In this lesson, I want to give you some pointers on getting help and support while taking any Academy course.
Community Q&A forum
The main channel for lesson Q&A is the support forum. Each lesson has a dedicated discussion thread on the forum that you can browse and search. The thread for each lesson can be accessed at the bottom of the lesson page.
If you run into a problem while working through a lesson, it’s possible, likely even, that you’re not the first person to run into this issue. Browsing through the discussion thread may be the fastest way to find the answer you’re looking for.
Keep in mind, questions posted in the forum can be seen by the other forum users as well as the course tutors and forum moderators. So, you may find that other students help answer your question before the tutor. This is great; equally, if you spot a question you can help with, feel free to jump in and offer support. Please remember to keep all forum discussion respectful and on topic.
For admin queries related to your academy subscriptions, feel free to email the team at firstname.lastname@example.org. All questions relating to course content, on the other hand, must be posted to the forum. This has the benefit of helping other students who may also have the same question.
We’re a small team here at digiLab, so unfortunately, direct emails to course tutors for course support are unlikely to be answered. If there’s something you’d like to discuss with the tutor privately, you can direct message them through the forum by clicking on your avatar image and accessing the messages function. But again, we encourage you to post openly on the forum if possible.
While the forum can be browsed online, you must have a registered account to post and reply to questions. You’ll be able to access the forum directly, once logged into your academy account.
If you’re taking a course as part of a cohort, perhaps in your college, university or workplace, you’re colleagues completing the course with you are also a great source of support. If at all possible, you should consider forming a small study group.
This will have the dual benefit of providing a source of accountability, encouraging you to continue progressing and also providing support when you get stuck; since all members of a study group are unlikely to be stumped by the same thing at the same time.
My next recommendation when you get stuck is Google! In many cases, particulalry for simple or programming related questions, Google will yield the right answer faster than posting to the forum. Googling for a solution is usually faster for begugging code since pasting the error message directly into the serach box usually takes you to a solution pretty quickly. For some questions of course, you’ll be better reaching our to the course tutor through the forum.
Your course tutors will often point to additional helpful resoruces online. If you come across a helpful resorce online that you think other students would benefit from, articles or Youtube videos for example, feel free to post them in the most relevant lesson thread.
ChatGPT et al. - great but...be careful 🚨
Finally, let me comment on ChatGPT and other large language models (LLMs). At the time of writing, GPT-4 is the most prominant of the LLMs. I’m a huge fan, between it and Copilot in VSCode, I spend quite a large poriton of my day interacting with these models.
ChatGPT is great for provising supplimentary commentry and explanation of topics or concepts you’re stuggling with. But be warned - it will also confidently give you wrong information from time to time!
The problem is that it’s correct so often that you can get into the habbit of thinking that every response is accurate. Try to keep this in mind - when you prompt with a question, there’s a good chance the response is accurate but theres also a non-zero chance that it’s completely wrong!
So what’s the best use case for these language models? The best I’ve found so far is programming. You can use them pretty effectively to help you write and debug code. ChatGPT also generally does a good job of explaining code that you provide it with. This can be super helpful when you’re trying to wrap you head around a new language, library or API. They key thing is that AI generated code is immediately verifiable - it either works or it doesn’t. So we can catch the errors pretty quickly!
That’s all for this lesson. The takeaway here is that when you get stuck, and you almost certainly will, reach out for support. The other tutors and I are here to help keep you on track and support you to get the most from your courses.
This also brings us to the end of this introductory section. In the next section we’ll start downloading tools and getting your development environment set up.