The code-learning dilemma: tutorials vs projects (My take)

Ask any self-taught programmer about their early days learning a programming language. Almost certainly, they will all say the same thing. They probably went through an obscene number of tutorials for weeks on end, or just reading books and re-reading them over and over. Perhaps even taking notes and highlighting the entire book.

A couple of weeks ago, that was me. I think i have probably been through all tutorials on data camp, Coursera… you name it. In fact, I almost became a victim of the ‘tutorial purgatory’.

Unfortunately, most people realize that this dependency on tutorials is not as effective as they had perceived. They realize that these tutorials are actually not even helping develop their coding skills.

Truth is, you can never learn to code unless you actually write code. A week ago, I did my first Python project. Certainly not the best. I can tell you that. Just a word game with if, elif and else statements, using the print statement and a few methods such as lower() and upper(). This might sound trivial for advanced programmers but the fact that I could actually do something with my knowledge made me feel like i am making some good progress. And certainly so.

Since then, I am in some sought of project-learning frenzy. I am looking up projects i can actually practice my Python on, and mostly referring to tutorials when I get stuck. However, don’t get me wrong. I am not implying that tutorials were invented by the devil himself to derail your progress. Absolutely not! However, be cautious about the over-reliance on tutorials because that actually does derail your progress.

So what do I suggest?

Learn the basics. Two weeks or less. (This period could vary, but certainly not longer than a month). Find a simple project like this one here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BDi3SD7E6no

Go through it, then actually re-do it with a few variations of course. Check and refer to tutorials if you need to. And do it to completion. If you do this consistently, then you are certainly on your way to becoming a developer. Good Luck!!

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Abigael Nyakara

Technical Writer with a knack for explaining hard things in an easy way. All things tech!