Book Review: SuperBetter

Have you ever encountered a difficulty, challenge, or trauma that was overwhelming to deal with? If you are human, chances are the answer is “yes”. In her book “SuperBetter,” Jane McGonigal offers a new, fresh, and, in most eyes, unusual approach to overcome such situations. She uses gaming methodology to getting “stronger, happier, and more resilient”. If this turns you off and you think this is quackery, hold on.

About the Author

McGonigal, in addition to being an avid video game player and designer, is also a PhD and Director of Games Research & Development at the Institute of the Future. She has led workshops for numerous Fortune 500 companies and taught at UC Berkley and the San Francisco Art Institute. Her TED talks on this topic have been viewed more than 10 million times. Her SuperBetter methodology has been scientifically researched and validated by several universities and medical centers.

How the Book Works

While the SuperBetter approach is easy to understand and follow, the book is long and not a quick read. It is divided into three parts, and the reader does not necessarily need to follow them chronologically (though the book is worth reading in its entirety). Instead, you can pick and choose the parts that you are most interested in. Not surprisingly, the book is full of gaming terminology. That makes it easy to understand and fun to follow. It is simply part of why this approach works.

Throughout the book you will find more than 50 quests to complete. Those quests represent the real-world applicability and interactive qualities of the book. Of course they are fun too. Follow along and complete the quests, like in a game; they start off very easy and will get more and more involved. The quests address one of four areas: physical, mental, emotional, and social resilience. Through those quests you will gamefully address and manage your life challenges.

Why Games Make us Superbetter

The first part of the book is a detailed overview of the science of games and presents evidence on why they work in alleviating physical and mental pain. It’s fascinating to read how games we all know and which are easily available on a smart phone can benefit our well being (Tetris and Candycrush for example).

This part of the book also discusses what it means to be gameful. Being gameful is the state of mind we are in when we play games and it is key to why games are successful in helping us cope. McGonigal defines gameful as “bringing psychological strengths you naturally display when you play games – such as optimism, creativity, courage and determination – to your real life”. Whenever we approach life’s hurdles optimistically, courageously, determined, and creatively, we stand a much higher chance of prevailing.

How to be Gameful

Part two is the practical part that introduces, explains, and demonstrates the SuperBetter method, which readers can immediately apply to their lives. Here McGonigal gives us many quests to fulfill.  And, as is befitting for a book about gaming, she uses gameful concepts and language, which doesn’t only make it useful but also fun to follow along. The seven rules that make up the SuperBetter method are:

  1. Challenge yourself
  2. Collect and activate power-ups
  3. Find and battle the bad guys
  4. Seek out and complete quests
  5. Recruit your allies
  6. Adopt a secret identity
  7. Go for an epic win

While being gameful, these seven chapters address physical, mental, emotional, and social challenges, how to approach and cope with them.

Adventures

The final part of the book consists of three adventures addressing issues of relationships, body image, and time management. McGonigal defines adventure as “a set of power-ups, bad guys, and quests, designed to help you tackle a particular challenge”. In other words, this chapter represents three full tutorials of how to apply the SuperBetter method to problems in these three specific areas. This also serves as a blueprint to design your own adventures for challenges that you are facing and need to get SuperBetter at.

Final thoughts

Overall this book is well worth reading all its 425 pages (warning: take your time, it is not a quick read). McGonigal’s truly unique (and scientifically validated) approach will surely help people address serious real-life issues from a new angle. If you follow along and complete the quests and adventures while you are reading, you will have gained new coping techniques by the end of the book, guaranteed. For those readers already well versed in gaming terminology and methodology, go ahead and jump right into the quests. For all others, the methods in the book will represent a change in mindset about problem-solving, which is itself a worthwhile effort.

If you want to try out the online and app versions of the game, find more info at www.superbetter.com  If you are interested in the science behind SuperBetter, you can learn more at www.showmethescience.com

Written by Anne Nowak

New IT learning and job opportunity in Baton Rouge

New IT learning and job opportunity in Baton Rouge

Become a Cybersecurity Analyst in just 15 months, at no cost to you. You will get paid while you train through this new apprenticeship opportunity sponsored by NexusLA and Apprenti.

