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Want to learn PHP? You're in the right spot. In this blog post, we will explore the top options for learning PHP in 2023, from online training courses to in-person training programs, coding academies, bootcamps, and even self-teaching through books, guides, and tutorials.
Finally, we'll guide you on how to choose the right learning method based on your individual needs, career goals, learning style, budget, and time availability. Whether you're a novice coder or a professional developer looking to expand your skillset, this guide is designed to navigate you through the journey of learning PHP.
PHP, the most widely used server-side scripting language on the Internet, is a crucial tool in the web development arsenal. Whether you're looking to update your skills, start a new career, or just indulge in a passion for coding, PHP is a skill worth having.
In the early days of PHP, the only way you could learn it was often either on-the-job, or by attending a college-level course taught by the computer science department. Fortunately those days are long gone! In the post-Covid world, the number of ways to learn PHP, indeed any programming language, have exploded. Let’s have a look at five general categories of learning that have evolved.
In-person PHP training, also called “classroom training,” takes place in a variety of settings depending on the provider and the audience. These could range from dedicated private tech training institutes to classrooms in universities or community colleges. Additionally, corporate offices may have in-house training sessions for their employees to upskill. Some providers such as PHP users groups might also offer smaller, more intimate group sessions at local community centers or libraries. It's important to note that the location would need to be equipped with the necessary technology infrastructure to support PHP programming learning, such as computers with the appropriate software installed.
This type of training often takes a structured form, where learners attend a physical class that is led by experienced PHP developers. These classes cater to everyone from beginners to advanced PHP users, providing a thorough curriculum to enhance their programming skills. The training schedule is typically set by the facility, and the pace of learning depends on the class's collective progress.
In-person training allows for immediate feedback and clarification from experts, which is crucial in learning a programming language like PHP. This training mode also fosters a collaborative learning environment where students can learn from each other's mistakes and successes. Also, being physically present in a classroom ensures a structured learning routine, which can be beneficial for those who struggle with self-discipline. In countries like Canada, Japan, and Korea, where over 50% of individuals have higher education degrees, this form of training is widely accepted and implemented.
However, in-person PHP training has its downsides too. For starters, it requires a significant time commitment due to travel and fixed class schedules, which may not be feasible for everyone, especially working professionals or those living in remote areas. Moreover, the cost of in-person training is usually higher compared to online courses, making it less accessible for those on a tight budget. Also, in-person classes move at a pace set by the instructor, which might be too fast or too slow for some learners, thereby affecting their ability to grasp the concepts efficiently.
PHP online on-demand training is a digital learning approach designed to teach PHP programming to students from beginners to advanced levels. This form of instruction is typically delivered through a combination of video lectures, written materials, quizzes, and practical exercises, all accessible via an online platform. The courses may be self-paced, allowing learners to progress at their own rate, or instructor-led, where a set schedule is followed. Online PHP training covers a wide range of topics, including basic syntax, variables, arrays, loops, functions, and more complex subjects like super globals, object-oriented programming, and security practices.
The primary advantage of PHP online training is its flexibility. It enables learners to study at their convenience, whether from home, the office, or on-the-go. This flexibility extends to the pace of learning, with students able to revisit complex topics as needed. Furthermore, online training often comes with a wealth of resources, including access to a vast array of learning materials and online communities where students can engage with peers and experts for additional support. Additionally, online training can often be more cost-effective than in-person training, as there are no travel or accommodation costs.
Despite its many benefits, PHP online training also has some drawbacks. The most notable is the absence of face-to-face interaction, which may limit immediate feedback and personalized attention from instructors. This lack of interaction can lead to a sense of isolation, particularly for learners who thrive in a more social, collaborative learning environment. Furthermore, the self-paced nature of online training requires learners to have a high degree of self-discipline and motivation to complete the course. Other potential drawbacks include technical issues such as unreliable internet connections or incompatible software can pose challenges to smooth learning. You must exercise caution and need to confirm with the training provider that its courseware is actively maintained and up-to-date.
By way of illustration, I received a personal email not too long ago from an angry student who had purchased a subscription from an online on-demand training provider. The student was outraged that “my” course was using an outdated version of PHP and MySQL! I was completely flabbergasted and in truth had no idea what he was talking about. After some investigation I learned that a video training course that I had produced as a work-for-hire more than 10 years ago had been resold to this training provider. You can easily imagine how outdated the course is in the year 2023!
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PHP Coding Academies are structured, comprehensive programs that provide in-depth knowledge of PHP programming. They usually offer a combination of theoretical and practical learning, often divided into modules or courses. Coding Academies often have a set curriculum that covers a wide range of PHP-related topics, from the basics to advanced aspects of the language. These academies can be physical schools or online platforms, and they often provide access to experienced instructors, interactive learning environments, and community support.
