'How To' Books & Courses
Published September 2001

Just because you haven't used a computer before, or haven't done a computer science degree at University, doesn't mean that using a PC (or Mac), or basic programming, is necessarily beyond you. There are a wide range of Teach Yourself and How To Books on the market.

The next question is, "Okay, which do I use?" There are a couple of ways you can go about this. One is to take recommendations from people who've been in your situation and the second is to ask someone you know who is a programmer or a competent computer user if a book you're interested in provides accurate information.

Once you have a recommendation, and/or confirmation of accuracy, have a look through the early part of the book you plan to buy - before you pay for it. If you can't follow the first few pages and understand what the book is talking about; the chances are it is not yet the book for you. Also if you feel it is suggesting you are a dummy it may not be the book for you either. There is nothing worse than starting off being called a dummy and then not being able to follow a course prescribed for 'dummies'.

I've used the SAMS Teach Yourself in 24 Hours series, published by InformIT and found them excellent. They set out 24, one hour lessons complete with examples and exercises. The series is also backed up by an accompanying website and/or CD. The books are graded and on the back cover it'll specify the book's Category, state what the book Covers, and the User Level.

The books teach good safe computer use (and programming) across a wide range of categories and expertise, including Basic PC Use, HTML 4 and XML (to write your own website) Linux Programming, How to Use Windows 95, 98 and 2000, as well as how to use specific Microsoft and Linux Products. Both Whitcoulls and Dymocks (in Wellington, NZ) stock this series and will order in particular titles if not already held in stock. They retail at around NZ$39.00-NZ$49.00 each.

There are also a wide range of courses available. Look out for over-charging. Shop around before you buy. If a course is expensive find out, in advance, what you can expect to get for your money and preferably talk to someone who's been on it before you. If that is not viable then at the very least check out the course's accreditation and if any certificate you'll receive at the end of it is a recognised qualification.

It is not cheeky to ask what the tutor's qualifications and experience (both in computing and teaching) are either. The same applies to one-to-one tutors. Check out the person, their credentials and how well you relate to them before entering into a contract. If you can't understand what they are talking about then they are unlikely to be able to teach you. It is the teacher's responsibility to use language you understand and teach you the jargon as they go.

This page last updated on 5/09/2001 13:48

© Glynne MacLean 1999-2003

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