Thursday, February 01, 2007

Refactoring To Patterns

I learned design patterns when I was in grad school. Later when I started work, I used some patterns, but some were never used, and their knowledge became rusty over the years. I thought it was time to refresh my knowledge of software design patterns, sometime last year.

Back then I was enamoured with the concept of web based learning (and I still am). I was also contemplating to take my Java workshops over the Internet. So instead of just re-reading the GOF book, I thought of taking a web based course on design patterns. This way I would learn what I needed to, and also get a hands on feel of how elearning works. When I Googled elearning and design patterns, I stumbled upon Industrial Logic's online course "Refactoring to patterns". Now the concept of refactoring to patterns is'nt just about learning design patterns. It involves understanding design patterns, but also involves identifying code smells (bad code), that should be refactored to use a design pattern. I was delighted. This course would not only help me refresh design patterns but also teach me something new. I registered for it.

I found the course to be very well made. The explanation of each design pattern started with some reading suggestions, typically from the GOF book and Joshua Kerievsky's excellent book - "Refactoring to patterns". After that there was a little conversation on that design pattern. This is really good, because after reading the text, I had many questions in my mind, and they were all answered by reading the conversation (which I am presuming Joshua must have had with participants of his course). Now that the theory had sunk in, the next step was to understand some code and refactor it to use the pattern. I could verify my solution by running the tests. The interesting thing here is that the tests not only verify that the code still works properly, but also verify if the refactoring uses the design pattern correctly. These tests make many assumptions, but they are very well written and do verify the solution correctly. Once you are done you can upload the solution. The course also has screencasts for the refactoring if you need any help. Finally there are some questions to reinforce the concepts.

I still have not completed all the patterns in the course, but have had a great learning experience with the stuff that I have completed.

In time to come web based learning will provide an excellent way for people to update their knowledge at a time, place, and pace of their convinience. The ability of the Internet to serve multimedia and enable collaboration is extremely powerful. I think we are just begining to scratch the surface if this potential for educational applications. The social web and the web of participation will bring several changes to the way we teach and learn. We will see many interesting eLearning content come up in future. Also, be on the lookout for educational podcasts and screencasts.
BTW, this is NOT a sponsored/paid post! ;-)

Notes: This text was originally posted on my earlier blog at http://www.adaptivelearningonline.net

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