Review: Two Months on Codecademy

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So about two months ago I started using Codecademy. Over the course of that time I took the courses on HTML CSS JavaScript and J query. A bit of background on my lens: I’ve worked in education technology for eight years as a marketer.  About 12 years ago I took two years of high school computer science, and received a 5 on the AP computer science exam, back when the course used C++. I also have  learned – from all my years blogging – the basics of HTML. Here’s my review.
Pros:
  • First, great technology. I really like the integrated instructions, text editor, and compiler all in one browser window. Before I was using Codecademy I started with classes on Udemy (which is essentially just a video player), and the experience on Codecademy is much more interactive and seamless. With Udemy I ended up having the video playing in one screen, my text editor in another, and a browser to view the finished product, and was constantly toggling between them. They’ve invested in really great technology to get you learning within minutes and keep you engaged.
  • The class content is also really high quality. Other reviewers make it sound like the classes are buggy but they seem to have gotten almost all the bugs out. The content itself is also of a higher quality – I feel like they genuinely chose better examples and taught more substance than the comparable Udemy course (“Learning HTML5 from Scratch” by Eduonix) I took (which, in turn, was one of the better reviewed Udemy courses).
  • They have tried to employ some game mechanics with badges and points – its wonky but A for effort.
  • There’s a healthy community – there seem to be real Q&As happening on the community forums with participants helping one another out. Every time I got stuck, I was able to find something helpful in the community.
  • More Please! The content was great. I wish there was more intermediate level JQuery, Javascript, and CSS!
Cons:
  • My biggest concern is that there’s no good offramp from the Codecademy text editor/compiler environment into a real-world solution like Heroku and into the real world text editor like Eclipse or Sublime. There’s no information on how to get a project live on the internet. I talked about this with a few developer friends, and did my own online learning, and I’m still not sure how to set everything up – AWS, Heroku, GitHub, Sublime, etc. – so that I can simply build something with the langages I now know.
  • One of the biggest advantages I see in something like One Month Rails or something like the General Assembly’s Boot Camp or Hack Reactor’s boot camp is the fact that they seem geared toward helping a budding entrepreneur/tinkerer get a project up and running much faster. That’s a huge drawback and I also think from educational point of view, and it’s a huge demotivator to not be able to get something live on the Internet.
  • Other nitpicky concerns: I’m a little bit disappointed that there aren’t more intermediate courses after taking JavaScript. Having taken C++ in high school, I now realize that what the Intro to Javascript course teaches about tas much as the first semester of my freshmen year in AP Computer Science. There’s no content on recursion, there’s nothing on search or sort algorothms, and there certainly aren’t any large full-sized projects to mess around inside of. Just small example projects.
  • Learning Outcomes
    • At a high-level I really can’t connect what I’m learning on Codecademy to anything that would be valuable in the real world. For example, when I looked into taking a $15K class at HackReactor or General Assembly to learn to code, I knew that
      • I would potentially learn everything i needed to know to get my own minimum viable product online
      • Many of their graduates are able to immediately get jobs as junior developers, and here’s the list of the companies that hired the last graduating batch, and here’s where some of them are now, etc.
    • Or, since Codecademy is free and something you do in your spare time, instead lets compare it to taking a computer science class at an online university or at a community college. At the end of such a class, I know that I would be able to pass the class, or after a number of classes I might be able to earn some type of certificate, that has some kind of transferable value that employers might recognize and pay for. Codecademy doesn’t appear to be investing at all in making these things happen. Yet is couches itself in the same marketing and positioning about learning to code, starting your company, or getting a job. So there’s a big disconnect between that positioning and where they are today.

Overall, I had an amazing and engaging learning experience – I’m hungry for more. If they can build out Intermediate courses I think there is a lot of potential. I understand not teaching the plumbing – this is like the line about liberal arts universities “teaching you the theory” or “teaching you to think,” but I’d still really value some more practical “plumbing to get a project online” content.

Next up is Ruby on rails! I’m going to take the class on Codecademy but I’m also going to test out OneMonthRails. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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4 thoughts on “Review: Two Months on Codecademy

  1. Hey good post on codecademy, would you be willing to take a look at http://www.codeavengers.com and let us know what you think about the lessons. They are for highschools students teaching JavaScript, HTML and CSS. Bare in mind its for the beginner but would love your feedback Thanks!

  2. This fits with a lot of things I thought about Codecademy – worth doing for the benefit of brushing up on the basics, but just the basics, really. Nice post!

  3. @Rachel I’ll let you know how One Month Rails goes – it might be more intermediate – I’m not sure yet. I think the trouble is I’m still not sure what – after brushing up/ learning the basics – I can actually accomplish in the real world.

    @Adam – sure thing. feel free to shoot me an email. prasid dot pathak at gmail. first reaction is that you should probably invest more in good design on your homepage. even if it’s like a $100 wordpress template or something.

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