Cybersecurity Analysts are in high demand in our area and companies such as Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana, EATEL, TraceSecurity, and General Informatics have already agreed to hire apprentices through this program (Apprenti). Apprenti is a new registered apprenticeship program to offer you a path and plan into the tech industry.

How it works

  • Take the online assessment (https://apprenticareers.org/locations/louisiana/) and rank high enough to be invited to interview with staff. (If you want to be part of the first cohort you need to take the assessment before the end of October.)
  • If you are selected, you’ll be placed into 3 months of full-time technical training (this period is unpaid!)
  • Once you complete training, you will transition to paid on-the-job-training with companies such as Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana, EATEL, TraceSecurity, and General Informatics, for one year
  • After graduating from your apprenticeship, you will have the opportunity and experience to qualify to be retained by your hiring company

Getting started

You need to be over 18 with a high school diploma or equivalent and eligible to work in the U.S. (you do not need to be a U.S. citizen).  Take the test at https://apprenticareers.org/locations/louisiana/ and see if you make it to the next round. If you don’t succeed the first time around, you can retake the test 3 more times.

Your career in Tech awaits you

Apprenti Louisiana gets you trained and certified as a tech hire right here in Louisiana. All you have to do is complete the apprenticeship program and you are on your way to a thriving career in technology. For more info: https://apprenticareers.org/locations/louisiana/

Written by Anne Nowak

Tech Talk: Hoonuit

Do you want to learn more about computer applications to help you in your job search? Or have you started a job in which you are expected to use certain computer applications?Then take a look at Hoonuit.

Hoonuit is an online platform that provides “on-demand software training and support tutorials to help businesses and organizations fulfill staff technology training and development goals”.

Getting Started

Patrons of the East Baton Rouge Public Library can access Hoonuit through the library’s Digital Library. The computers inside the East Baton Rouge Parish Library will connect automatically, but if you are at home, you may need to type in your library card number. You will need to Create a New Account if you do not already have an account with RB Digital. The account is free.

Once you enter Hoonuit you will see a welcome page. The screenshot below shows “Pathways” which are like online courses focusing on a particular topic or software suite such as Word 2016 or Office 365.

These courses include modules, each of which includes a series of short training videos that describe a specific aspect or feature of that software.

As you can see, the videos are very brief. They teach by showing actions within the application along with a voice over by an instructor who explains what you can do within that application and how.

Popular topics include:

CAREER SKILLS
Writing a Resume
Accepting a Job
Winning Cover Letters

DESIGN
WordPress 4.9
Adobe Illustrator CS6
Adobe Animate CC

MOBILE DEVICES
iOS (multiple versions)
Chromebook Training
Creating a Basic Budget on a Mobile Device

PROGRAMMING
C++ Primer Training
PHP Basics Training
HTML and CSS Training

SOFTWARE AND TECHNOLOGY
Google Drive
Office 365
macOS

Important – There are many videos on topics and software applications that are not listed under Pathways or Topics – you must search for them. Hoonuit offers over 50,000 videos on an impressive array of applications, including applications that are less well known but can be useful, such as Audacity, Gimp, Moodle, and OpenOffice.

You can access Hoonuit through a web browser on a computer, or on your smartphone or tablet using the RB Digital app. Explore Hoonuit and expand your computer skills today!

Written by Richard Wright

Career Pathways Program

Have you ever considered going back to school, but you’re afraid of the cost? Are you at a dead end in your career and in need of new skills to find better jobs? If you’d like to go back to school in order to learn a valuable new trade, the Career Pathways Program can help you.

Who’s doing it?

The Career Pathways Program is sponsored by the Office of Workforce Development, a department of the Urban League of Louisiana, which is the local chapter of the nonprofit National Urban League.

What help do they offer?

  • Tuition assistance towards an associate’s degree or vocational certification from Baton Rouge Community College or a local accredited vocational school.
  • Need-based financial assistance with paying utilities, rent, etc., while you go to school.
  • Meetings with a personal case manager to help you determine your career path and monitor your progress during the schooling.
  • In-depth job skills training on subjects like resume writing and job interviews to help you find a job in your new field once you graduate.

What kinds of degrees do they help with?

The program is only available for degrees/certifications in high-demand industries, including:

  • Healthcare
  • Petrochemical
  • Automotive
  • Computer & Information Technology
  • Construction
  • Skilled Trade (welder, pipefitter, etc.)

