4 Features To Look For In Educational Platforms
The right platform can make or break your career
Educational platforms to learn how to code SQL, python, JS, etc are numerous and tailored to several different crowds like web developers and data scientists. Unfortunately, not every student and user knows what to look for in a platform and many companies will quickly take your money and provide little in return. Best features can range anywhere from peer feedback and troubleshooting guides to hands-on integrated development environments (IDEs) that match tools you’d use in industry.
Learning platforms should be all-encompassing of useful learning tools and hands-on software that accurately represent real-life situations. You can learn the basics of every programming language, but when it comes down to entering a job interview or practicing the skills you’ve learned on the job, you will be solving specific problem-solving skills that you can only learn from practice.
As mentioned before, when you are looking for a platform to help you learn, there are some essential features to recognize that will significantly expand the process of learning and send you on the way to advancing your skills as a web developer, data scientist, or whatever you want to be.
Valuable features in an educational platform
Feature 1: Solutions
The platform needs to provide access to solutions, solutions created and tested by other users, and discussions for solutions and approaches. All these resources of information show you the best way to solve specific programming-related problems and also prevent you from making common mistakes during interviews.
The platform you choose should also have a community within the platform that can offer guidance on project troubleshooting and access to other valuable resources that can further accelerate learning.
Solutions just play into the fact that you will need to learn how to apply your skills to real-life situations and know how to get yourself out of a predicament.
Feature 2: Detailed Explanation of Approach and Edge Cases
Edge cases are instances that need special care in coding, and it takes skill to know how to deal with them and what tests are appropriate. Edge cases can become repetitive, so it is crucial to have a great learning platform that will prevent you from making those mistakes over and over again by showing you potential errors.
A low-quality platform will not give a descriptive analysis of edge cases, so find a platform that will. Different types of tests and approaches are learned skills and are all extremely important in web development. The platform you pick should help you learn by giving a detailed explanation of approach and edge cases; otherwise, the other skills you learn will become obsolete. If the platform itself doesn’t provide an analysis the community of users (see #1) should.
Feature 3: Real Integrated Development Environment (IDE)
On the platform, there should be a feature for real IDE, to simulate what it would be like on the job. An IDE software has a text editor, debugger, and compiler all in one – perfect for beginners who need to learn how the many methods in web development and programming apply in the real world.
Keep in mind that there are different types of IDEs, such as IDEs built from text editors or multi-language IDEs. The type of IDE depends on the platform, and you can use an IDE without the learning platform as a way to practice. But you will not learn much without the help the platform provides when learning.
This may all sound great but remember that most job interviews are probably going to be in whiteboard or codepad. In other words, you need to know your stuff. Finding a great platform is the only way to learn what you need to know for that web developer or data scientist interview.
Feature 4: Real Exercises
Exercises and problem sets that either mimic problems you’d face on the job or helps prepare you for interviews is definitely helpful, otherwise, how would you measure success? The content should be real world examples to help you in some aspect in your job.
Many educational content and platforms teach theory or basics which is great to establish fundamentals. But at some point you’ll need to apply your skills on problems that other people in the industry solve. You’ll need to show that you’re on par with them and on their skill level if you want a career as a developer or data scientist.
Unfortunately, this is one of the most difficult features to find in an educational platform. It’s easy to teach basics but difficult to teach practical skills that users would apply on the job. Practice exercises and situational learning are critical features in a platform.
Overview of Platforms
If a platform has all these features, it should be a terrific tool for learning.
When it comes to EdTech platforms, skill-building tools for technical students are essential. Tools like Leetcode, HackerRank, SQLbolt, and StrataScratch are all tested to be true in advancing learning for technical students.
I’m a fan of smaller platforms that focus on a specific skill to improve. A focus could be helping someone prepare for a technical interview or helping data scientists improve technically. Large platforms that make millions of dollars per year through their services and reach thousands of students at a time are always great because they try please all users and do everything, while not really providing enough value for everyone.
However, I do like the videos from Udemy, Coursera, and Khan Academy -- I just am not a fan of their hands-on training.
Check out our article on the data science career path that will take you to the stages from novice to landing your first job.
All educational platforms are different and have varying features for whatever technical skill you want to learn. Some platform’s features focus on webinars and discussion-type videos that teach the skill like web development or data science, while others provide real hands-on training for advancing a career in the real world.
There’s no right or wrong answer, just whatever works for you and what you’re looking to do.