This is from the President’s Weekly email to Clark College staff:
“While I haven’t fully reflected on all that transpired in 2022, I am proud of what we accomplished, including the eight students who earned a Harvard University certificate from completing CTEC 121 with Bruce Elgort. I am excited about what lies ahead of us.”
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At the end of the Fall 2022 quarter, I asked Clark College students enrolled in CTEC 121 what advice they have for future students taking the course. Below are all of the feedback they provided.
One big piece of advice for future students taking this class is to make sure that you get help from either tutors or the professor when you are struggling to avoid a headache when you are stuck on a problem for a long time.
Another good piece of advice that helped me a lot in the class is to make sure that when you are stuck, you are struggling and try your best to work out all the possibilities and if nothing is working, then reach out for help.
Something that is obviously good to do, but some may not, is to code along with the lectures from your professor and the lectures from David Malan; you will learn more than just looking at what they are doing.
Although I haven’t done every single skill-building exercise, I will say every time that I have done them, the problem sets became that much easier and always lead me on the right path, so do as many as you can.
Lastly, if you have time to do so, a good piece of advice is to code things that you want to create based off of the stuff you learned through the lectures, and coding ideas that you have will help you retain the information better.
Some advice I could give you is to give yourself time.
Coding can be fun and satisfying when you’re done, but getting there can be frustrating.
Something as simple as a missing comma or a miss-spelled word can get past anyone, this is why it’s important to work ahead, which can sound repetitive as that is what every professor tells you about their class, but coding can be stressful enough in its own so giving yourself time can make the task feel more achievable.
Most importantly, watch the Harvard lecture videos if they are given to you; they give you the most information in a lecture-type style.
Personally, the skill-building exercises and the lecture videos are why I can do the problem sets.
Frustration can be a big factor in coding for multiple reasons; instead of getting upset or demotivated when a code isn’t working, try and be curious instead.
The computer is doing exactly what you told it to do; ask yourself, ‘what did I tell the code to do’ instead of asking a simple ‘why isn’t it working’.
Problem-solving is a huge part of this course; use this opportunity to build that skill set.
Last, read the documentation; programmers spend a lot of time browsing packages and built-in functions, and there’s a lot of good stuff in there.
CTEC 121 is a great course, even if you have no experience with coding.
One tip to ensure you understand the materials is to watch most videos provided in canvas. You might even find some extra credit points if you watch the videos all the way through too.
Another useful tip would be to use the links provided for explaining libraries and the python coding language. Sometimes you will find simpler ways to code by expanding your knowledge of the python language and functions.
Lastly, I highly recommend asking questions on slack. Mr.Elgort is very speedy in responding, given that it is not 12am or anything crazy. Usually, a quick zoom meeting works best so that you can share screen and ask questions as needed. It is super exciting when your coding works and runs smoothly!
It is crucial that the prep work, such as the lecture videos and the other modules, be completed to understand the materials.
It is also good to be open to asking questions and learning from mistakes.
Another helpful tip would be to start on assignments early in the week because you never know when you will get stuck.
Always save multiple versions of your code as you write it.
Take notes of the mistakes you make so that you can learn from them and use as a reference for later mistakes.
Move on from a problem and come back later if it is causing too much stress.
When adding code, be careful about what you put into your python, or you may run into more errors within your code.
The python codes you made for the module assignments may help you with your final project.
The links provided in the course modules may help you research and test your code.
Take notes! When watching videos, reading the textbook, and completing assignments, I recommend writing down all the different functions and python shortcuts. You will need them as the class progresses, and it is much easier to have them easily accessible than trying to track them down in canvas or previous assignments. I would also recommend organizing these notes by their type (loops, strings, imports). Writing down a simple example of how it is used will also be helpful.
Watch the David MalaN videos. He does a great job of breaking things down to there simplest concept and then building on top of it to more complicated uses and examples.
Ask questions. Mr. Elgort is very good about getting back to students in a timely fashion and really helps in breaking down your problem and explaining the solution.
I am a firm believer of repetition to learn things. Write as many python scripts as you can to learn this stuff!
