So, today I finally got back to my CodeAcademy account. I’m pleased to be making progress again, as I’d stopped in the middle of one of the later PHP modules, but I completed two steps before it reminded me of why I ended up stalling last time.

I’ve been using the site as a refresher and alternate perspective. I completed their HTML and CSS modules in short order; while it taught me a few things, it ended up mostly being a reaffirmation that I’ve at least got the basics down. The PHP modules have been a slightly different experience. The introductory modules almost entirely tread familiar ground, but I began noticing that I was having a harder time identifying and correcting problems than I was used to.

Once I was a few modules deep, I realized what was going on: I could have the problem solved correctly, but still produce an error because I wasn’t writing a string or variable name or whatnot exactly as the module had been programmed to expect. Human teachers aren’t hung up on these things, as it’s consistency that matters more often than not, so it took me a bit to realize when I was being failed for writing $somevalue rather than $someValue.

This wasn’t a big deal during, say, the Arrays modules. However, once I started getting to material that was new to me, particularly the Object-Oriented Programming section, a few concepts became exercises in frustration. I would get stuck trying to figure out where I’d messed up my code when I’d actually just used a letter case in my variable they hadn’t expected, or substituted my own string for their suggested wording where they were string-matching to ensure I’d echoed the right text. It began to drive me a little nuts, as I was often naming the relevant variables and whatnot consistently. The code would work, but not according to the lesson. Once I’d slogged through a handful of lessons with these types of snags, I took a break, and the break became weeks while I shifted focus first to my impeding thesis defense and then to post-defense finalization.

But, I still want to learn this stuff. Now that I’m no longer funneling most of my energy toward the university, I’m better equipped to persevere. I’m getting enough out of the modules that they’re worthwhile despite the occasional maddening extra layer of troubleshooting to contend with. I aim to go through at least the JavaScript and Python modules before I’m done with the service.

That said, I’m glad that I’m not coming to programming as an entirely new set of concepts. Getting classroom and work experience first has made it easier to work with the site’s quirks and the odd instructions that lack clarity.