How can I develop my knowledge in IT and Computer Science?

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So you want to get into Computer Science

A female programmer uses two screens to work on the code for a website

This knowledge base gives you an introduction to using computing and online services in your business, but if you want to a career change or to do more of your IT yourself, here's a guide to learning Computer Science properly.

In our experience, people who are self-taught have deep knowledge in unconnected areas but lack the foundation learning that binds computing together.  A database is useless without programming, hardware to run on and networking and interface-design to bring it to people who actually use it.  You also need to be able to work with clients, managers and colleagues.


Build Technical Terms and Key Concepts

We would recommend using this curated list of what is free/low cost and building essential knowledge before spending money and time on a professional qualification.

You are many times more likely to succeed once you have computer science principles and technical terms under your belt.

Crash Course Computer Science

screenshot from the YouTube video series Crash Course Computer Science
To build your vocabulary in preparation for a course, you might benefit from watching one of these YouTube videos every few days and write down words that are new to you and their meanings: Crash Course Computer Science

  • Use subtitles, choose a playback speed e.g. 0.75.  Rewind and replay bits you miss first time.  Hopefully you will be able to make a list of definitions and examples by looking up parts you don’t know.


BBC Bitesize

Here's something else to dip into and do a little of every few days: BBC Bitesize IT - it gives small chunks to read and watch and simple quizzes at the end of each topic.

This should actually be your starting point if you did not study IT or Computer Science at GCSE or BTEC Level 2.  (Find out how you can do BTEC Level 2) If you did, it’s good for a refresher.  Lecturers still use some of it for teaching all levels because the explanations are so clear.

Technology News - Pros and Cons of Tech

Screenshot from the BBC Click website showing astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti: The astronaut taking TikTok to new heights

BBC Click is a great source of technology news. You can watch full programmes or just clips at BBC Click

This is a great way to see how technology develops and is applied in the real world. You'll see projects start, succeed or fail.  Watch how they benefit people or not and the impartial presenters will review products honestly.

Discover the implications of IT and other technologies.

You can also watch BBC Click on YouTube

Wired Technology News - the latest in Technology - pick and choose what interests you.


Developing your Technical Computing Knowledge

The good news is that for programming, the principles are very transferable to lots of different languages.  E.G. variables, loops, data types.

Understanding databases will also help you get ready for using lots of different systems.

Yes, there are loads of great online learning platforms.

Khan Academy

Screenshot from Khan Academy's animating a snowman challenge with interactive feedback

Screenshot from Khan Academy's animating a snowman challenge with interactive feedback

To build confidence where the risk is low but you still get a feeling of progress we would recommend Khan Academy Computer Science

Create a profile on there for free and get learning at your own pace with the option to dot about following your own path but building up points.  This doesn’t build towards a qualification directly but will prepare you for qualifications by building up computing principles.

It's a mixture of videos and on-screen interactive exercises that give you the instant feedback you’d get if a programming trainer was standing behind you.


Adult Computer Science and IT Courses at Derby College

There are a whopping 32 part-time courses for adults at your local college!

Here are just a few. View the full list at IT, Digital Skills and Computer Science courses at DCG

Adult – Essential Digital Skills – Various Levels - at the Joseph Wright Centre

Aimed at adults aged 19+, this free ICT course provides essential digital skills which are needed in a wide range of situations in life, learning and work. Check out Essential Digital Skills

Certificate in Digital Skills in the Workplace Level 2 - distance learning

This qualification is designed to prepare you for employment and/or to support a role in the workplace through the development of ICT knowledge and skills. Check out Digital Skills in the Workplace

Employer Based Functional skills ICT outreach

12 week /or Block Week Functional Skills course offered for employers to upskill their workforce.  Check out Employer Based Functional skills ICT

Courses in specific areas

Derby College offer adult courses in

View the full list at IT, Digital Skills and Computer Science courses at DCG

Over 15 and want to get into Computer Science and IT?

There's no reason to stay at school after GCSE if you love computing but they're forcing you to drag yourself through two extra subjects. Get experience, qualifications and expert support from technical professionals at Derby College.

Foundation Diploma in Information Systems – Level 3

technology company CEO Peter Evens who gained a huge advantage by studying a BTEC Computer Science course at Derby College

The BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma in Computing is designed to offer an in-depth experience of computing topics that will empower you to make informed choices about your future studies and career.

