library for as low as 29$ per month. Courses are in form of screencasts, but the real gem is the list of trainers. Among them you can find Microsoft gurus, such as John Papa and Michael Palermo.
Enough to say that having free access to all mentioned resources, I am using Pluralsight more often than anything else. Free trial is available.
Also known as “LearnNowPlus”. More classic courses, made by professional trainers, usually real world experts. Just like Pluralsight, they are creating video courses for anything that’s on the edge, focusing more on Microsoft-related software development. Actually, AppDev is short for “application development”.
The size of the course library is impressive and unlike the Pluralsight courses, you actually see the trainer. Which is not necessarily an advantage, as some students whine about trainer not being sexy model. Seriously, I’ve heard that a few times.
Having about 35 trainers, they don’t publicly disclose the prices, but that’s always a few hundred dollars per course. As much as I understand it, they switched to serving corporate customers, as the market offer for individuals became unattractive, due to the price.
The disadvantage of AppDev is “jack of all trades” approach, when you see one trainer presenting different courses, but this rarely affects the quality.
Sometimes brilliant, sometimes not, Lynda.com has hundreds of authors and covers more topics than anyone else. They offer it at attractive price of 25$ per month and free trial is available, so you can see whether the course is good for you. Actually, 7 days are enough to cover couple of courses. And once you do, you’ll come for more.
Could be the biggest library of video training courses covering software development, system administration, security, cisco, project management, virtualization and design, they might be called the leader of the industry.
However, the quality of courses generally is below the ones listed above, and quite often very different topics are covered by the same trainers, and in this case it really does affect the quality, as sometimes trainers clearly don’t fully understand the subject. Courses are classic, i.e. you see the trainer as he explains the subject.
The prices vary, from less than hundred to about $800 per course or about $2000 per library of a few courses.
It’s only number 4 in this top, because we are talking about software development training. Speaking about system administration, networking and security, Career Academy is number 2, after the Pluralsight.
Just like the rest, they are on the edge of technologies, offering hundreds of courses, usually at the price of a few hundred dollars per course, but the quality of content, in my opinion, is not better.
They don’t provide training on software development, but do for SQL Server administration and querying, and in my experience they showed quite good results in training people Exchange Server and Windows administration, which is highly useful for software developers anyway.
So, when others don’t provide anything useful, Trainsignal is the way to go: http://www.trainsignal.com
Other e-learning websites
When I am asking students whether they know about Channel9, more often than not they say “no”. This is the “YouTube of Microsoft” – place, where Microsoft gurus place their videos about new technologies, present new ways of doing things and entertain software developers.
It is also the place where you can watch dev events live. For example, in October 2011 Microsoft presented the Windows 8 Developer Edition – the very first usable release of Windows 8, together with what is now known as Visual Studio 2012. Live at Channel9, in the event called //build conference, and that was one year before the system was shipped.
In November 2012 they repeated the event, now full of new information about developing software for Windows 8, Azure, ASP.NET and more – it would take a full week to watch videos from all events of //build/ 2012.
When you need explanation on particular topic, Channel9 is THE best solution.
However, the contents of Channel9 flows like the river – today the front page is about the latest and greatest online event, but tomorrow you’ll have to search for it. And that’s where Microsoft Virtual Academy comes to rescue.
It’s basically a collection of free courses about anything and everything related to Microsoft technologies. Usually course consists of text, multimedia and videos, and videos are hosted at Channel9. So, I would say that MVA is a collection of links to Channel9, and a very good one.
The benefit of MVA is that they award you points for completion of course topics. So you can see how close you are to become the “best in your country”, even though you won’t ever become the best, as some people employ web bots to click through all possible courses. Don’t ask me why :)
Called the “search engine #2” for it is only second to Google search engine by the amount of requests served, YouTube is the home for some of the best independent training materials in the Net. For example, personally, I’ve created courses on TFS 2010 and PowerShell made available in my YouTube channel, and there are hundreds of other professionals who did the same on other subjects.
Even though there are more materials for system administrators than for software developers, YouTube collection of training videos constantly grows, so it’s worth checking every time you need detailed explanation of the subject.
These are not all resources you can use for independent study, but surely the most important ones. If you know other and want to share the experience – feel free to use the comments section!