Steps to Taking a Computer Class
Once a person has decided to improve his knowledge of computers, the first step is to find out the best way to proceed. There are many options available, each with advantages and disadvantages. Unless a person is especially skilled in the basic functions of operating a computer and using the internet, it is strongly recommended that he take an introductory computer course. Some of the content of the first few lessons might seem overly simple, but courses advance quickly, and a user might learn shortcuts and other tips that build on his existing knowledge.
The student should also choose the method that best suits his learning style. Regardless of the learning style a student prefers, beginner’s classes are best taken in a classroom with hands-on learning during the class. If a student can afford a private tutor then that can be helpful as well. A student’s schedule may conflict with attending classes, but he should try to take his first few courses in person if he can.
For most computer courses, students will have the option to learn on their own computer, at home or at work. There are many companies and educational organizations that offer these courses and they differ in a variety of ways. Although students are not always in contact with an instructor, instructors are usually available by email for help. If the student doesn’t know what direction take to continue his education, he should make sure his course allows him to receive good feedback from their instructor.
Many companies will pay for their employees to take courses that will make them better workers. If the company won’t pay but the cost of these courses is a problem for a student, introductory courses are sometimes offered for free or at very low cost at libraries and other community centers. Community colleges also offer low rates for beginner’s courses. Instructors in these classes can help a student find out how to continue his studies in a way that meets a student's budget.
Students should attend a class ready to take notes, either by hand, or on a laptop. They should also take a portable flash drive to save information on. They should read the course description well and make sure it is a good fit for them, and if necessary, contact the instructor so they will have an idea of what to expect.
Choosing a Specialty
After students have completed their basic computer training and have decided that they want to continue to learn about computer sciences, they should start considering in exactly what area they want to specialize. There are many factors that students need to consider to find out what suits them best. Subjects of personal interest and areas of computer science that offer improved employment potential should be considered. If a student wants to continue learning, but is unsure of what area to specialize in, an instructor should be able to help him narrow down his options until the student finds the right fit.
Since it is the most rapidly expanding field of computer sciences, specializing in software is a good choice for a student concerned with future job prospects. To be skilled in the software field, a student should learn the various programming languages with which most popular software programs are built. This expertise is useful in many different fields of computer science, and is a requirement if the student decides to focus on creating and maintaining software. Learning more than one programming language is not an easy task, but with dedication and time, a student will develop his skills and find he is in high demand in a number of different industries.
If a student is more interested in creating content for the Internet, some programming languages must be learned as well, but with a focus on the ones commonly used on websites. Web designers are also in demand since many businesses have discovered the increased profits they can make if they have an attractive and usable website. A student should also take courses on use of search engines so the sites they create are easily found by people searching for websites via popular search engines.
Students who want to use a computer to create and design digital media should focus their energy on taking computer courses on the specific software program they want to use.
Most professional media software is extremely complex, but they give the users a large number of options to perfect the content they create. Even with a large amount of knowledge of graphic arts and computers, these programs are very challenging to use and often come with thick manuals that are difficult to understand. Taking courses on these programs can be especially useful for students wanting to learn their programs quickly.
For students interested in working with hardware, courses on creating and troubleshooting a network are recommended.
Learning how to create and maintain a usable database on a server is also recommended. Hardware changes quickly. It keeps getting smaller in size and larger in capability and speed. The student is expected to stay on top of recent developments in computers and should look for courses that cover new and improved hardware and uses for them in computer systems.
Whether a student wants to improve his employability, or is studying solely for the sake of gaining knowledge, the large size of the computer science field requires specialization at some point in his education. The student should never be confused or overwhelmed by the options, and should not feel limited in what he thinks he can learn. If a specialized class is unavailable in the student's community, it is probably available through software or online. In the end, nothing really stands in the way of a student wishing to perfect his skills.
Identifying Prerequisites for Taking a Computer Class
The prerequisites for computer courses vary with the level of the course and the school where they are taken. More difficult courses usually require a student to take introductory or intermediary courses first. In addition, students wishing to get a degree can expect to be required to take general courses in unrelated subject matter in order to achieve the well-rounded education that comes with a college degree.
Prerequisites can be frustrating to some students who want to start focusing on their main subject as soon as possible. In some situations a student may not be forced to take them. If a student talks to the instructor of a specialized or advanced class, or another member of the computer sciences faculty, and is able to prove that he is skilled enough to take the class he wants, that student may not have to take a prerequisite.