It carries the same value as three A-levels, with similar opportunities for university and employment, but far more technical and practical detail plus a chance to work with local and national clients on employer-led projects.

  • Year 1
    • Information Technology Systems
    • Creating Systems to Manage Information
    • Using Social Media in Business
    • Programming
    • Website Development
    • Computer Games Development
  • Year 2
    • 2D and 3D Digital Graphics
    • Digital Animation and Effects
    • IT Project Management
    • Cyber Security and Incident Management
    • IT Service Delivery
    • IT Technical Support and Management
    • Enterprise in IT

Check out the Foundation Diploma in Information Systems

T-Levels the next level qualification banner with images of working in the IT sector, individually and with colleagues T-Levels the next level qualification banner with images of working in the IT sector, individually and with colleagues

T Level in Digital Production, Design and Development

Do you want to start a career in software and digital design as, for example, a programmer, web designer, IT business analyst, systems designer, software development technician or digital marketer?

T Levels offer an attractive alternative to A-levels and apprenticeships, combining classroom theory, practical learning and a minimum 45-day industry placement with an employer to make sure you have real experience of the workplace.

They are developed in consultation with employers in the digital industry to ensure you learn the skills and behaviours that will give you the best opportunity to be successful when applying for work.

See more: T-Level in Digital Production, Design and Development


T Level in Digital Support Services

  • Are you interested in starting a career in digital support services?
  • Want a decent chunk of real work experience?
  • How about a minimum 45-day industry placement?
  • Want to gain the essential knowledge and skills to work in digital roles by understanding data and digital systems, how software and business interact, security, testing, planning and legal issues?

Skills I have developed T Levels offer you an attractive alternative to A-levels and apprenticeships. Gain far more advanced technical knowledge with experienced Computing lecturers and work directly with employers to launch your career as an IT technician, cyber-security expert or networking specialist.

Looking at digital infrastructure, digital support and network cabling, you will learn how to apply procedures and controls to maintain the digital security of an organisation and its data.

You will also learn how to explain, install, configure, test and manage both physical and virtual infrastructure whilst discovering, evaluating and applying reliable sources of knowledge.

See more: T-Level in Digital Support Services

Didn't study Computer Science or IT at GCSE?

Extended Certificate in Information and Creative Technologies – Level 2

Four female IT students from different backgrounds work together on rebuilding a computer

This course is personally tailored to meet your knowledge and skills needs.  It prepares you for your next step into the computing and creative industries.

Gain a broad knowledge of IT subjects, explore the opportunities offered in the IT sector and acquire appropriate vocational skills. Your tailored course may include:

  • working online,
  • technology systems,
  • web development,
  • programming,
  • digital graphics and animation,
  • interactive multimedia,
  • hardware and software installation and maintenance,
  • computer networking
  • advanced spreadsheets and relational databases,
  • security systems,
  • technical support,
  • business use of social media
  • and how to get a job in IT.

Check out Extended Certificate in Information and Creative Technologies


Other IT Qualifications


Only after exploring the options above, should you look into CompTIA IT Fundamentals Course and then CompTIA A+ Course.  These are widely recognised in industry.  This could be a high-risk strategy without the nurturing of college lecturers and other needs taken care of properly.  They also cost money.  However, if you have done things like those we suggest above, and have other sources of learning support you could do it.  It also depends on how good you are at exams and working independently when it gets hard and boring.


Microsoft IT Qualifications

Once you have developed your essential computer science, you could explore things like the Microsoft Qualifications. They are designed for people who have knowledge and experience of computing at work and who want to move into a new area or develop a specialism.

They also assume some business awareness.  No computing exists without someone to pay for it and you will need to develop some understanding of customer service, the importance of the aims of an individual business, what the common departments and functions of a business are, as well as ethics and law.

Derby College offer courses in

See also Microsoft Certifications in other areas of IT.

Creative Industries

a laptop on a deskshowing a gallery of photos. It is next to a tablet and a pair of Beats by Dre headphonesOn the other hand, if you want to get into the creative industries that is another route and you would need to build up a body of work to try to get into these areas.  There are lots of online resources for these skills too.  They are easy to find.  Khan Academy is a good place to start.

For Digital Graphics and Animation, Website Development, and Games Development, check out the Foundation Diploma in Information Systems

There are other courses in the creative industries at Derby College, Derby Quad and elsewhere.



Go for it!  There are so many ways into this endless industry.


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