If you thought your training budget was tiny back in August, you may be surprised now by just how much tinier tiny can get. When business gets slow, one of the first budget items to be reprioritized, or killed outright, is training money. Looking for some kind of technology training in this environment may put you in a difficult situation with little or no money to spend.

The CodeWarriorU Web site and its catalog of free-with-registration courses may be just the ticket for the budget-conscious trainee. The site is sponsored and run by Metrowerks, so, with a few exceptions, the available classes are limited to those related to Metrowerks’ CodeWarrior products: C/C++ programming, Palm development, and Java programming. Other currently available classes include programming the Motorola DSP56800 processor, M-Core Microcontroller programming, Java certification training, Mac programming with PowerPlant, and an introductory XML class.





Beginner to intermediate

Offers free online programming classes; the available classes are rotated monthly.

Good-quality course content compares favorably with some pay courses. Lessons are made available a few at a time so as not to overwhelm the student.

Some classes make heavy references to optional supplemental books or software, which are not available for free.


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CodeWarriorU at a glance

Learn to be a warrior in your free time
While the classes themselves are free, there are supplementary items, usually a book (not written by the instructor) or CodeWarrior software, that you are encouraged to purchase for use in the class. Although the class lessons will refer you to the supplemental materials often, they usually aren’t essential to getting something out of the course.

Each class takes the form of multiple lessons written by an instructor with a respectable amount of experience on the class subject. New lessons are posted piecemeal, as often as twice a week—often enough to keep you interested but not so often as to bore or overwhelm you. Attending class, which you can, of course, do at any time, consists of reading a few pages of material, taking a quiz or two, and performing an optional assignment. Depending on the nature of the course, an assignment could be a programming exercise, a chapter from a supplemental book, or a visit to another Web site. If you get stuck on your assignment or have a question on the lesson text or quiz, a “classroom” message board is only a few clicks away.

Some anecdotal experiences
Over the last several weeks, I took a look at a few of the courses offered by CodeWarriorU: Intermediate C++, Java Programmer Certification with Metrowerks CodeWarrior, and Introduction to XML. The former two are still in progress. In each case, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the experience. The classes themselves equal or exceed the quality of most of the cheaper pay courses I’ve seen. Registering for a class is painless, and although you’ll see class sessions listed with start and end dates, you can effectively join a class at any time, as long as it is still available on the Web site.

The Intermediate C++ course builds on a beginner’s C++ course that is also offered. You’ll start out with an overview of OOP concepts and a review of basic C++ syntax. Then, you’ll progress to pointers, strings, and operator overloading and learn how to construct canonical objects like linked lists and binary trees. Of course, the instructor assumes you are using CodeWarrior’s C++ IDE, but the use of another editor or IDE doesn’t detract from the value of the class.

Now I’ve never taken Sun’s Java2 Programmer exam, but CodeWarriorU’s Java Programmer Certification course, at 10 lessons, seems a little short to cover all the required essentials. The course begins with an overview of the exam process and moves on to cover individual areas of interest such as flow control, the java.lang and java.util packages, and Swing. A true test of the quality of this class would be to take the exam after finishing the course. I’d like to hear from you if you passed the Java Programmer’s exam after using this course to prepare for the exam.

The XML class is now closed, but it provided a good overview of what XML is and what it’s good for, and it introduced XML’s ancillary technologies, like XSL and XSLT.

Interactive virtual classroom: Oxymoron?
Although it’s simply impossible to simulate the kind of interactive help and feedback you get in a real classroom, the class message boards at CodeWarriorU provide a useful vehicle for obtaining help with a problem. I experimentally posted a few questions (along with a genuine one) and found the instructors to be generally helpful and responsive, usually replying to a question the same day.

Don’t see anything you like?
If you find that CodeWarriorU’s current menu lacks anything particularly tasty, check back in a few weeks. According to representatives from Powered, the company that runs the site, new courses are introduced every month. These new classes do replace older, previously completed courses so that there are constantly eight to 10 available at any time. This means you shouldn’t dillydally if you do see something you like.

Online training isn’t for everyone. It requires a certain amount of dedication that some of us simply don’t possess. One of the problems I’ve always had with online training is feeling overwhelmed by the number of lessons or chapters (or whatever expression is used) included in a course. By presenting the lessons one at a time over a period of weeks, CodeWarriorU kept me from feeling quite so overwhelmed by the sheer number of pages I had to read. And it kept me more interested in the course.

What suggestions do you have for training on the cheap?

With reduced corporate training budgets or maybe the need to use personal funds, finding inexpensive training options is more important than ever. What suggestions do you have for those needing to sharpen their skills on a minimal budget? Send us an e-mail with your thoughts and suggestions.