Note from the Tech.io team: This article has been written before the launch of Tech.io in open beta. We’re already working on tackling some issues that Dan mentions below. Thank you so much for the valuable insights, Dan.
My name is Dan Hentschel. I work as a software developer for Allworx Corporation, writing Windows applications in C# and Java. I’ve been in software development for over 20 years, with experience in dozens of programming languages and environments. I have been a member, moderator, and contributor on the CodinGame platform for over 2 years, and that is where I found out about Tech.io.
I’m excited about the potential for Tech.io as a community-driven teaching and learning platform. Now before I get too far into my own vision for Tech.io, let me add a disclaimer.
I am not part of the Tech.io staff. I am not privy to all of their strategic discussions. So what I say here may, or may not, be in-line with their future road map.
The Tech.io platform provides the potential for something that is (from my experience) relatively unique on the internet: polished, community-driven, highly interactive technology tutorials. Let me say a bit about each of these points:
— Polished — The Tech.io staff has put a lot of effort into designing a framework that naturally guides a contributor (teacher) towards well structured, attractive lessons, and enables the creation of this lesson material with relatively little effort. Utilizing the super-simple markdown language, everything looks clean and consistent.
— Community-driven — While the Tech.io staff writes some courses, the Tech.io community will develop the majority of the material. Even the content selection is left up to the community. Courses are stored in a private git repository and can be easily shared to GitHub for collaboration.
— Highly interactive — This is one area that is a major differentiator for Tech.io. The course development toolset provides a very powerful framework for integrating interactive content into a course. With enough motivation and ingenuity, course creators can add some truly impressive, and hopefully very instructive, in-line exercises so that the student can try out the concepts described in the course in a simple, controlled environment. This is all enabled through the use of Docker containers, and simple YAML and markdown configuration.
This all sounds great! But it’s not all tulips and roses for Tech.io yet. There are some major hurdles that will have to be dealt with before the platform will truly be able to shine:
— Markdown — Wait… didn’t you say??? Yes, markdown is great! It’s easy, it’s clean, it’s consistent, it’s… ultimately limiting. Don’t get me wrong. The decision to go with markdown was a great choice. It enables rapid creation of good looking, consistent content. However, there are times when content creators want to do something that is outside the limitations imposed by markdown. Right now, there’s no plan B.
— Very time-consuming — Wait… didn’t you say??? Yes, creating content demands relatively little effort. It’s still a lot of work. Even for the shortest of courses (just a half-dozen lessons or so), expect to spend many hours creating a lesson plan, agonizing over the wording and flow of your lessons, and designing appropriate exercises. That’s in addition to learning the toolset, setting up your development environment, etc.
— Intangible rewards — This may ultimately be the sticking point for many content creators. Online learning sites frequently utilize a for-pay model, and content creators get a portion of proceeds from their courses. The current Tech.io model only rewards content creators with self-actualization… altruism, expression, esteem.
— Inconsistent content — And this may ultimately be the sticking point for content consumers. Even at this early stage, the courses on-offer vary widely in terms of length, thoroughness, readability, tone, etc. Inevitably, some course offerings will be well accepted, and useful, and some will be less so. In extreme cases, subpar courses may need to be completely reworked or even dropped. It’s not clear yet how Tech.io will enable good, useful content to rise to the top and less-so content to be ignored.
Despite all of these pitfalls, I think that Tech.io has a bright future, that I, for my own reasons, have chosen to invest in. I am currently working through a 3-part course series on using LINQ in C# (Github repo), and I have plans to write some material on browser extensions, on Linux filesystems, and maybe even on photo editing.
The Tech.io team has, so far, done an excellent job at responding to questions and feedback. They are actively working on new features and more mature workflows. What I see inspires me, and I choose to have faith that this is going to work out well. We have a good community of very bright professionals working hard to create new course material. With all this effort, and a bit of luck, Tech.io is poised to carve out a well-deserved niche for itself in the landscape of online technology training.
Do you share Dan’s impressions? Don’t hesitate to tell us honestly what you think of the platform in the comments below.
Do you want to contribute to the blog? Don’t hesitate to reach Thibaud (firstname.lastname@example.org)