Courseworks Software Reviews

Canvas from Instructure is a cloud-based learning management system (LMS) suitable for K-12 and higher education institutes. Canvas is a scalable LMS platform that can be used to serve education facilities all sizes, ranging from individual classrooms to large universities.

Canvas learning platform offers core LMS functionality including the online grade books, testing, course authoring and integration with other teaching tools. The Canvas App Center offers mobile-ready teaching tools that can be added to bring new functionalities in the application. Over two hundred different LTI tools allow teachers to customize courses and monitor engagements with their class or individual students. Canvas also offers native apps for iOS and Android devices, allowing instructors to view key information, share updates or send results from anywhere and at any time.

Canvas is recommended to campuses with more than two hundred students. The solution comes with 14 days free trial period so that users can experience the interface and features for themselves before making any kind of commitment.

I'm a somewhat atypical boot camp case: I have worked in (manual) software testing for three years at an information security company in Chicago. I took a leave of absence from my job to attend the Software Guild in hopes of moving from testing to development within the same company. Management was cautiously supportive, and since graduating from the Guild and returning to work, I've been hired on permanently as a software engineer, with the salary to match.

I chose the Guild primarily because it was the most highly rated full-stack boot camp that teaches Java, staffed by instructors who each have over a decade of experience in software development. As someone with a previous background in instructional design, I was also encouraged to learn that instructional designers are on staff as part of the parent company, which I took as a good sign toward the quality or at least organization of the curriculum.

Having said that, the Java curriculum at the Guild deeply impressed me with its thoroughness and organization. Skills build on each other in a logical progression with a level of detail that ensures you understand the tools and technologies you are using on a more fundamental level than merely how to use them. My cohort had a "flipped classroom" style of instruction where we spent evenings watching videos and doing step-by-step code-along exercises that built an example application with you and explained all the components in detail. During the day, the instructor, Pat, led class discussion on concepts and broke the room into smaller groups to work on projects implementing what we had learned. Pat's classroom is a lot of hands-on learning - whatever you're thinking of trying, he'll say, just try it and see what happens - but he is able to answer questions, help solve problems, and provide insight into your design dilemmas, with just the right information-to-snark ratio. He's both knowledgeable and hilarious, which kept us smiling even when the work was tough and demanded long, frustrating hours.

Even I have been surprised at how exactly the Guild program matches what you see in the workplace. You will have stand-up every day, code review every week, and pair programming/collaborative design on every project. You use the same project management software at the Guild (i.e. Atlassian tool suite) that enterprises use. My colleagues have been surprised that I came back already familiar with not just Java and object-oriented design concepts, but also Spring, Maven, SQL, Git, and n-tier web application design - all critical knowledge that is not necessarily typical of junior developers. Most importantly, because you understand what the tools do and why they exist, you gain the ability to communicate clearly with experienced developers: to ask intelligent questions and to understand the answers, using the same common vocabulary.

The team environment at the Guild was what really made the experience for me, and why I endorse the full-time, in-person program for others considering a boot camp. I lived at the Lofts, the nearby apartments that serve as on-campus housing, only a five minute walk from the school, in a very nice suite alongside many of my classmates working on the same projects. We spent many evenings reviewing lessons together, discussing our designs, and even doing peer code reviews prior to the official ones in class. I only had to go next door to get a fresh perspective on something I didn't understand or see a way of doing something that I had not thought of before. Toward the end of the class, many hours were spent rehearsing interview questions with one another and reviewing each other's resumes over beers. That kind of cameraderie is invaluable for learning and for morale, and something you just can't get from an online class. I have never met a group of smarter, more driven people for whom I've had so much respect.

If I decided tomorrow that software wasn't for me, I would still consider my time at the Software Guild to have been a great investment. It was like four years of college (but much cheaper!) smashed into the space of three months: I was the most challenged I have ever been, learned a great deal that will serve me well wherever I go, made friends and connections that will last, and had a ton of fun. To be honest, it was difficult to leave and go back to my normal life. If you're thinking of doing this boot camp thing, and you're not afraid of a challenge, just do it. It's more than worth the time and money.


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