Sometimes a student may have the choice of passing a prerequisite course by exam. This means that the student is offered the final exam, and if he scores well enough, he is given credit for the whole course and does not need to attend it. These situations aren’t always available, but a student shouldn’t feel afraid to ask. Most professors don’t want to feel like they are wasting a student’s time.
From there, it just depends on the direction in which the student wants to go. If a student wishes to focus on programming, he may have to attend a math or logic class before he is allowed to take programming classes. A course on data structures may be needed as well, and the data structures classes also may require math classes in order to attend them. An engineering course may be required as well.
If a student wants to learn computer languages, then in addition to having to take introductory classes, he may have to take some basic programming courses as well. Engineering computer systems might also be required so students are aware of how programming languages work with the hardware of a computer system.
After completing programming language courses, the student can use these to be eligible to take classes in software engineering, if that is their intended focus. Software engineering classes also may require some programming and math courses as well.
If a student wants to learn to work with databases, programming language and basic programming courses are usually required. Mathematics classes will probably be a requirement, also. The same goes for courses on discrete structures. Discrete structures deal with the functions of graphs, the relations and functions of numbers, sequences, and algorithms. They are used by workers in the field of data analysis.
To specialize in creating and maintaining networks, many courses are generally required. These may include, but are not limited, to specialized operating systems classes, courses on the types and functions of network protocols, calculus, and/or statistics. Courses on emerging wireless technology and security systems may be required as well and are certainly recommended.
For students wishing to specialize in security systems, many of the previously mentioned courses are prerequisites. Since security systems deal with aspects of software, hardware, and networking, courses on all of these and their prerequisites are usually required. Specialized courses on the various threats to computers due to malware and other forms of hacking may also be required before the completion of a degree. The large number of prerequisites for this direction may seem difficult and demanding for a student. However, the student is advised to keep in mind that once all of these are completed and he has a degree, he is eligible for many respected and high paying positions, and has considerable job security.
These prerequisite courses and the others that may be required for advancement in school can be a frustrating for students. They have their advantages though and most of them would not be required if they were not useful either in more advanced classes or in the students’ future careers. Though a student might see these courses as time consuming or not related to the direction that the student wants to take his studies, usually at least some aspects of prerequisite courses are useful. After taking a good prerequisite course, a student might find a new area on which he wishes to focus, or discover a solution to a current problem that affects modern computer systems or how they are used.
Choosing the Right Program for You
There are many factors that can determine what computer program is right for a student. Skill level, operating system, desired outcome, preferred method of learning, cost, and payment options should all be considered. If the student is unwilling to take distance courses on his own computer at home, then the availability of classes offered in the area should be considered as well.
Determining a student’s skill level is relatively easy.
Potential students should ask themselves how long they've used computers. Are they familiar with the desktop shortcuts that speed up use of various computer programs? Do they know how to save information off the Internet? Are they comfortable installing software on their computer? Do they know how to use spreadsheet software? If the student is uncertain how to answer these questions, an introductory computer class should be the right place for him to start. Even if he is already aware of some of the material covered, an introductory computer course will strengthen this knowledge, and will make the student aware of tips and tricks he can use to get the most out of his computer.
The student should also consider on what operating system he needs to learn.
Many businesses use Microsoft Windows. An increasing number use Macintosh OSx. Some use Linux or other Unix systems. Unless the student wants to specialize in one of the other two systems, Windows might be best due to how widely it is used, but skills in the other two are in demand as well. The decision should ultimately be based on the kind of system on which the student has the most experience, and whether he thinks he will be using this system in a professional setting.
Students should also consider what kind of results they expect from their education.
Are they trying to advance in their company, find a new job, or simply improve their skills on their own PC? These should also think about the options of specializing in a specific field of computer science. If they are seeking education for future employment opportunities, they should assess the current and future demand for the concentration they are considering, and choose a direction that makes that job easier to get. Students shouldn’t hesitate to take courses that prepare them for a career in which there are fewer openings. The knowledge they gain will likely help them get another job. Also, being interested in the subject increases the chance that their interest will be noticed, making them more desirable than other applicants when the opportunity to get the job arises.
What about the student’s preferred learning style?
Does he learn better by studying on his own or does he need to interact with a group in order to fully understand the material? If a student’s schedule doesn’t allow him to attend regular weekly classes, he might consider online classes that can be taken on his own computer. These offer the additional benefit of allowing him to select a specific course of study that may not be available in his community. While the student won't be able to benefit from face-to-face interaction with the instructor and fellow students, most online classes give him an opportunity to ask questions of experts to make sure that he fully grasps the material.
Finally, the issue of payment should be considered. Some students are eligible to receive money from scholarships and many employers will pay for employees to expand their education.