I have been a big fan of the For Dummies series of books since pretty much the beginning. I appreciate their lighthearted approach to serious topics, and their authors' ability to explain difficult concepts in simple terms the rest of us can understand. Thus, I was very interested to hear that there is an online course that introduces Windows 8 in a For Dummies fashion. Since many people find it easier to understand new concepts when they see how it's done, this looked like a good bet for learning Windows 8, and I am definitely a beginner when it comes to this operating system. Did the course live up to my expectations? Let's see what I found.
The Windows 8 For Dummies Online Video Training Course is found on the web site of a company called Udemy, that specializes in all kinds of online courses. They have a huge selection, and they invite you to browse their catalog to see what might interest you. If you're like me, that could easily take up most of an afternoon, so I'd suggest going straight to the Windows 8 For Dummies course if you'd like to check it out. When you go to its page you'll see three very important features. First of all, the course costs $25 USD (most Windows 8 books have a similar cost) and that price, as you can see on the lower part of the page, includes lifetime access and a 30-day money back guarantee.
The course contents is also listed on that page, but that wouldn't fit in a screenshot (I show part of it in another screenshot a little farther on). You can scroll down the page to check out the sections and topics and see what's in store for you before you sign up. If you do like it, you can go back as often as you want to revisit the concepts, and if you don't like it, Udemy will give you your money back. What have you got to lose?
NOTE: Once you've signed up, you'll probably want to tweak your settings a bit. The folks at Udemy are very friendly and they have a lot to talk about, so they sign you up for all their email notifications by default. If you'd rather not see so much email, be sure to uncheck the ones you don't want, or tell them you want no emails at all. I think it's worth at least staying signed up for their offers though, because one of the things they offer is nice discounts on future courses.
To change your settings, go to the upper left corner where you see your name and click on the arrow.
The site says it works with all browsers, so I tried it with Internet Explorer 9 and 10, Firefox, Chrome and Safari, and it works as advertised. However, my main computer, a middle-of-the-road PC that I built in 2009, running Windows 7, sometimes couldn't keep up, especially late in the day when I'd had programs opened and closed all day long. I'm sure this is because I'm still using the video built into the motherboard (note to self, quit being cheap and lazy and go get a real video card!) and it is not the fault of the course. It was somewhat smoother on the netbook on which I recently installed Windows 8 but still not as smooth as it should be, because, well, it's a netbook—so in the end I ran the course on my one-year-old Mac Mini. I tried it with Safari on the Mac for the sake of research, but I ran it on Chrome, which is my preferred browser. So you can see you don't have to actually have Windows 8 installed to view the course. Last but not least, I would like to mention another set of settings you should look at: your Privacy settings. By default, your profile is shown to search engines, as well as the courses you are taking. If you would like this information to remain private, don't hesitate to set the appropriate switches to OFF.
You can use your Facebook account as your Udemy account, or you can create a new account based on your email address. Once you've registered with the site, signing in is easy.
It's a little confusing to come back to, if you've signed out, because the login link is buried at the bottom of the Register window.
Then, you see a screen showing you where you are in the course. Here's a screenshot I did when I had just begun. I had finished the first two lectures and now it's asking me if I want to play the next one.
The individual videos are called lectures, for a very good reason. This is not an interactive course where you're supposed to practice everything before moving on to the next concept. You watch as someone else does a demonstration. This is not a criticism—I just wanted to mention this in case one of you expects a full-on interactive experience. As I listened to the narration, I was happy to hear the familiar light-hearted approach to the subject that's a standout feature of the For Dummies books. This made the lectures both entertaining and informative. For the most part, the lectures are fairly short, roughly two to five minutes, although as the course progresses there are several that are longer. The shorter lectures make it easy to fit them into a busy day, so you can take in as much information as you have time for.
Even the longest lecture in this course is only 12 minutes long. I liked this approach. And of course you can go back and revisit any lecture at any time. The lectures start out slowly, with the basics, and then move on to more complex topics. Each is explained step by step. The sections are arranged in a logical sequence and the individual lectures move from one concept to another very smoothly.
At the bottom of the viewing window you'll see a button labeled Next Lecture. Beside that is a very small indicator that Autoplay is ON (it's on by default). This means that each lecture will play automatically once the previous one is done. If you don't want to do this, click here to turn Autoplay OFF. I found that sometimes I'd get a "file not found" error when the course was attempting to play the next lecture in the sequence, but for the most part it worked very smoothly.
I did get a little tired of the same introductory music at the start of each lecture, but that's just a minor quibble. Everything a beginner would need to know about Windows 8 is covered, from the very first view of the Start Screen to managing media and exploring the internet. There's even a Part of Tens section at the end, just as there is in most For Dummies books, and it's every bit as interesting as its printed counterparts.
I thoroughly enjoyed making my way through the lectures. The narrator is easy to listen to, the graphics are appealing, and everything is explained in easy to understand terms, with demonstrations of each concept on screen. The For Dummies editors clearly had no problem transferring the books to video. The whole course takes only about three and a half hours, in short segments, so nearly anyone can find time to go through it.
As a newcomer to Windows 8 I found each lecture had something in it that helped me understand the operating system better. The lectures are appealingly presented and were clearly constructed by people who knew what they were doing. The only problems I encountered were the result of my own hardware's shortcomings, and it served as a useful reminder that I've needed a better video card for far too long. And with the reasonable price, lifetime access and money back guarantee, I don't think you can go wrong in signing up. So go ahead and try it out: Windows 8 For Dummies Online Video Training Course. The folks from For Dummies have been kind enough to offer a 52% off discount to all our readers. Before signing up, apply this coupon code: FDW818. Please note that the code has a 3/31/12 expiration date, so hurry up if you are interested in this course.