Some of this coding will be rather difficult at times. Perhaps even frustrating much so that you have to head out and talk a walk. Keep with it! After a few mistakes it usually comes together and gets solved.
Your teacher is not perfect and will make mistakes from time to time. Try to look past these mistakes and the teacher usually does as well and corrects them. It is a better teacher that admits he made a mistake than the one whom just stands their ground even if they are incorrect.
All instructors have their unique way of teaching. When you can see this and work through the differences you learn quite well the material at hand.
You will not learning coding right away without going through some pain and mistakes.
While this class can be hard sometimes, Bruce is always here to help you, if you are having any troubles.
Always look over the information that is linked in the assignments, these are some of the most helpful links that can give you some great ideas to use in your code.
Either subscribe to the CS50 YouTube channel (I did that because I like watching YouTube on my tv) or watch the links that Bruce provides, David Malan is an excellent professor, and his videos are very helpful.
If you have a remote class with Bruce, follow along with the code he teaches in VS and if you don’t have a remote class then follow along with David Malan’s video in VS code, the more you practice the easier it will come to you.
Take breaks, you don’t want to get burned out and just relax.
If you are getting an error or don’t know how to do something, google it.
Running the code from the quiz questions helps a lot with those questions.
Figuring out the python debugger helps a lot with quickly finding and fixing bugs in your code.
Do all of the practice problems yourself from scratch, and THEN look at the solutions, if you really want to learn the material well.
There’s nothing in the book that you can’t find somewhere on the internet (usually in more detail, too).
When you need to google something, break your problem down into small steps and only google one step at a time (ex: “python how to select the first letter in the string” or “python how to replace character in the string”). It can be helpful to outline the steps you’ll need with comments before you even start writing code.
First thing I would recommend is to not take this course when you are feeling burnt out, it makes it significantly harder.
Second, time management. There are a lot of assignments, projects, labs, and other things to do in this course. Knowing when each is due and when you should start is vital.
Third, carefully read everything. There are resources that are easy to miss. I know that I missed lecture notes for several weeks even though afterwards I look and they are right there. So make sure to explore and pay attention to everything.
Fourth, reach out and work with your instructor. They are here to help you succeed but they can’t do so unless you are willing to reach out and let them know where you are struggling.
Fifth, it is very easy to fall behind. Just keep that in mind.
Sixth, do all of the recommended work (primarily the skill building exercises.) Many of the labs can be trivialized by paying attention to both David Malan’s and your professor’s lectures and the skill building exercises.
Reach out to the tutoring center. Like your professor tutors are here to help you with the material, but they can’t do anything to help you unless you reach out first.
Go at your own comfortable pace that fits best for you because if you do, you can digest information better and it will become much more understandable.
Bruce and tutors are there to give a helping hand if you need help, the worst thing you can do is keep yourself from asking help.
Getting proper rest, you will probably be staring at a screen for a while
If you get stuck on one of the problem sets, don’t be afraid to ask your professor or fellow classmates, Bruce is more than happy to help, he is super helpful and also makes sure you understand what code needs to be there and the reason it’s there.
Bruce will give you extra time on things like problem sets and weekly quizzes all you have to do is let him know in the weekly exit slip.
I can’t speak for the people doing in-person or online classes, but if you are like me and don’t have in-person or online classes, you can really take your time and work at your own pace to understand the course material.
The last piece of advice I would give is don’t get too frustrated with yourself if you get stuck on like one of the problem sets, take a break and comeback to it, plus you can always ask for help.
Get comfortable in your codespace. VS Code has different color options, the ability to size up or down text, set text wrap, etc.
When you’re watching the YouTube or Zoom lecture, code along and take notes! It’s so much easier to understand when you are doing things with your own hands and writing in your own words.
Use your resources! Bruce has provided so many options to learn the material, to fit everyone’s unique learning style. You might not need every one, but try them out and find what works best for you.
Use the question channel in Slack! If you have a question, somebody else may be facing that same struggle or has figured it out and can help you.
Don’t be afraid to communicate with Bruce if you are struggling with understanding the material or just struggling keeping up for any reason.
