As I write this post, I'm working through taking my second course on Buildspace. It's been a unique learning experience that's helped me get my hands dirty with technologies that I was only vaguely familiar with before, and I really think you should consider giving it a shot.
Buildspace offers free, online, cohort-based courses on building web3 blockchain apps. Each course starts with a live-streamed kickoff, with an instructor and cohort of learners taking the course with you. From there, you're welcome to take things at your own pace. If you complete a course within a week, you're issued a certificate in the form of an NFT which is yours forever.
After you create an account and enroll in a course Buildspace, you'll need to do two things before the live kickoff for your particular course: connect an ethereum wallet (which is used to verify that you're completing coursework, and to issue your course certificate NFT), and link your Discord account. You'll use Discord to chat with fellow students during the course, and to ask instructors for help.
Buildspace is free
That brings me to my next point - buildspace is FREE. Free, free. They even plaster it on their homepage:
Cohort-based learning is exciting
All of Buildspace's courses are run with a learning cohort: this is a group of people who all start a given course at the same time. For me, this had an incredibly energizing effect: jumping into a course livestream with dozens-to-hundreds of other people who are all excited to learn this thing, right now is really magical. It got me hyped to participate, and excited about learning with other people.
You'll find yourself chatting with classmates in Discord to help them along, or debug problems that you're having in real time. This is truly something special, particularly for courses like this which are really more-than-a-little-technical. I feel at least somewhat qualified to weigh in on this experience, too - I spent 7 years working as technical director for Gymnasium, another free, online code school which offers fully self-paced courses for creatives who want to learn to build for the web.
There are also regular coworking sessions, which work a whole lot like the live kickoff - at a scheduled time, you'll hop onto Discord and join a room with a group of people who are progressing through the course you're working on. You can chat with each other in there, or use the time as quiet, dedicated studying time - whatever works best for you.
What have I built?
Like I mentioned above, I'm currently working through my second course.
The first course I took was called Build a Web3 App with Solidity + Ethereum Smart Contracts. In this course, I learned about developing apps for the Ethereum blockchain using a library called Solidity. From start to finish, the course took me about 5 hours of dedicated effort (your results will definitely vary based on your experience with related tools and technology). I learned how to bootstrap a blockchain app, and the general loop of the blockchain development experience, including deploying my app to a test network. The course encourages you to explore and get creative along the way, so I ended up adding some functionality to my blockchain app here and there to get a little more experience with Solidity.
For completing this course within a week, I earned a certificate. My certificate lives on the blockchain, of course, by way of an NFT... this is honestly the first compelling use of NFTs I've seen anywhere. What does it look like? Here you go:
I'm currently working through a course called Mint your own NFT collection and ship a Web3 app to show them off - just like it says on the tin, the idea here is to learn about building apps that produce NFTs. I'm about 25% of the way through this course, and expect to finish it this week.
Is this for everyone?
You may also have some real hesitations about the climate impact of blockchain technologies. I absolutely do - my guidance here is to do what you feel is right. I'm a strong proponent of learning new tech, even with climate worries. It's clear to methat this stuff is here to stay in some form or another, and the more climate-aware devs we have thinking about the blockchain, the better chance we have of creating innovations in crypto that aren't going to cook the planet.
Why should you do it?
While I'll admit that I'm still fully unconvinced of the value of creating and selling shiny jpegs on the blockchain, I do think there's serious value in understanding how the blockchain works, and getting to know what the heck is going on in the world of cryptocurrency. There's massive amounts of the world economy moving through currencies on various blockchains right now, and any amount of literacy you can build for this world will benefit you.
I also think it's a critically important skill to be able to learn new things regularly. It keeps your mind sharp, and can help you find new career opportunities in some very in-demand jobs. I'm also on a career path where part of my job is teaching people how to build things for a living. Everyone has a slightly different learning style, and I've found that cohort-based courses are a really great way for me to get some intense, quick learning done. I enjoy the camaraderie that is built into the live-kickoff and cohort-based course experience, and I really love helping other people pick up new skills.
If you're on the fence, here's the thing: go try it. Take a course!
Courses on Buildspace are literally free - there's no cost to you to give it a shot, and you may learn a thing or two along the way. The team behind Buildspace are energetic, positive, and uplifting, and I've genuinely enjoyed learning from them, and watching them build their school out in the open.
I'm excited to finish this course, and will certainly be keeping an eye out for more in the future.