How do I qualify?

The Baton Rouge office of the Urban League is currently accepting applicants. To register, call (225) 439-0507 or visit them at 445 N. 12th St. in downtown Baton Rouge. You will need to provide the following documentation: a state-issued ID, your Social Security card, your birth certificate, proof of residence, and proof of income. You will also be required to take a TABE assessment. You must also agree to complete 40 hours of skills training at the Urban League office.

Written by Lynnette Lee

Back to School

It’s back-to-school time, join your kids in learning—pick up new skills or brush up on old ones

Be inspired by the kids and make August back-to-school month for yourself to take your career to the next level.  Take the opportunity and brush up on those Excel skills you haven’t used in a few years. Wanted to learn Photoshop, French, or coding for a while? Need to catch up on labor laws or HIPAA regulations? Now is the time.

There are plenty of free and reasonably priced resources available to further your skills. If you are employed, check with your employer first. Most larger organizations will offer in-house training. Don’t pass on those opportunities! You can often take them during work hours, and they directly relate to your job.

If your employer doesn’t offer this kind of professional development, there are other options you can explore.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

Take a look at Coursera, Udacity, or edEx. They offer college classes from some of the best universities around the world in a variety of fields and disciplines. You can either just follow along, which is usually free, or complete the assignments and receive a certificate for the class (you will have to pay a fee for that). Udacity even offers nanodegrees in a number of technology fields, such as iOS or Android development. The degrees can often be completed in 6-8 months and involve classes and assignments (and a fee).

Continuing Education classes at your local college

College continuing education departments offer a wide variety of options, in person as well as online. You can learn a skilled trade, learn a specific software, or improve your web design or public speaking skills. They also offer classes to prepare for professional certifications, such as SHRM Certified Professional for human resources staff or PMP Certification for project managers.

Options in the Baton Rouge area include:

Your local public library

Last but not least, your public library offers a myriad of resources and access to classes free of charge. The East Baton Rouge Parish Library offers a large number of in-person computer classes covering widely-used programs, such as Microsoft Word, Excel, etc., at all its branches each month . In addition, library card holders have access to online classes and tutorials through the Digital Library. Through Gale Courses, users can access six-week online classes in a variety of fields that finish with a certificate. Atomic Training, Treehouse, and Lynda help you learn tech skills. Mango offers online language classes and training. Browse the Digital Library to find a resource that inspires you to keep learning.

Take your professional development to the next level with these resources. Be a life-long learner. Now is the time!

Written by Anne Nowak

Tech Talk: Career Cruising, Part 1

This is the first post is a series delving into the various aspects of the Career Cruising database available through the East Baton Rouge Parish Library’s Digital Library. Read all posts here.

Career Cruising is a database that’s a very user-friendly one-stop-shop for all things related to college, career, and job search information. All you need is an East Baton Rouge Parish Library card and a computer with internet connection. Want to find out which university in your area offers a criminal justice major? Career Cruising can do that for you. Want to find careers that don’t need a 4-year degree but pay more than $60,000 a year? Career Cruising can do that (it identifies 20 occupations for these criteria, among them commercial driver, energy auditor, landman, and mortgage broker). Want to know exactly what an actuary does and what it takes to become one? Yes, Career Cruising has that information too. Need to find scholarships to pay for college? Again, check Career Cruising.

You can access the database through the EBRPL Digital Library, which will take you to the Career Cruising home page.

Career Cruising presents ample information divided into five tabs: Assessments, Careers, Education, Financial Aid, and Employment.

You can browse all information without creating an account (except for the assessments and the resume builder — for those you will need an account). While you can use most functions without an account, the database will not save any of your activities and you will have to start over the next time you access Career Cruising. It’s better to create a “My Plan” account with Career Cruising to save your assessments, education plans, and searches. This way you can come back, view your earlier activity, and continue where you left off at any time.

Now you are ready to plan your college or career journey. Not sure about your skills and interests? Start with an assessment. You can take the “Matchmaker & My Skills,” which assesses your interests and matches them with occupations, or the “Learning Styles Inventory,” which measures how you learn best and retain information most efficiently — valuable information for planning your further education.

