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Codecademy: Learn to code – is it any good?

Codecademy: Learn to code – is it any good?

I have been learning how to code since May 2014. It has been more of a hobby for me than anything else, so I tend to dip in and out of it, rather make it a priority. I have however, really enjoyed what I have learnt so far. There have been some struggles along the way, mainly being unable to bridge the gap between what I have learnt in an online learning environment, and putting those skills to use in the real world. In fact it is because of this that I created CodeUp Manchester, so people like myself have somewhere to go to help them out when they get stuck.

One of the things about my own journey, and about CodeUp, is that we both rely on online learning resources to get us started, and although the number of resources available are numerous, not many are both comprehensive, and free.

That’s where Codecademy comes in, here is a review of how Codecademy has helped me learn to code.

Firstly, Codecademy is free. There are many other free resources available, but other than MOOCS such as Programming for Everyone none seem to be quite as comprehensive as Codecademy. By that I mean that you get quite an in depth introduction to the languages the site covers, and they have some nice other features such as taster sessions with 30 minute intro goals and a how to use API’s section. Some other sites have a lot of depth, but they often have limited free content or free trials, with the majority of the content being paid.

So lets have a closer look at what Codecademy has to offer;

Web Developer Skills – 3 courses designed to help you learn how to build professional websites and applications;

  • Make a Website – Build a recent version of Airbnb’s home page and learn the fundamentals of web development in the process, 3 hours, beginner
  • Make an Interactive Website – Build the Flipboard home page and learn how to add interactivity to your website, 5 hours, beginner
  • Make a Rails App – Build the Etsy site using Ruby on Rails and learn the essentials of database-backed web applications, 10 hours, beginner

 

Language Skills – Learn core programming concepts and syntax for the world’s 6 most popular languages;

  • HTML & CSS – Learn how to create websites by structuring and styling your pages with HTML and CSS, 7 hours, beginner
  • Javascript – Learn the fundamentals of JavaScript, the programming language of the Web, 10 hours, beginner
  • jQuery – Learn how to make your websites interactive and create animations by using jQuery, 3 hours, beginner
  • PHP – Learn to program in PHP, a widespread language that powers sites like Facebook, 4 hours, beginner
  • Python – Learn to program in Python, a powerful language used by sites like YouTube and Dropbox, 13 hours, beginner
  • Ruby – Learn to program in Ruby, a flexible language used to create sites like Codecademy, 9 hours, beginner

Goals – Get started with coding with these 30 minute goals;

  • Animate Your Name – Learn the basics of the JavaScript programming language. Create an interactive animation of your own name, 30 minutes, beginner
  • About You – Learn HTML and CSS to build your own, personal web site! Tell your fans all about yourself and share a gorgeous photo or two! 30 minutes, beginner
  • Sun, Earth & Code – Build a simple solar system with code! This project incorporates basic html, css, and css animations! 30 minutes, beginner

API’s – Learn how to use popular APIs to make your own applications, each API module starts with a section teaching you how to use API’s in the appropriate language, and a section on how to use the selected API;

  • Deezer – Javascript
  • Sunlight – Javascript
  • YouTube – Javascript
  • WePay – Ruby & Python
  • Box – Ruby
  • Gilt – Javascript
  • GitHub – Ruby
  • SendGrid – Ruby
  • Mandrill – Javascript
  • Sunlight – Python
  • Dwoller – Python
  • Evernote – Ruby
  • EasyPost – Ruby
  • NPR – Python
  • National Highway Traffic Administration – Python
  • SoundCloud – Javascript
  • Apigee – Javascript
  • Twitter – Ruby

In my personal experience of Codecademy, I have completed the 30 minute goals, I am 54% of the way through the PHP course and 78% of the way through the Python course.

So, first impressions were really good. Codecademy sets achievable goals throughout each course, and awards you with badges as you complete each section so you can track your progress. You also get stats on your profile to show when you gained each achievement, and how long it has been since you last coded. My profile is here, and feel free to tell me off when I spend too long away from my coding practice!

I originally started with the 30 minute goals, just to get a feel for coding. The objectives are fun and easy to get into to. I probably completed them in under 30 minutes, but they’re a great taster to the world of code.

After that I attended one of the Manchester Girl Geek Tea Parties where using Codecademy you were helped learn the basics of PHP. The class was 2 hours, and I got half way through the 4 hour course, so the time scales indicated on the courses are pretty accurate, but PHP just didn’t click much with me.

I had dabbled with Python previously and like it, so I decided to take the Python course. This is Codecademy’s longest course at 13 hours, and I loved how comprehensive it was. In between starting the Codecademy course and getting to where I am now, I took the MOOC Programming for Everyone, which I really enjoyed. One thing the Coursera course had over Codecademy was that the explanations were more in depth. I think had I continued using Codecademy alone I may have struggled, but learning the basic concepts first on the Coursera course and then following up with Codecademy for practice worked really well for me.

There were times when I felt that I was following the instructions on Codecademy without necessarily understanding fully what I was doing, but this is a downfall of all online resources which is another reason we developed CodeUp, so these issues can be discussed in groups or with a mentor to help make sure you really understand what you’re doing on the online learning resource.

Now I’m getting towards the end of the course I’m loving the sections where you’re given mini projects to complete using the skills you have learnt previously on the course. One thing I have struggled with when learning Python is what to do with the skills I now have, and these mini projects are great for me to complete, as it gives me direction and focus, while helping me apply my knowledge to real life examples.

As you can probably see from the course outlines, the vast majority of Codecademy content is aimed at beginners, although if the Python course is anything to go by, you are taught a lot of skills at the beginner level. After this if you’ve learned Javascript, Python or Ruby, the API’s are a good place to move onto to develop your skills. API’s are something I am not overly familiar with at this point, but I hope to soon complete the Python course and move onto using API’s as a next step. Unfortunately Codecademy does not continue with more advanced skills, however this is nothing to be ashamed of, as currently even paid resources focus highly on beginnner skills, and not many have courses which develop you passed the beginner stage.

Due to Codecademy’s ease of use, and the fact that it’s free, we are planning on using it as a basis for learning at our CoceUp session this month. We hope that this resource works really well for us, and I’m looking forward to using it more myself and completing the Python course in the coming months.

I would definitely recommend Codecademy for people who want to learn how to code, it provides and excellent step into the world of programming, you just may need a bit of help making the next step when you’ve completed your chosen courses.

Thanks for reading!
GirlGeekUpNorth
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3 thoughts on “Codecademy: Learn to code – is it any good?”

  • From one girl geek to another, I loved reading your post. Believe it or not, I am am girl geek who loves not just computers but am currently studying for a degree in precision engineer; I hope to work for a CNC machining shop when I graduate 🙂

  • Just enrolled at codeacademy and am impressed. Lovely to see more women getting into coding. Thanks for your review. All the best.

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