What is Contextual Electronics?
It’s online learning program for people who want to design their own electronics! The “contextual” refers to the fact that learning is easiest when you have a hands-on approach to learning and when you learn things as you need them. Without context (such as when you’re sitting in a lecture hall being told how to work an equation), it’s hard care about learning something. Once you know how it can be used, the learning becomes easy and fun!
Who is this course for?
This course is meant for people that are interested in electronics and want to move to the next level. They want to begin or get better at building electronic circuits for their own purposes. See some profiles of potential members who are:
What is an example of a typical user?
Someone who works in software or IT and has used an arduino or similar platform to blink LEDs and work with rudimentary electronics. Or a hardware person looking to get more comfortable designing their own products and looking to learn more. Don’t fit that mold? Wonderful! We want to bring in people from all backgrounds and walks of life. Feel free to email us if you have special needs to see if we can accommodate.
Who isn’t this course for?
True beginners to the field of electronics will have a tough time keeping up with terminology and the general applications being worked on. However, all are welcome as long as everyone realizes that we cannot stop the entire program to work back to first principles. As a general rule, if you know what a voltage divider is, you should continue reading. If not (or rather if you go and look that up and still don’t know what’s going on), you might want to reconsider.
Will I need to build the hardware?
Only if you want to. This will be the best way to learn…by doing. And failing. And doing again. In fact, we would argue this is the ONLY way to learn.
Will there be homework?
Again, only if you want to. Students are free to simply browse the videos. But the best learners will be those who dive in and participate. We focus on activities to reinforce learning, such as creating your own layouts and completing simulations.
But couldn’t I just get this information for free somewhere else?
Sure, a lot of similar material is available online, as it has been for years in books and in other resources. But having the information in your possession and knowing how to use it are very different things. Knowing the context of the information is the real point of this class!
Also, if you really do know of places online that have similar content, please let us know! We’d love to see it and use it for reference material for the class.
How long will the course last?
Contextual Electronics is a subscription based model. You are free to sign up for any amount of time you would like (in monthly increments). Some members are only with us for a few months and get what they need. Others have on-going subscriptions and continue to interact and learn about electronics. We continually update the site with new course content for users.
I live in __________, will I be able to participate?
Yep! One of the things we’re most excited about is that Contextual Electronics will help people learn regardless of where they live in the world. Plus, our course will try to optimize for local distributors so you’re not paying exorbitant shipping costs for parts or waiting for months for them to arrive.
Will this just be a website with video tutorials?
Some of the content is written, especially useful links. However, most of it is videos and screencasts. Support happens through the Contextual Electronics Forum.
How will the content be delivered?
All video content will be delivered in HD via Vimeo. Select one-on-one sessions may be done via Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts or the video chat of your choice.
Will I have access to the course content after the course has finished?
You have access to the course material as long as your subscription is active. When your subscription lapses, you will no longer have access to the content. We are constantly adding new content to the site.
How much time should I anticipate dedicating to the class?
Really it’s up to you how much time you’d like to spend on the class. As explained below, there are different packages based on the level of involvement you’d like to take. However, if you’re not building along with everyone, the course and videos could be spread over several months and watched at your leisure.
This topic got a little more focus in a video about the Time Commitment for Contextual Electronics.
Can I download the videos?
There will be future products that sell bundled video for all-at-once download. We understand people have bandwidth restrictions because of internet connections or due to daily commutes. However, we encourage people watch the videos at their bench while preparing to follow along and participate. As such, we currently do not give links for downloading the videos.
Will this be a paid course?
Yes. See the shop for the cost of the subscriptions
What about the price of the hardware?
One of the downsides of working with hardware is that there is an actual cost to components (whereas there is no cost of delivery to software). The component cost will not be included in the cost of this course, nor the cost of PCBs. Instead of shipping out kits, we’ll be teaching you how to order your own components and optimize for cost. The switch over to the subscription model will allow for lower cost PCBs because they will be smaller and will favor 2 layer boards. All of these are useful skills as you continue in this hobby or profession. In all things, we will seek to keep your costs low. We’ll accomplish this by designing relatively low cost products and by finding (and showing you how to use!) low cost tools to fill out your lab.
Would I be paying all in one time or monthly fees?
We switched from one time to monthly so that users have more choice in how and when they view the courses. It is possible to upgrade or downgrade at any time or drop the course entirely. We understand the life can throw some curveballs. The best part though is that your account will still exist and you can come back whenever you need. We do charge in one month increments so that people do not abuse the system (since it is “all you can watch”).
Is billing automatic?
Yes, we use Stripe which maintains all of your credit card info on their site. Each month it charges your card automatically.
What happens if I upgrade or downgrade?
All subscription fees are pro-rated when members upgrade or downgrade. Users may also “pause” their membership once per month.
What happens if I unsubscribe? Can I still watch videos?
Once you unsubscribe and your monthly subscription is over (all charges are in increments of one month, no partial refunds are possible), you will no longer have access to the videos or course content. As of 2017, members with a lapsed membership will still have access to the forum and project logs (hosted on the forum). Accounts on ContextualElectronics.com will be preserved; if you decide to sign up in the future all of your personalized content will be activated once again.