This week marks my completion of the Boston University training program for the Certificate of Java Development. This is the first half of a Master of Java and J2EE Certificate Program. The Java program alone consists of three courses at the Introduction, Intermediate, and Advanced levels. Each course ran 3 hours on two nights a week for four or five weeks. This totals about 85 hours of lecture over three and a half months. Here are some key thoughts about my experience in the BUTrain Java Certificate program:

ProsCons
  • Excellent instructors! Their ability to present Java programming syntax and OO concepts in an organized and clear manner without depending on the slides is the best asset for this program. Previously I've had Sun Java classes where the instructors simply read the slides word for word (sometimes in completely unintelligible language too), but BU had none of that. The instructors followed the courseware slides as a guide without depending upon them, and they spoke to class from what they know rather than what they read.
  • The instructors often provided their own labs or exercises to help reinforce an idea or syntax. Often we were encouraged to complete the labs at home, although time was provided to work on the labs during class time if a concensus agreed to do so.
  • Free cookies and brownies
  • Leftover food from other classes
  • Wireless network available so I can use my own laptop in class and access the Internet.
  • BU Corporate Education Center in Waltham is easily accessible from Route 128/95. Very convenient, and they have other locations in Boston, Braintree, and Tyngsboro so one could add more scheduling options if willing to mix campuses.
  • Facility had multiple classrooms, all equipped with many Windows workstations. Although we often got bounced between rooms on different days, making it undesirable to leave unfinished work on a given station.
  • The courseware manual is presented in a spiral bound notebook having dense PowerPoint type bullet points, which is helpful for review but not to be used as a primary reading source.
  • The courseware labs were terrible. The style of the labs was to present a complex application such as a car dealership application to model dealers, distributors, customers and such, and it was up to us to complete very specific parts of the larger application. Usually, I found myself swimming through the large application trying to understand the bigger picture and program flow rather than focussing on the specific material from the days lecture. However, some labs took an even more complex route such as having us work with ellipical curves, math equations, or mortgage calculations without providing the basic foundation of that ancillary topic. So for example with the mortgage calculators, there was no assistance provided to know how a 30 year mortgage should be ammortized or anything, and I spent more time trying to figure that out than practicing the syntax from the lecture.
  • The Java classes are not provided with meals, while other classes do get catered meals. Java students arriving in the evening after work must walk past the tables of catered food for the other classes. When the other classes are finished eating, any leftovers are provided (cold) to the Java students.
  • Other classes are provided with fresh brewed coffee. Java classes must pay 50 cents per cup for instant coffee. Cream is occassionally provided.
  • The course schedule is frequently delayed and modified. I originally signed up for the 8 course sequence in the Java and J2EE tracks because the courses were initially scheduled so I could take all 8 in their proper sequence over a 7 month period, however classes were so far often delayed or cancelled completely. The Java and J2EE combined program will now require about 1 year to complete because of the scheduling fits.
  • Courses were changed from a Tuesday/Thursday cycle to a Monday/Wednesday cycle with very little advanced notice. This causes lots of scheduling conflicts for me because I committed to other activities for nights that were originally scheduled to be free. I was forced to rework my schedule and lose money for the alternate activities (I actually signed up for another class with the IEEE, which I could not completely attend when BU switched the days, so I lost money on that).
  • An IDE was not taught in the class. We were encouraged to use TextPad, but since I had my laptop I just used Eclipse.


To summarize just the most important program qualities, the instructors are very good although the courseware labs sucked. Other than the courseware from Object Innovations (OI), no text was required, however I found it helpful to do appropriate readings and exercises in O'Reilly's Head First Java book. The most significant detractor to the program was the frequent rescheduling of courses. I felt compelled to even write to the program director to register a formal complaint of this practice. Now I know that I should not commit to any other evening activity for the whole duration of the program, and I should expect that each course schedule will be modified at least in some small way from the published schedule.

In the end, I feel that I am an accomplished Java programmer and I can develop Java apps confidently, and so the program is worth it for that alone.