You can either use your assessment results to research matching careers or skip assessments and  jump into the careers tab right away. The careers section is such a treasure trove of easily accessible information that we will explore it in more depth in a future post. For now, here is an overview of the kind of information you can search for.

You can search for occupations alphabetically or by school subject, which will present you with careers related to your favorite school subject. You can also look at occupations by career cluster and by industries, and there is a separate section with explanations of military careers. Additionally, the Career Selector is a tool that lets you choose specific criteria, such as salary, core tasks, and education level, and matches those to occupations that fit your criteria.

The education section is also a one-stop-shop. You can search for universities by region or by major. You can conduct side-by-side comparisons of schools in terms of majors, size, cost, etc. And the database can give you a planning timeline by major, which will tell you which classes you should take in high school to best prepare you for your chosen major.

Now that you’ve chosen a college, you are ready to find scholarships. Use the Financial Aid tab to search among thousands of scholarship opportunities. You can use the alphabetical index to search according to scholarship name. Or you can use the Financial Aid Selector and search according to your specified criteria. For either search method, the result will give you a full scholarship profile and a link to the respective website. The site also features information about  the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Last but not least, Career Cruising can help with your job search. Under the Employment tab you will find links to information about job search skills such as cover letter writing, interview preparation, resume writing, etc.  There is a job search feature that links you to www.indeed.com, a job postings aggregator that helps you find open positions in your field and location. To help you write a winning resume, Career Cruising also features a “Build My Resume” tool.

There is such a wealth of information in this database that this article can only scratch the surface.  Career Cruising is intuitive and user-friendly, so you will do fine just logging on and browsing the site. However, we will follow up with future posts elaborating on each section of this database.

Written by Anne Nowak.

Do Yourself, Your Career, and Your Employer a Favor — Take a Vacation!

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Americans work hard and they don’t like, or more accurately, don’t dare, to take time off. A study by Project: Time Off, an initiative by the U.S. Travel Association, reports that in 2015, 658 million vacation days went unused, and for 222 million of those, employees received no compensation for these unused vacation benefits.

The reason cited most often by employees is that they feel there is too much to do and that there will be a mountain of work waiting for them upon their return, making the vacation not worthwhile. Also, company culture often doesn’t encourage taking time off. Instead, it is the employees’ perception that the more time they spend at work, the more successful they will be.

Is this healthy? No! Is this productive? No! Is it possible to do this differently? Yes!

Let’s see what taking time off can do for you.

Improve your health

Stress reduction:  Vacations reduce stress by removing people from situations that are associated with stress and anxiety, according to a study by the American Psychological Association. Other studies have shown that employees who take time off complain of fewer stress-related illnesses, such as headaches and backaches, once they return to work.

Heart disease prevention: A number of studies have shown that taking time off can decrease your risk for heart disease. One study showed that women who took a vacation only once every six years were eight times more likely to develop heart disease than women who took at least two vacations a year.

Strengthened immune system: Since too much stress and overwork negatively affects the immune system, the rest and relaxation associated with time off will likely lead to strengthened immune systems — and fewer days of work missed due to sickness.

Improve your productivity

Taking time off is not only good for you, it is also good for business! Research shows that when done right, time off will increase your energy level and happiness, which translates into higher productivity. Incidentally, many of the countries with the highest labor productivity are also home to employees that take most of their very generous vacation allowances (e.g. Switzerland, Netherlands, Germany).

Accelerate your career

Taking more time off can lead to better job performance and faster promotion. An internal study at professional services firm EY has shown that for every additional ten hours of vacation that employees took, their year-end performance ratings improved by 8%. According to Project: Time Off, people that use all of their vacation time have a 6.5% higher chance of getting a raise and/or getting promoted than employees who decide to let 11 or more days of their leave lapse. A word of caution, the relationship established in this study is correlation, not causation, but it is an interesting notion nonetheless.

However, beware — a poorly planned or poorly executed vacation can achieve the opposite effect: you will return to work even more stressed. Therefore, plan your time off wisely. Plan and coordinate with your colleagues ahead of time to avoid that huge mountain of work waiting upon your return. Most importantly, relax and recharge.

Now have fun planning your 2017 vacations!

Written by Anne Nowak.