PHP Training Bootcamps, on the other hand, are intensive, short-term training programs designed to immerse students in PHP development. They typically focus on practical, hands-on experience with the goal of teaching students to become proficient PHP developers within a short timeframe. These bootcamps often involve project-based learning, where students work on real-world projects to apply their newly acquired skills. Bootcamps are usually more fast-paced and demanding than traditional academies, requiring a significant time commitment, but they can lead to rapid skill acquisition.
Online instructor-led training (ILT) courses are a hybrid between on-demand and in-person training. Such courses involve real-time interaction with an instructor via technology tools such as Zoom or Webex. This format allows for live questions and comments, and the session can adapt to the needs of the participants. It simulates the experience of a physical classroom, providing immediate feedback and personalized attention. However, these courses typically have a set schedule, requiring participants to adjust their routine accordingly.
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PHP books, guides, and tutorials provide extensive knowledge on various aspects of PHP, with detailed explanations and examples. These resources often cover a wide range of topics, from basic syntax and operations to more complex concepts such as object-oriented programming and database integration. This option is generally cost-effective and allows you to study at your own pace. Many publishing firms now offer inexpensive e-books as well as cost-effective subscriptions.
However, PHP books and tutorials lack the interactive and hands-on learning experience that you could get from a in-person, online ITL, coding academies or bootcamps. Without real-time feedback from an instructor, it can be challenging to correct mistakes or clarify doubts instantly. Further, the pace of learning is completely dependent on the learner's initiative, which might not suit everyone. Another consideration is that these resources may not always be up-to-date with the latest PHP trends and practices.
On-the-job training (OJT) is an efficient way to learn PHP as it provides practical real-world experience. The key advantage is the hands-on exposure you get to actual projects, allowing you to learn and apply PHP concepts directly. This method often results in better retention of knowledge and improved coding skills. You also have the benefit of immediate feedback and guidance from experienced professionals.
However, the effectiveness of on-the-job training largely depends on the quality of the mentorship and the opportunities available for learning. It can be stressful to learn while working on critical projects with tight deadlines. Furthermore, structured learning may be lacking, which could result in gaps in your PHP knowledge.
It’s important to note that OJT is almost inevitable. Even the most experienced PHP developers starting a new job will not be familiar with the infrastructure and code libraries in use at their new company. Accordingly, OJT often serves as an adjunct to other forms of training you might have had.
We’ve covered a lot of ground in this blog post and you now have a lot to consider. Here’s a handy guide that gives you a quick side-by-side summary of the various forms of training we’ve discussed. We didn’t include OJT because, as mentioned, it’s inevitable and is often in addition to other forms of training discussed.
Online Training Courses
In-Person Training Courses
Bootcamps / Academies / Online ILT
Books, Guides, and Tutorials
Most of the time
Choosing the right PHP training option largely depends on your personal learning style, schedule, and end objectives. If you prefer a more hands-on, interactive learning experience, then in-person PHP training courses might be ideal for you. These courses often provide immediate feedback, fostering an environment where you can ask questions and engage in discussions. However, these courses typically follow a set schedule, which might not be suitable for those with tight schedules or those who prefer self-paced learning.
On the other hand, online on-demand PHP training courses offer the flexibility to learn at your own pace and are a perfect fit if you have a busy schedule. PHP Coding Academies or bootcamps provide a more intensive, immersive learning experience, ideal if you’re looking to quickly acquire in-depth knowledge and skills. However, coding academies or bootcamps are often offered in conjunction with conferences and events, and thus may incur additional costs or a time commitment. Lastly, PHP books, guides, and tutorials offer a self-study option that allows you to delve into specific areas of interest. They are a great supplement to any of the other training options, providing comprehensive knowledge at your own pace.
One thing you must always keep in mind is that no amount of training, books, or tutorials can substitute for actual experience. I encourage everyone interested in getting into the PHP world to “get your hands dirty” and start programming. It’s essential to the learning process to start writing code to firm up the concepts you acquired through training.
A great way to start is to search through the 300,000+ unique PHP packages available on packagist.org in order to get ideas of where to begin. Even better, contact the package developers and offer to volunteer helping them maintain their code. Not only will you earn the eternal gratitude of these poor overworked souls, but you’ll gain practical experience and credibility.
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Senior Technical Trainer, Zend by Perforce
Doug Bierer has been hooked on computers since his first program, written on a DEC PDP-8 in 1971. In his wide-ranging career, Doug has been a professional contract programmer since 1978, having built applications in BASIC, PL/I, assembler, FORTH, C, C++, dBase/FoxBase/Clipper, Pascal, Prolog, Perl, Java, Python, and PHP. He deployed his first website in 1993 while living in San Francisco. Doug has been doing technical PHP training since 2009 and has written a number of technical books including PHP 8 Programming Tips, Tricks and Best Practices and the PHP 7 Programming Cookbook (Packt Publishing Ltd). He is fluent in three languages, has traveled extensively, and now resides in Thailand.