If you’re trying to learn programming (or any other new skill, really), but don’t have the time, money, or opportunity to enroll in conventional university classes, you may have already come across several websites or online courses promising to teach you how to program in a set length of time, sometimes in as little as 27 days. Paying for these services may be tempting, especially with university tuition rising continuously with no sign of stopping. A lot of these services promise to be cheap and affordable, sometimes coming with the promise of a loan, but how effective are they really. As it turns out, a lot of people prey on those trying to learn something new, and distance-learning scams can be surprisingly common. Here are some things to watch out for, so that you can learn to program without getting scammed.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
One of the hallmarks of a distance learning scam (and a good number of scams, really), is the “offer you can’t refuse”. Whether it be a school promising to give you a bachelor’s or master’s in as little as a month or the university that promises to give you a diploma for “life experience” (without actually checking if you know how to code in the first place), these schools will convince you that you’ve always known how to program, and that all you need to be successful is a piece of paper with a signature on it, a piece of paper that they’d be happy to give to you for the low, low price of all of your life’s savings. Remember, the goal is to learn to program without getting scammed. If the school or service seems more interested in getting you some sort of certification for programming without actually teaching you how to program, that should set off some red flags. If it sounds sketchy, it probably is.
Check for accreditation!
A good way to combat this is to check the accreditation. Accreditation means that the school or program has had its coursework vetted by some neutral third party and has been decided to be legitimate. If you’re going the university or online coursework route, anything that doesn’t have appropriate accreditation should make you wonder. Taking the time to do your homework—checking for credentials, calling the registrar of a local college in your area and asking if they would accept transfer credits from the school you’re considering, checking how long the school has been around and whether or not it has recently changed its name and calling them to make sure they’re actually willing to talk to you—can really help you learn to program without getting scammed.
Read the reviews
Okay, but what if you’re not going the university or degree route. What if you just want to teach yourself how to program and have found some resources online that seem to be able to help you with that. In that case, you might not be able to find any accreditation regardless of the legitimacy of the source, so what do you do? Well, a good place to start would be doing a quick web search of the program you’re considering and its reviews and reading what other people have to say. Glowing five-star reviews contrasted with one-star “IT’S A SCAM STAY AWAY!!!” offerings usually indicate that the company has some reviewers in its back pocket. In contrast, a good mix of reviews or heavily positive reviews with negative comments that actually talk about what the service does wrong and not about how it’s trying to scam you out of your money might be a little more promising. You’re trying to learn to program without getting scammed, and that starts with thinking for yourself and doing your own homework.
Ask for advice
At any point in the process, whether you’re still narrowing your choices down to something that looks legitimate or whether you’re already deciding whether or not to spend the money on the service you want, it can only help you to ask for advice. Ask for help from people who already know how to program, who may have gone down this route in the past and come out successful for it. As someone still trying to learn about the industry, you might not know how to spot red flags that other people with more experience might notice instantly. Don’t know any programmers in real life? That’s fine, the internet is a great resource. Find places where people with those skills hang out, such as web forums, and ask away!
It’s unfortunate that we live in a world that punishes people who are trying to learn new things, but that’s simply how it is. Hopefully, this article gave you some resources to help you protect yourself, so that you can learn to program without getting scammed. Remember, when you’re deciding where to spend your money, especially online, it’s always best to look before you leap. Consider all your options from every angle, and make sure you’ve researched each option thoroughly, so that at the end of the day, you can make the well-informed decision that is best for you.