Over the years, I have taken computer programming courses at almost every school in the Boston area. From Brandeis to Bentley, from BC to BU, from Northeastern to Harvard, I have coded in C, jumped into Java, and sorted in SQL.
But I recently took a very different kind of programming course: A "virtual self-study group" put on for free by Boston PHP. The course is part of a growing paradigm shift. I believe you will start to see training migrate away from colleges and training centers and more and more toward grassroots user groups.
The course I took was an advanced PHP course covering Object Oriented Programming, Content Management Systems, processing XML files, debugging, unit testing, cURL and Sockets.
The participants bought the (terrific) book PHP Advanced and Object Oriented Programming by Larry Ullman. Some bought the paperback version and others bought an electronic version. The only outlay of money for the course was to purchase the book.
The course was broken up into 14 weeks - one for each chapter in the book. But some people worked a little faster or slower than that, at a pace that suited them. After reading each chapter, the participants posted their finished scripts and the volunteer moderator checked them.
Of course, it would have been possible for me to buy the book and work through it on my own, but it was a lot more fun and motivating to work through it as part of a group. It was like a book club minus that next-morning hangover.
Boston PHP used an online message board where questions could be asked and answered, and the author of the book even checked in on the forum every so often.
This type of grassroots training is likely to become more popular because it serves everybody's needs. The student gets free training, increases his skills and has fun. The user group increases its base, and the author sells a few books.
The technical barriers to running a course like this are lower than Jerry Sandusky's morals. Message board software is ubiquitous, and these days most students have a server where they can host their work (or they can get one on the cheap).
I would like to see other groups run similar courses. I can envision all sorts of user groups launching courses in Python, HTML5, CSS, and whatever the Next Big Thing turns out to be.
Hats off to Boston PHP for taking an innovative approach to training. The course was definitely a worthwhile experience for me.