Three new short Python courses have been added to those already available on the Alison platform. Now by taking all Alison's Python courses you can gain a Diploma in Python Programming. Is this of any value?
This is the first time we've mentioned the online education company Alison on I Programmer so some background is in order. Based in the Irish Republic and founded in 2007 it offers free courses with the stated objective of enabling people to gain basic education and workplace skills. It has a wide portfolio covering topics as diverse as Accounting, Food Safety, Plumbing and Yoga.
One of the reason's we've never before covered Alison is that it doesn't fit the MOOC model, Although it does have hundreds of thousands of students its courses are self-paced and while free they are not necessarily open source and come from a range of external partners.
Alison is a commercial organization with advertising and sale of certificates it main sources of revenue. The three additions to its Python Programming category are all 2--3 hours in length and consist of three modules, each of 5 topics - which means you are subjected to at least 15 interstitial adverts that are displayed for about 8 seconds before you can proceed to the lesson content.
The news that brought Alison to our attention this month is the availability of three introductory level Python courses:
creating and using 'if statements', and checking multiple conditions using 'elif statements'. You will also learn about creating and using 'for loops' and 'while loops', and the mistakes that can happen when creating and using loops.
creating and using functions. You will also learn about errors that can occur in your code and how to use the try/except statement to handle potential errors.
While these courses may be new to Alison they are not newly made. On Alison they are listed as being by Channel 9, Microsoft's video channel. They originated in 2014 as the second day of a "live" 2-day Microsoft course, Introduction to Programming with Python which is still available from Microsoft Virtual Academy at this link:
The course is presented by Christopher Harrison, who takes the lead as someone new to Python and Susan Ibach, who is the Microsoft Python expert for the course. The Microsoft description calls it:
"an entertaining introduction to Python"
and while it isn't peppered with Pythonesque jokes it does have plenty of jokes along the way.
Although designed for those new to coding, the course is intended for a Microsoft audience - specifically .NET - and one if its quirks is that the IDE used for it is Visual Studio, specifically Python Tools for Visual Studio. While you could use a different Python IDE, such as IDLE, it would make it more difficult to follow and using VS isn't much of a barrier now there's a free community edition.
Putting all these courses together, with a First assessment after the material of the first two courses, a Second assessment after the material of the three recent additions and a Final Assessment as Module 17 and you have the new Diploma in Python Programming which will take 10-15 hrs of effort, mainly watching video.
If you gain a score of at least 80% in the assessments, which you can retake as often as you wish you can purchase a Parchment Diploma for 96 Euros or a Framed Diploma for 115 Euros. Certificates for shorter courses start at 21 Euros for a PDF version. This seems expensive for a piece of paper that isn't validated or accredited by any educational authority. Be warned that not all employers and certainly no educational establishment will take notice of your "qualification". However it might be a way to show that you are motivated to learn.
Although the title Diploma, might raise expectation, the Python Programming one is at an introductory level and covers a basic syllabus:
Students are not expected to write code from scratch and questions in the final assessment ask for single words answers to be typed in to check that you've understood the material covered or are multiple choice:
Alison's Python Programming doesn't go nearly as far as the Python courses offered on the Coursera or edX platforms but it could be a good way to quickly gain some computer literacy and find out if you want to go further.
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