So back on June 1st 2015 having just finished my Open University module I signed up to this course for a bit of fun, then discovered a whole host of other courses which interested me…and signed up for a few more later in the year too!

This course took me back to the first love of my degree, the thing I really would have liked to focus my degree on: coding. Sadly with my health the way it is I couldn’t cope with the assignment deadlines, I was coding on the computer most days, dreaming about solutions at night and getting immensely frustrated when I couldn’t work out why the code wouldn’t work as it should! Combined with a relapse which meant I couldn’t spend too much time on the computer, I diversified my degree to include business and focussed on modules that complemented that; this meant little or no coding.

I found myself going back to those days of dreaming of solutions, and getting frustrated when the code didn’t work, but without the pressure of solid deadlines (it doesn’t matter if you fall behind on a FutureLearn course since you can always catch up and there’s no deadlines set in stone) I thoroughly enjoyed this course. I learned a lot and refreshed my memory of the basic programming rules.

The IDE used, Android Studio, was easy to install and use especially with the guidance provided via the videos on the course. Getting the emulator to work was however more of a challenge. It took me many hours, over several days, using different computers to discover that one computer didn’t support Virtualization Technology and then I had difficulty getting the emulator to launch on a second computer but by creating a user variable ANDROID_SDK_HOME and setting its value to D:UsersName.androidavd after about two weeks I finally got it working!

Building the game up week by week was fun and very useful in improving my confidence in the coding. It was nice to reach the end of each week with a (mostly) working game. I loved playing around tweaking some of the settings, layout and appearance. For example I changed the background colour from green to purple, just because I wanted to see if I could.

My finished game by the end of the course

That’s not to say this course didn’t have it’s drawbacks. I was always reluctant to do more than instructed on the videos because I knew by the end of the week I’d have to backup my code and revert to the code version issued for that week, thus eliminating the changes I’d made unless I reverted to my version and tried adding the extra bits I learned as I progressed through the course. This is something I would have loved to do but due to the screentime constraints I live with, it wasn’t possible. Hopefully it’s something I can play about with in any future spare time at the screen!

The support if something went wrong or didn’t work as it should, was hit and miss; sometimes you’d get a lot of responses both from the course leaders and other learners, other times you’d be searching your way round google trying to find an answer on your own. I realise everyone probably did there best but it could leave you feeling like you’d been thrown in at the deep end and were scrambling about for answers hoping one of them would actually work.

I think an actual beginner may have a hard time with this course but that’s not to say they shouldn’t give it a go! If you’re really interested in coding then this is a really good way to get started, but it can feel like you’ve been thrown in at the deep end with a new program and programming language to learn. 

Overall it was a great course and like I’ve already said, I really enjoyed myself completing it. It has enforced my understanding of Java and introduced me to a new IDE in the form of Android Studio. It has also wetted an interest in developing Android Apps, something which I had been vaguely interested in but that interest has now increased thanks to this course!

Future runs of this course are available here: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/begin-programming

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