Tech Talk: Lynda

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Lynda.com is an online education platform that offers thousands of video courses to help you learn a broad array of skills, including software, creative, and business skills. Within the Lynda library, you can browse courses by topic, software, or learning paths. Let’s take a look at some of the courses available on Lynda.

3D + Animation

  • 12 Principles of Animation for CG Animators (1 hr 23 min)
  • Animation Foundations: Storyboarding (1 hr 32 min)
  • Learn Adobe Fuse CC: The Basics (1 hr 25 min)
  • Matte Painting: Environments for Film (3 hr 21 min)
  • MODO Essential Training (5 hr 25 min)

Audio + Music

  • An Insider’s Guide to Today’s Music Biz 05: Managers (51 min 18 s)
  • Learn Melodyne 4: The Basics (2 hr 8 min)
  • One-Minute Weekly Songwriting Tips (25 min 21 s)
  • Podcasting with GarageBand (2 hr 17 min)
  • Vocal Production Techniques (1 hr 42 min)

Business

  • Business Process Modeling Fundamentals (1 hr 20 min)
  • Contracting for Creatives (1 hr)
  • Design Thinking: Venture Design (1 hr 3 min)
  • Migrating from Google Apps to Microsoft 2016 (2 hr 11 min)
  • Personal Finance Tips (1 hr 23 min)

CAD

  • AutoCAD Civil 3D: Site Design (3 hr 38 min)
  • Bluebeam: On the iPad (1 hr 8 min)
  • Customization for CAD Managers (2 hr 6 min)
  • Rhino Project: Architectural Documentation (1 hr 18 min)
  • SketchUp 2017: Essential Training (3 hr 48 min)

Design

  • Logo Design Techniques (5 hr 7 min)
  • Drawing Vector Graphics Laboratory (5 hr 56 min)
  • InDesign Secrets (23 hr 51 min)
  • Learning Print Production (4 hr 16 min)
  • Understanding Data Science (1 hr 16 min)

Developer

  • Computer Science Principles: Programming (1 hr 25 min)
  • Learning Android App Development (1 hr 30 min)
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2016 Essential Training (3 hr 18 min)
  • Programming for Non-Programmers: iOS 10 and Swift (3 hr 24 min)
  • Unity 5 2D: Building an Adventure Game (2 hr 22 min)

Education + Elearning

  • Create Effective Learning Assessments (35 min 30 s)
  • How to Create Instructional Videos in Camtasia (1 hr 12 min)
  • Learn Moodle 3.1: The Basics (1 hr 49 min)
  • Test Prep: GRE (6 hr 44 min)
  • Word 2016 Essential Training (5 hr 41 min)

IT

  • Cloud Computing: Cloud Storage (1 hr 15 min)
  • Ethical Hacking: Mobile Devices and Platforms (1 hr 47 min)
  • Linux: Storage Systems (3 hr 30 min)
  • PC Maintenance and Performance Fundamentals (1 hr 8 min)
  • Windows Server 2016: DNS (1 hr 50 min)

Marketing

  • Google AdWords Essential Training (3 hr 4 min)
  • Instagram for Business (1 hr 16 min)
  • Local SEO (2 hr 31 min)
  • Marketing Analytics: Segmentation and Testing (53 min 4 s)
  • Qualitative Marketing Research (1 hr)

Photography

  • iPhone and iPad Photography with iOS 10 (2 hr 55 min)
  • Learning to Critique Photos (1 hr 12 min)
  • Photoshop CC 2017 for Photographers (7 hr 57 min)
  • Video Gear: Technical Tips (4 hr)
  • VR Photography and Video: The Basics (42 min 17 s)

Video

  • Advanced Cinematic Video Lighting (1 hr 19 min)
  • Creating Motion Graphics with Fusion (3 hr 49 min)
  • Crowdfunding Campaigns for Independent Film (1 hr 9 min)
  • DaVinci Resolve 12 Essential Training (15 hr 43 min)
  • Final Cut Pro X Guru: Titles and Effects

Web

  • Design Thinking: Understanding the Process (41 min 57 s)
  • Installing and Running WordPress: WAMP (56 min 10 s)
  • Learning Python Web Penetration Testing (2 hr 49 min)
  • Ruby on Rails 5 Essential Training (10 hr 21 min)
  • UX Design Tools: Axure RP (1 hr 37 min)

Access to Lynda is free for East Baton Rouge Parish Library patrons with a library card, and you can sign into Lynda through the library’s Digital Library.

