What Sit4ez Are Bad For Learning Code Online

Education and Career expert, Jonatan Kauan de Palma-Cerdo knows what you should and shouldn’t do with a sit4ez. When it comes to learning to code, not everything online is right for you.

What Sit4ez Are Bad For Learning Code Online

Joanna Rogan is an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Information Science Department at San Francisco State University. She currently serves as the lead instructor of the Program of Advancement in Information Technology and a regular reviewer for CodeX Review.

We are keenly aware of the risks of what we call Sit4ez. Sit4ez is what happens when academic and industry experts hear the term “Startup School” and envision a glamorous and cut-throat entrepreneurial environment. The problem is this: when you continue down the entrepreneurial path of a startup school it only reinforces the disenchantment with the technical professions.

The logical result is that people simply give up on their interest in pursuing STEM. By definition, beginning engineering students are comfortable and confident in the development processes of their engineering program, but, if you ask them about ongoing learning, they show some trepidation. Instead of going down a different pathway, they opt for a generic curriculum that they think will give them the skills they need in the job market.

The campus from which to catch this train of thought is large and collegiate. A start-up school is a network of individuals with a common interest—creating a technological product that can be sold to the public or a business—in contrast to an engineering school. After they graduate with a college degree, start-up school graduates often take a substantial pay cut in order to join an engineering job.

The myth of “startup” schools is that we have seen all kinds of great products from start-up schools in recent years. I can list several of these: CompuServe, PayPal, Mint.com, Rediff.com, Paypal, Bitcoin, and RealEstate.com. You get the idea. But the amazing thing is that in each of these start-up company’s short history, each one was built with more competent engineers who were willing to make a decision to learn technical skills that they didn’t have before. Their success seems to fall in line with the undeniable truth that a hack-a-thon doesn’t develop the core technical competencies necessary to be a successful technical founder.

When I was a student at Stanford during the late 1980s, that’s exactly what the university did. That’s when Bill and Paul Allen left Microsoft to found the Internet company, “soup to nuts.” They funded the company with money they’d previously received as an investment from Microsoft. They were graduating Stanford Computer Science who came to work for them, and they trained their engineers to think like entrepreneurs, just like they had at Microsoft. And, they had a distinct advantage over most technical students: they had a worldwide presence and a large network of contacts they had built up over the years through their work at Microsoft. The difference was huge.

The core idea of the curriculum was not “let’s build a thing.” Instead, the professors designed a comprehensive set of “software” skills that was built over the course of the school. What they created was exactly what the start-up school program is intent on offering—access to open courseware courses that provide technical content and tools so that students can achieve mastery of a specific software skill. Unfortunately, what has been driving enrollment at many of these schools are students with non-technical aspirations. Our last two programs have focused on ethics and business. What I understand from my students is that they simply want to apply a programming framework to a problem area—another problem area—and get it right.

The problem with both the popular Sit4ez and the start-up program mentality is that they believe that people are smart and technical abilities (read: technical skills) are a non-issue. This is a dangerous misconception. Entrepreneurship is a process of developing and nurturing a solution to a problem facing a given customer. The real skills needed to do this are about generating, investigating, and refining ideas. Learning is essential, but, even at Stanford, philosophy, history, literature, and the arts aren’t taught to students as a fourth or fifth grade education. On the other hand, people with non-technical ambitions are going to need the skills of a more scientific, real-world engineer.

We call this class and all our classes. The term Sit4ez should just be a warning! It’s easy to understand how instructors would embrace the Sit4ez trap. After all, the appeal of doing something for the first time is massive and such courses would appeal to a lot of people. I believe most entrepreneurs would argue that their business isn’t to turn anyone into a successful entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs are to build an innovative product that solves a real problem.

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