It is absolutely okay to struggle, especially if it is your first exposure to code. I think coding is almost equal to learning a new language and sharpening your abilities to Google syntax and examples is a great way to help apply newly learned code or find specific techniques on the fly.
If you have friends and/or family members who are experienced with code, they also can make for very helpful resources who can also point you to where or how they learned certain techniques.
Attending or watching the Zoom lectures is also a great way to visualize example problems and the rationale behind how some code is implemented. Asking Bruce for help is also immensely helpful, as he gives very detailed guidance and feedback on assignments.
Make sure to complete little bits of the assignments throughout the week. Its easy to get bogged down trying to figure out the problem sets
Ask for help when you need it.
Use the check50 function often when problem shooting the code. It will help you narrow down what your are missing or what you did wrong.
Try not to get too far behind when turning in work. It is very hard to get caught up.
My number one piece of advise would be: do your work early. At the beginning of the week look at everything you need to do by the end of the week and plan your work time accordingly.
Do your best to figure out what you’re struggling with before looking for help. The struggle will help you learn better. If you get really stuck ask your instructor questions as early as possible, that’s when completing work early in the week comes in handy.
Code along with any instructional videos and go through every skill-building exercise. That will hold most of the information you need and the best way to learn is by coding yourself.
Try to start assignments sooner because if you get stuck, you can have enough time to get help.
If you get an error in a code, check what you are missing first before deleting them and retyping it.
Keep your code organized and commented so it’ll be easier to look back at it.
Listening or attending the lecture is really useful and helps with assignments.
Try to stay on top of your work because while falling behind a little is ok, it becomes way harder to catch up and do well.
Try to do everything yourself first as it helps you learn new concepts better to figure it out yourself and gives yourself confidence.
Make sure you get in the habit of commenting over your code.
Have fun with the course and experiment with the concepts by applying them to a program you want to make.
Reach out for help if you need it. The professors really do want the best for you and want you to succeed.
Make sure that you truly understand what codes do and ask for clarification if you need it. If you just copy and don’t know what it does, you won’t really learn anything.
Do the skill-building exercises!! They help tremendously with the problems sets and will help you with your own code. They are there for a reason!
Every assignment has a purpose, they are not just fillers to give you a workload. The assignments are there to help you and further your understanding.
Don’t just guess your way through quizzes. If you just guess, you won’t know why you got certain things wrong and why the other answer is correct. Take notes if you need to.
I suggest you practice your knowledge outside of this class to ensure you retain it for the next week and learn a little extra while you are at it.
Take your time with your assignments until the very last day to avoid forgetting old knowledge and might. Procrastination might lead you to not finish the project on time because of some trouble you might run into while coding.
Try and d develop some practical computer skills while you are at it, like learning how to use some of the functions on your computer properly.
Everyone knows CTRL + C and CTRL + V, but you are missing out if you are unaware of CTRL + Z (Undo) and CTRL + Shift + Z (Redo).
Feel free to contact the professor for this class. Contacting the professor is beneficial and almost always available even outside of school hours. He is also very knowledgeable and can help with every problem you might run into.
Always follow the professor lecture classes and videos.
Ask questions if you don’t understand anything. Be willing to commit your energy and time to the coursework.
Don’t be afraid to contact the professor if you are having trouble understanding the coursework.
Here’s a video from Harvard Professor David J. Malan congratulating Clark College students on completing the CS50P – Introduction to Programming with Python course. Students enrolled in Clark’s CTEC 121 course had the opportunity to earn credit from Clark College and a certificate from Harvard University.
During the Fall 2022 quarter, eight students earned the Harvard CS50P certificate.
In this video, I will demonstrate checking color contrast on your web pages using the WAVE browser extension.
WAVE is a web accessibility evaluation tool developed by WebAIM.org. It provides visual feedback about the accessibility of your web content by injecting icons and indicators into your page. No automated tool can tell you if your page is accessible, but WAVE facilitates human evaluation and educates about accessibility issues. All analysis is done entirely within the Chrome browser allowing secure valuation of intranet, local, password protected, and other sensitive web pages.
For Chrome-Based Web Browsers
If you use a Google Chrome-based browser (Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, or Brave), please consider installing the WAVE Extension.