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iCanProgram.com--A Story of Success, Sadness, and the Spirit of Open Source - page 4

Making a Gift

  • August 23, 2002
  • By Rob Reilly

48 hours after the first posting for the programming sessions, on Linux Today, Findlay had over 600 requests to join the first class.

"It was only after I had changed the pull down on the website to say 'accepting registrations in 2002 May' that interest began to taper off. There were 145 students in that 2002 January session and the most I'd ever run before was 23 10-13 year olds in a Tcl/Tk session," Findlay exclaimed.

Since January 2002, the session numbers have been split out as follows:

  • Tcl/Tk - 1 session - 50 students
  • SIMPL - 3 sessions - 150 students
  • Intro - 6 sessions - 800 students

"Several days ago there were 186 students in the August 2002 edition of the Intro to Linux Programming course. I expect by the time we launch in the week of August 19, 2002, we'll be close to 200," Findlay said.

Findlay has tried several modes of presentation, including Yahoo Group's IRC. IRC wasn't really the most effective use of his time, considering that he runs a full-time software consulting company and has the additional problem of scheduling across different time zones.

iCanProgram.com was also in great demand in Brazil beginning in February 2002.

"There are probably 40 registrations from Brazil in the August 2002 course. It has always been by far the most prominent of the country codes. It was arount the third session (March 2002) that one of my Brazilian students offered to translate the course material into Portugese on a parallel website and to setup a parallel mailing list in Portugese. He would cross-post questions to the English list and translate answers back to the Portugese list," Findlay said.

Findlay continues to expand the program and talked about the scaling of the sessions. "The maximum number I have handled in any one course has been 185. The typical Intro course has been around 150. Now that I've run six courses and I'm beginning to get a feel for what works and what doesn't, I believe this format is scalable to at least double these numbers. And, 50 seems to be the lower end below which you don't seem to get that collaborative chemistry setting in," he said.

Just because the courses are offered in exchange for a donation doesn't mean they are of questionable quality, by any means. Findlay was very proud of one of his testimonials.

"In one of the early Intro sessions one of the students put a link on the mailing list during the week where the students were learning about Makefiles. This link pointed to an IBM tutorial website on the same topic. Several students went to the link and expressed varous opinions on the mailing list. A few days later the original student came back with his assessment concluding that while the IBM material was helpful, the iCanProgram format was much more logically layed out and much more easily applied to real problems," Findlay proclaimed.

"I couldn't have asked for a more powerful endorsement of what I set out to do when I wrote that lesson material," he concluded.

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