Angie's Leap

My dive into blogging: music, technology, saving money

School’s out!

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Yesterday, I finished up my last Web design/development course at Computer Training Source in Chicago. I walked away grateful, relieved and happy to be putting my skills to work.  My journey through the program was not what I expected, but I’d recommend it to any “downsized” worker who qualifies. I put “downsized” in quotes because that’s one of the terms I’ve learned is preferable to saying you were laid off. Oh yeah, my program included marketing pointers, too. ( I was listening, Maureen).

Seriously, as copy desks are wiped out in newspapers across the country, marketing has become more important than ever.  I’m told that potential employers equate “laid off” with poor performance, but they understand “downsizing” happens to the best of us.

My tuition at CTS was funded through the federal Workforce Investment Act, and I jumped through plenty of hoops to get into the program. At one WIA orientation, a woman explained that Uncle Sam didn’t have dollars to waste. Folks would get it into their heads that they wanted to go back to school after viewing one of those vocational school commercials from a couch at home, she said. They’d go to school, maybe because they were bored. And many of them would end up right back on that couch in front of the TV. Hence, the rigorous WIA program screening process. That’s fine with me. I’m not trying to be an overeducated couch potato.

One of the steps in securing a government voucher for training is interviewing potential schools. I looked at three. I love the traditional college learning environment, but knew that wouldn’t work when I found a job. I wouldn’t expect a new boss to fit my work schedule around school, and I was determined to finish school. At CTS, I was able to rearrange my classes around a contract job I found shortly after school began.

I went to school two to three days a week from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. There were morning and afternoon breaks and a one-hour lunch. Most classes were two-to-four-day sessions ranging from beginning to advanced levels. Learning via the CTS method is 30 percent classroom; 70 percent practice. In a university environment, I’d say I learned 70 percent in the classroom; 30 percent on my own. I was a little unprepared for this reality. I tried to take in as much as I could at once: watching the classroom screen, my computer monitor, following the text, listening, taking notes. Some instructors didn’t mind audio recordings; some did.

Instructor presentations are done via projectors displaying the Windows operating system. On the Mac (students have the option to choose either OS), commands and the screen view are slightly different. Inevitably, I would miss something. This got a bit frustrating, until an instructor gave me this: Think of class as a demo class, like a cooking class. You’re not trying to make the dish with the chef; you’re getting the idea now and cooking it up later. Thanks, Bob.

A few of my takeaways, after 240 classroom hours:

  • Learning a content management system is easy. If you’re  on Facebook, you’ve learned one already; WordPress is another. I worked on a cloud-based one at my old newspaper.  Many of the job ads for editors require experience on a CMS.

  • I don’t want to be a Web developer. I’m a techie, but not that much of a techie. Of course, understanding what MySQL, Javascript and PHP are all about is helpful. I learn best by visualizing how all parts of a system function together. Querying databases isn’t my thing. But I get it.

  • Web design is fun. Web building, not so much.  HTML is the framework for building sites. But using CSS is where things get interesting. CSS is the decoration. I like decorating.  For me, building sites from scratch is like building a house from the ground up. I’d rather pick the furnishings. Programs such as Dreamweaver let you customize to your heart’s content.

  • I ain’t afraid of no code. None of this technical stuff is difficult to learn. It’s the repetition that makes it stick.

All in all, I’d say Uncle Sam didn’t waste his money on me. I have a much deeper understanding of the Internet revolution that’s turned the way we communicate with each other upside down, and I’m a better editor for the training.

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