From 0 to "programming" in $2500
August 19, 2016 12:08 PM   Subscribe

We are three humanities grad students who have been given a budget of $2500 to learn some "technical skills" that will benefit our digital humanities project (in Drupal). What should we spend our dollars on? Details inside.

We are humanities students building a project in Drupal. None of us has any significant background in coding, programming languages, or tech stuff in general. We have basic training in Drupal, enough to build our site with the benefit of advice from on-campus experts (we understand modules, views, importing from CSV files, etc.). Hosting, and other actual site-building expenses, are covered under a separate part of our budget.

BUT part of our grant specifies that we must spend about $2500 (total for the three of us, not per person) on "training" (i.e. somehow enhancing our technical/"programming" skills, understood very loosely/freely) over the next 12 months. I guess ideally this would be something that would help with our work in Drupal, but given that none of us really knows HTML, let alone PHP/MySQL, we have to start at a much more basic level. The grant-givers really only care about the fact that we are developing our skills in some way (i.e. from their perspective it doesn't necessarily have to be directly relevant to our project). We would be willing to spend, say, 5-10 hours a week on self-directed study but would also be fine with doing a few days of intensive training somewhere in the Bay Area.

How should we go about spending this budget? We are so lost among the many options!, Codecademy subscription, courses at something like AcademyX? There seem like a lot of free options as well, like Khan Academy. We are trying to figure out a course of study that makes sense - maybe something like "learn basic stuff online for free, then take XYZ paid course" (or vice versa?). We know nothing, so any advice would be greatly appreciated.
posted by Owl of Athena to Technology (14 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I should add that we won't be taking any university-level computer science classes, as they are generally designed for majors and way more time-intensive than what we're looking for.
posted by Owl of Athena at 12:14 PM on August 19, 2016

Best answer: It's hard to go wrong with There are at least 13 Drupal training videos on Lynda. 40 on PHP, etc. Endless stuff on HTML.
posted by gregr at 12:18 PM on August 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you are interested in spending part of that budget on Drupal-specific training videos, I'd recommend They are very well done, and cover a fairly wide range of technical abilities from site building and admin to custom module development.
posted by scottatdrake at 12:18 PM on August 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Pluralsight. It's got a huge variety and a lot of depth.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:21 PM on August 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You should learn some HTML with CSS. They work together. Head First books have a good reputation.

If you do anything on the web, understanding the basics of HTML and CSS will come in handy on a regular basis. I used books and CDs for self study. You could spend some of your money on stuff like that.
posted by Michele in California at 12:40 PM on August 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: From my experience with Drupal, a lot of Drupal-specific things can be done using existing modules and free tutorials. So, unless you plan to develop your own modules/themes (or seriously tweak existing ones), paying Drupal courses may not be necessary. However, getting some basic courses in each of the underlying technologies (SQL/MySQL, PHP, HTML/CSS, Javascript/jQuery) will help you a lot, if only to understand (and possibly fix yourself) all the stuff that will go wrong at some point. Also, this knowledge will be applicable to other CMS.
posted by elgilito at 12:59 PM on August 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you need to spend money, Treehouse is $25/month per user. They've got a lot of classes that should give you what you need, and they're easy to follow. Code School also has some good lessons.

There are a lot of good free resources. Shay Howe's Intro to HTML and CSS is the best intro to basic web stuff I've found. Codecademy is good for things like JavaScript and PHP.

This may also be of interest to you.
posted by kevinbelt at 1:06 PM on August 19, 2016

Best answer: As humanities students, you should keep your eyes peeled for specific training geared towards your discipline. TAMU's Programming for Humanists can be taken long-distance. The Digital Humanities Summer Institute won't work for you, but their twitter feed and list of sponsoring institutes are good places to start looking for training opportunities. Drupal for Humanists is coming out in the fall - keep an eye on Quinn Dombrowski's schedule and see if you can find a training session with her.

Use that grant money to get as much access to conversations with digital humanities experts as possible!
posted by Hellgirl at 1:07 PM on August 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

Digital humanities covers a broad area. What is your particular area of research focus? Giving us a clearer idea of what you intend to work on will help us suggest where you should be focusing your technical skills.
posted by MsMolly at 1:12 PM on August 19, 2016

I would steer away from Drupal-specific coursework and training and go for broader stuff that can be applied to other situations and software. Designing databases. General programming principles. Regular expressions. Working with Ruby and Perl.
posted by Mo Nickels at 2:23 PM on August 19, 2016

Best answer: I might consider two options in addition to the excellent suggestion above:

1) safari provides access to technical reference libraries at $39 / month- that might be a great way to grab books as needed for learning. There's tons of Drupal stuff on there, but also books on html, css, mysql, system administration- everything you need to know to do this well.
2) Your local Drupal User Group will likely have someone who will train you onsite for a few days to get started for that kind of money, including setting up a simple environment for you to play in.
posted by jenkinsEar at 4:22 PM on August 19, 2016

If you don't mind waiting till near the end of your 12 months, use it to send one or more of you to DHSI or one of the affiliated DH summer schools. You will be able to choose from a range of very relevant classes. Your budget won't cover everything, but it would cover the fees for all of you, or travel plus fees for one or two, who could then teach the others.

But you've missed this summer so you'll need to wait for June next year.
posted by lollusc at 5:28 PM on August 19, 2016

There's lots of good advice above. I'd just like to add that as graduate students you may already have online access to Safari Bookshelf or Lynda through your university library.
posted by Songdog at 2:52 AM on August 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: We ended up starting with and Treehouse (Treehouse for those of us more serious about learning actual programming stuff. seems to have some good "what is HTML" type videos for those of us who don't necessarily want to learn it but just want to know some basic things about it; it also has a big library of non-programming-related stuff that people are also interested in), as well as a couple of Head First books for the people who are more book-learning-inclined.

Depending on how things go, we might later spring for something like Pluralsight or Code School, or get some Drupal-specific training. Codecademy didn't seem as helpful in terms of explaining why we were doing things. The digital humanities-specific advice is much appreciated, but we are fortunate to have good support for that on campus for free - hopefully that info will come in handy for future people looking at this question.

I personally am working through the Treehouse Front End Development track, and find it super newbie-friendly; I like the combination of videos, coding 'tests', and knowledge quizzes. If anything, I think we've learned that the amount of money we have is basically excessive for our needs, which is a nice problem to have! Thanks for all the recommendations!
posted by Owl of Athena at 10:00 AM on September 22, 2016

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