McConkey: Python for Everyone (OnlineCourse)

Overview of the Course:

This course services as both an introduction and walkthrough basic Python scripting. The course is composed of reading material with easy to understand figures and exercises with step-by-step instructions for a hands on experience. The course also has simple multiple choice questions with immediate feedback for improved understanding. There is some supplemental reading provided by some links in the beginning that took about 25 minutes to complete.  At the end of the course there is a brief review and then 10 question exam. The exam generates different questions if you go off the page and you will need an 8 out 10 to receive certification that you passed the course. (The exam is not that difficult, but I do not know if you are able to take it multiple times as I passed it on my first attempt. I recommend double checking your answers before submitting.)

The walkthrough sections are a bit more challenging and are definitely going to make the course longer than it estimates. This is especially true if you are unfamiliar with PyCharm (which you will be asked to download) as you will be spending a good deal of time getting your bearings with software.  If there are any courses that go over the basic layout of PyCharm I would recommend taking it before tackling this course. You can get through the course if you’re not familiar with PyCharm, but it will take you some time getting used to it.

You will have to download PyCharm and some data. The data did not take long to download and there is a link provided so you can download PyCharm. The PyCharm download is more complicated and will take some time (~30 minutes). If you’re getting the free trail version it should last about 30 days and you will have to make a JetBrains account. Also, when you have downloaded the data you should put it in a folder named ErsiTraining in C so it resembles the walkthrough. You will actually want to extract the data before this step. The data path for the first exercise should look something like this: C:\EsriTraining\PythEveryone\RunningScripts/Polk_County. (I extracted the data after putting it into the EsriTraining folder so there were two PythEveryone folders back-to-back. Oops.)

Notes from the Course:

When choosing a script environment you may want to consider what you are trying to accomplish. If you are trying to test geoprocessing workflows and easily verify the results, you may want to stick with ArcGIS’s built in Python window. However, if you want to work with tools to enter, edit, and check syntax within your code, you may want to use an IDE, such as PyCharm. PyCharm also includes an integrated debugging environment.

Scripts can be built from data types, statements or functions. Statements and F=function both perform an action, but only functions return a value.

Tuples are a sequence of items, just like a list; however, tuples cannot be changed. Tuples are useful for when the sequence is significant in a script. Tuples are closed in parenthesis while lists are surrounded by brackets.

Reflection for the Exercises:

Make sure you follow the directions as best you can. If something isn’t working, you probably misread or skipped over something. If your positive you did not misread anything, try not to get to frustrated. You can try troubleshooting and if that does not work, it may be best to keep moving on. Every if you biffed one step (which can mess up the script in the end) it is better to see the process that the course is trying to teach you. Getting the end results are optimal though.

Not all of the directions are described as thoroughly as they should, especially when it comes to working with PyCharm. The exercise walkthroughs provide pictures that go along with the types of coding you will be asked to write out. (This is great but they do not provide images of the PyCharm screen  to improve your navigation of the software.) One thing you will have to look out for that some walkthroughs do not mention that you have to use print statements to make sure your scripts are working. A lot of times the walkthrough will tell you to write a script and then press enter and see the immediate output. From what I experienced this is misleading as this does not happen. Instead, I had to make a print statement and then run the script to see the output. (The output will be visible in the Python Console. This will appear on the bottom half of the screen when you run your scripts.) The good thing about this type of work is that even though it can be frustrating, the more you do what you intended, the more confident you get.

Review of Course:

Some of the directions for the exercises are a bit vague, especially when giving directions in PyCharm. I think PyCharm my have gone through an update so some of the actions you need to take may not directly correspond with what is being directed. It definitely took me longer than the estimated time, but that is probably due to me never using PyCharm before and only using ArcGIS Pro a few times before attempting this course. The course is in no way perfect but it does combine different learning styles and is well structured. The walkthroughs could be more thorough, but they also help you apply what you’ve learned.