I’d like to provide my review of the Elixir Course module from Groxio. I have some criticisms but I’d like to start with the positives.
- The Tates seem like lovely people. Maggie was very responsive to emails and roped in Bruce when I was too dense to get the gist of the course organization. Bruce’s response was also patient and clear.
- The individual chunks of content are easy to digest. The videos do a good job of maintaining focus on a single concept at a time and allowing the student to build gradually.
- The book is the highlight of the course. While I came across a few distracting errors and typos overall it was the most useful resource.
- The projects for making Conway’s game of life and a card game dealer are well done and thoughtfully organized. The provided tests are great. I wish the course had been more organized around projects like this throughout.
I do feel like my knowledge of Elixir grew through this course, particularly with respect to sigils and understanding macros. The material on those topics was easier for me to grasp than that from other sources on the same topics.
On to the criticisms.
- There is no cohesive, overarching organization to the course. You switch from one sort of toy project to another rather than consistently building up one project by adding concepts as you go. I think this is the biggest difference to the Elixir for Programmers course by Dave Thomas.
- Several of the videos felt like first drafts. I think this might be an intentional stylistic choice by Bruce to allow students to see the entire thought process but I found it distracting. It undermined the sense of authoritativeness one seeks from an instructor.
- The reliance on external material for a lot of concepts/exercises. I have done most of the Exercism problems and read as much of the free educational resources on Elixir as I could find prior to embarking on a paid course. It was disappointing then to be directed back to those resources. I will say, however, that some of the best parts of the course were taking Exercism problems and expanding upon them. I wish more of the course had been organized in that way.
The last criticism I’m going to go into more detail. The UI of the site is, frankly, a disaster. So many links that do not take you to the expected resource. The itinerary has links for each sort of chapter. The first link is generally “Read the book”. Clicking it does not take you to the book at all, much less to the specific chapter of the book. Instead clicking the link scrolls the page so that the link to download the PDF is at the top of the screen. If that link is already at that position, clicking the “Read the book” link does nothing. Ideally the book chapters would not be limited to the PDF but would be displayed in the section to the right of the itinerary. There’s an introductory text in that spot and my assumption was that intro would get replaced with the chapters as I clicked the link. At a minimum clicking the link to “Read the book” should open the PDF, again ideally to the relevant page in the PDF.
The itinerary includes links for specific videos, like “Watch the Sigils video”. But the link does not go to the specific video. It scrolls the page down to the “Videos” section head. It’s not hard to find the specified video from there, but if I see link text for a specific video the expectation is that it goes to that video. If I see a link for “Click here to get rick rolled” I don’t expect it to just take me to the youtube landing page where I can search for Rick Astley.
I have the same link complaint for the links to specific exercise and articles. These links for the itinerary from specific chapters of the course all direct to the generic Community Resources section of the site. If the link text is “Solve the Exercism Space Age” I would expect it to take me to the relevant page on Exercism. The same for “Read articles”. Just link to the relevant articles from the itinerary instead of the awkward Learn It, Do It, Grok It card interface. There are several links to the “Groxio tutorial” from the itinerary section. I still don’t know what that is. It goes to the Community Resources section but I don’t see anything in that section that would be described as a tutorial hosted by Groxio.
The final UI complaint is about what was otherwise a highlight of the course, the projects at the end. I’m not sure how these are implemented but the interface is weird. When you go to the Projects section of the site there are two lines with each project’s name next to a folder icon. Hovering over these indicates these project titles are links and clicking them changes the folder icon to an open folder with text outlining the project while also opening a series of lines to the right with folder icons next to each entry. You might assume those entries are links as well. So you mouse over and the UI does nothing to indicate they are links. In fact the opposite occurs as the cursor changes to the text input cursor. The behavior was a little inconsistent for me but generally clicking the section titles or the folder icons does open text below including the instructions and the tests. You might then expect clicking the title again will close the section, but this is not the case. You would have to scroll down through the open section to open the next section.
Finally the projects section would randomly reset with the project folders closed while I was working. So I’d have to open the project folder and then open the step I had been working on all over again. I assume there’s some sort of timer on the site that refreshes the state in some way, but this was kind of annoying.
So I’ve listed a fair amount of negative comments, but they are almost all regarding the interface. I want to stress that the content was pretty good and helped me grow with Elixir quite a bit. I hope more work is done to refine the overall organization to make it more cohesive and to improve the UI of the site. I’m looking forward to the OTP module (and maybe Prolog from there). I suspect that having reset some of my assumptions about the interface I will find those modules less frustrating. Hope this helps anyone considering the course.