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Once logged in, you will see three sections. The top left section gives you quick access to courses you were most recently viewing. Below that is the “My Playlists” section. You can add courses that you are currently watching to the playlist as well as save courses for future viewing. This way all the courses you’re interested in are located in one place, and you don’t have to search through the Lynda library for them again.

The third, and largest, section features courses. Here you can see courses that have been recently added as well as popular and recommended courses.

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When you are viewing a course — in this case “Data Visualization Tips and Tricks” — a contents section appears on the left. Here you can see the the progression of lessons and the length of each video. To the right of the contents is the video, and the section below the video gives further information and options, such as a transcript of the video and the option to download the lesson to view later, which is great if you know you’ll be somewhere without internet access.

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So are you ready to start learning? Which course will you watch first?

Written by Thien-Kieu Lam.

4 Podcasts to Inform and Inspire

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Podcasts are a great way to expand your knowledge and to stay inspired — listen during your commute, while you exercise, or on your coffee break!

WORKING

A glimpse into the day-to-day work of professionals from different fields. Guests include a landscape designer, makeup artist, forensic anthropologist, and book editor. Produced by Slate and hosted by Adam Davidson.

Episode spotlight: How Does the Director of Presidential Correspondence Work?
Fiona Reeves and her team at the White House process all the citizen mail that the president receives. Reeves explains how she selects the ten letters that are delivered to President Obama each evening and shares a few memorable letters received during her eight years as director of presidential correspondence.

THE CHASE JARVIS LIVE SHOW

Each episode is a conversation between Chase Jarvis and a different creative influencer, including entrepreneurs, artists, and authors, who discuss their professional and personal journeys, life philosophies, and habits for success.

Episode spotlight: Brene Brown: Rising Strong in a Digital Age
Brené Brown, a shame and vulnerability researcher and author, breaks down what it means to live wholeheartedly, the opportunities found in allowing yourself to be authentic and vulnerable, and how to rise after failing.

THE $100 MBA SHOW

Daily 10-minute episodes covering a myriad of business aspects, from hiring staff to online marketing and personal branding. Hosted by Omar Zenhom.

Episode Spotlight: Five Reasons Customer Surveys Fail
Tips to get the most out of your customer surveys, from creating the right questions to implementing a plan of action based on feedback.

NOTE TO SELF

Conversations about what it means to be human in a digital age and how technology impacts our lives. Produced by WNYC and hosted by Manoush Zomorodi.

Episode spotlight: When to Stop Looking for a Better Date or Restaurant
Can algorithms help us make better decisions in our daily lives? Host Manoush, her sister Gitta, and show producer Jenna Kagel experiment with applying the “optimal stopping” algorithm to counter the paralyzing problem of too many choices, in this instance, when it comes to dining and dating.

Written by Thien-Kieu Lam.

Tech Talk: Treehouse

Coding has become the universal language of our times. Digital technology’s role in shaping the ways we live and work will only expand, in breadth and depth, and coding will continue to be a highly marketable and valued skill.

Whether you’re interested in building your skills for a career in the tech industry or just want to create your own website, there are many online resources for learning on your own time and at your own pace. One such resource is Treehouse, and East Baton Rouge Parish Library patrons may request a free Treehouse account on the library’s website.

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Treehouse offers many different courses as well as tracks. A track is a program of courses designed for a particular topic. For example, the “Web Design” track includes a total of seventeen courses, starting with “How to Make a Website” and ending with “CSS to Sass.”

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Once you have created an account and chosen a course or track, Treehouse will create a daily lesson plan for you, which can be viewed in your dashboard. Each lesson plan usually includes two to three steps and takes approximately thirty minutes to complete.

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Courses are taught using video tutorials and follow along exercises in custom Treehouse workspaces that allow you to create and test code as you write it. There are also quizzes to evaluate your retention of information.

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For an idea of what Treehouse video tutorials are like, check out this introduction to the course “Intro to HTML and CSS.”

Ready to start? East Baton Rouge Parish Library patrons can request a free account. Don’t have a library card? EBR Parish residents can visit the nearest branch to create a library account and get access to Treehouse and many other free resources!

Written by Thien-Kieu Lam.