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Rise of the code schools

Posted on 23 Nov 2012 at 12:09

Goodbye, Sir?

As good as these coding sites may be, how far can any online course completed at your own pace take you before you run out of steam, or hit a brick wall? Pollack believes the internet has its limits. “Self-guided learning can only take you so far. At some point you need to be put in an environment where you’re working with somebody on projects and being mentored. There’s certainly a piece of the puzzle there that we’re not dealing with yet, that a lot of these online self-guided tools aren’t dealing with yet.”

Online learning should be viewed not as a complete solution, but as the beginning. “I consider us the jumping-off point,” says Pollack. “We are the first five or six chapters in a book.” The aim for a site such as Code School is to remove “a lot of the obstacles people hit when they learn a new technology”, and to quickly give beginners “a feeling of proficiency”. The videos, the interaction and the rewards keep you returning where you might otherwise have walked away in frustration.

Self-guided learning can only take you so far. At some point you need to be put in an environment where you’re being mentored

Once the basics are learned, it’s up to the user to drive his or her own development. The Khan Academy encourages you to “dig into all the explanatory tutorials and documentation that’s provided to clarify how things work”. Reference sites such as are full of more traditional information on coding, and some of these online schools end their courses with advice on where to go next – even if that takes the user away from the site.

The longer-term solution may be in teachers integrating these online courses into their traditional lessons. Codecademy quickly opened up its software after the success of Code Year, so in theory a teacher can write a quick online task to be carried out alongside a classroom lesson. In June, Zach Sims claimed “tens of thousands of teachers” have created Codecademy courses for their students all over the world. “We think it’s important for the best teachers to create content on different subjects, so we let anyone create lessons,” co-founder Ryan Bubinski told .net magazine.

If that sounds too time-consuming, the quality of the curated courses means they can often be integrated into a lesson plan as is, with Gregg Pollack telling us Code School has been in touch with professors using its classes. “It’s a really good fit for labs,” he explains, suggesting a teacher might set an online course for the class as an added assignment, for example.

Collaborative teaching

The blend of traditional and online learning is an intriguing one, and it’s also worth noting that these sites allow teachers of other related subjects, such as maths or physics, to easily incorporate coding lessons with which they might otherwise have struggled. We’re way past the days of only programmers learning to code; today, a bit of HTML or JavaScript knowledge can push you to the top of the recruitment pile in any number of careers.

This is just one of the many industries that’s ripe for disruption with the evolution of the internet

Some of these code schools are breaking into the mainstream. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed up to Code Year, and the White House recruited Codecademy to provide a coding course as part of its Summer Jobs+ programme. They have a global audience too: in February, more than 50% of Codecademy’s users were based outside the US.

How big they can grow, and whether they’ll remain the plucky outsiders or be welcomed into the world of education, is anybody’s guess, and part of the fun for all involved is finding out. Between the success of sites such as Codecademy and the huge interest in the Raspberry Pi, both from individuals and schools, coding is becoming cool again – and at a price that almost anyone can afford to pay.

It’s the right blend of technologies at the right time. Video learning is nothing new, we’ve had interactive websites for years, and we all know how popular social media is, but Pollack believes the current craze is down to the combination of disciplines. “Until now, not too many people have done all of them at once,” he says. “People are just starting to figure out how to do that, and this is just one of the many industries that’s ripe for disruption with the evolution of the internet.”

Author: David Bayon

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User comments

Another great site that teachers and students love especially at High School is

Teacher after teacher have commented that the students are much more engaged and learning more with CodeAvengers than CodeCademy.

By CodeAvengers on 23 Nov 2012

Great Article

In New Zealand, we have been trialing out various online code schools for a national roll out. We found one that sat above the rest in way of the actual quality of the lessons (not the site itself yet). Here is a recent story with the Prime Minister of New Zealand learning to code

By MixMastaMike on 23 Nov 2012

Code Avengers

Code Avengers is not only getting strong interest from New Zealand it is also quickly attracting a GLOBAL audience due to its well structured lessons. Try it out and see why at

By RickyRiccardo on 23 Nov 2012

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