This post is dedicated to those who, like me a few months ago, are looking for a course to learn how to develop iOS applications and do not know which to choose.

During the holidays I enjoyed last summer I could stop and think about the way I was following in this iOS development’s world. Thanks to that, I saw myself immersed in a maelstrom in which the only thing I was doing during the last months was just develop, develop and develop and I realized about the gaps in my knowledge. Yes, over these years I have learned many things but at that moment I realized that the foundations that supported my skills were weak and that, if I wanted to grow as an iOS developer, I would need a solid basis to be able to sustain anything that I would build in the future.

That opened my eyes and convinced me that I needed to form myself better, it was not enough reading and developing like crazy, I needed to study well. I then started looking online or classroom courses that fit what I was looking for: something that would provide me the expertise that I lacked and prestigious enough to make my resume coolest. I saw some interesting online courses, both pay and free, but they didn’t seem to be supported by prestigious schools or companies. Then I found the Big Nerd Ranch, which I didn’t know that was imparting courses besides publishing development books, that looked very interesting but I didn’t decide to take this course because of its cost, my ignorance about if they had prestige and the fact that I would have to travel to USA or the Netherlands to attend to it.

A few weeks passed and I still had the idea in my mind and one day I came across this interview in Applesfera to Fernando Rodríguez (sorry it’s in spanish) in which he recounted his experiences in a course of the Big Nerd Ranch and then it hit me: it was the course I was looking for.

After a couple of days thinking about it and contacting people from the Big Nerd Ranch to resolve some questions about the course contents and logistics, I finally enrolled in Beginning iOS (iPhone/iPad) in Epe, Netherlands.

 

The course

Although it may seem pricey, at the end is not so expensive considering that the price includes accommodation and full board for seven days, transportation by taxi from the airport to Villa Heidebad (the hotel where the course takes place, which is over an hour from Amsterdam) and all you want to eat and drink during those days (12 years whisky is not included).

The Big Nerd Ranch recommends you to arrive the day before the course starts in order to meet the teacher and the rest of the students. I would add another reason: unexpected things can happen on the journey like the driver that should pick you up at the airport arrives late (Amsterdam traffic on a Friday afternoon can be maddening), so try to go as early as possible to have time to rest and become familiar with the place and the people you are going to spend the next few days.

The course was taught by Graham Lee, a true genius in many ways, and has 7 class days: the first two days are focus on Objective-C programming and the rest in iOS programming and, although the course is titled “beginning”, is highly recommended to have a small basis to not get lost, particularly on the Objective-C part.

The course content, which we could follow thanks to the manuals that the Ranch provided us, was adapted to iOS 7 (you can see more detail here) and I assure you that you will out there knowing how to develop an application that can include editable content listings (UITableViewController) with access to its details (UINavigationController) which will be found written in the language of the user (Localization), well formatted, in the right place regardless of the device (AutoLayout) and these details may include images either taken from our camera, the camera roll or via WebServices. This application may also include notifications, gesture recognizers, animations and save user preferences and, the most important, without memory leaks because we will learn how to use Instruments in Xcode and the Automatic Reference Counting.

 

Day by day

A normal day at the Big Nerd Ranch consisted of 8 hour of study reinforced with 3 meals and some surprises as the visit of St. Nicholas who left us a little gift, the alarm of the first Monday of each month and the visit of Emily Herman (VP of Operations of the Big Nerd Ranch) and Marcel Speller (Manager Director of the Big Nerd Ranch Europe). Besides this, a day in the course was as follows:

The breakfast started at 8:30 am, in which you could have everything you need to charge the batteries for the rest of the day.

The class started at 9 am and we didn’t stop until 12:30 pm, time for lunch.

The meal consisted of a free buffet with soup, salad, cold meat, cheese, fruit and some homemade yogurt or pudding type dessert.

After lunch we used to take a long walk around the grounds surrounding Villa Heidebad while conversing with the partners and the teacher (very interesting and enjoyable all of them) until 1:30 – 2 pm. If you doesn’t pleased that plan you also had the option of staying resting or reviewing the concepts that we had seen in the morning.

After returning from lunch until 6 – 6:30 pm we continued the class without interruption except going for a coffee or tea or eat some chocolate.

At 6:30 pm was time for dinner, where we had a very high quality full menu (first dish, second dish and dessert). If you like to eat good food or upload photos to Instagram, you’re going to love it.

After dinner and a chat, we could return to our rooms or go to the classroom to keep studying or work on our own projects as we had the teacher available until 10 pm and, finally, time to relax and sleep to get the brain ready for the next day.

 

Villa Heidebad

The philosophy of this course is to forget about distractions to focus all our energies on learning, that’s why this hotel keeps you well fed with the room clean and tidy and are willing to resolve any problems that may arise. I can only say that the staff at Villa Heidebad is great and is one of the reasons why I would attend a course at the Big Nerd Ranch.

 

Conclusion

In summary the course exceeded my expectations, I learned many things which I am applying in my current developments, I reinforced and perfected knowledges I had and met interesting people.

The place where it takes place is ideal, as I felt super comfortable in the hotel and the surrounding landscapes are amazing (everything is full of trees and fields), and the teacher and classmates were great…I’m already thinking about when to take the advanced course!

It is possible that after reading this article you would like more details of the course, the Big Nerd Ranch or about the day by day so shout and I will answer gladly.

@jjordanarenas