Codecademy – a first review

So I started doing the Code Year on Codecademy – go me

Disclaimer: I have a background in programming just not in the languages taught. All the following is my perspective and for programming beginners it can be a total different thing. I am currently nearing the end of the JavaScript section of Code Year so this will be only about the lessons up to this point.

The topics
So far Code Year covers 38 weeks.
1-12: JavaScript
13-20: HTML & CSS
21-29: jQuery
30-38: Python

These equal the tracks offered (JavaScript Fundamentals, Web Fundamentals, jQuery, Python) – at least I didn’t find any difference.

The lessons
For me it is not difficult. It sometimes feels more like typing lessons ^^ – but it gives a very good introduction to programming for people who have no previous experience (I sure as hell would have liked something like this when I started). And the difficulties are going up at a steady pace.

But there is a catch – the lessons are designed by different people.

For one I think that not all teachers understand that students can not read the teacher’s mind so we have to guess what they want to see (and yes I had to guess for some of them – I had to refer to the forum several times, because I didn’t understand what I should actually do).

Fortunately the courses with such instructions are few and far between really awesome content.

Another problem is the lessons are not that well synchronised. I have seen lessons expecting me to know something not yet covered in the course. And as I was doing all those lessons one after the other I could remember it was not covered. Some things I got by myself (previous knowledge and all that) others I had to look up in the forums.

It also does not help to have different (correct) notations used. It confuses (me) and they are not checked (as far as I could see). So what’s the point? Yes teach me – and stick to one not change all the time.

Another downside is the typing repetition. I understand you have to do things several times to remember. But after the sixth time typing basically the same thing, it gets tiresome.

They are very strict in checking the output. While I know how difficult it is to check code or some concept it can be frustrating to not pass a lesson and to find after much looking the typing error. 😦

The Challenges:
These are for the students to test their knowledge on a bigger problem, using all learned things to solve a problem.

The scenarios are more often than not very funny (and so constructed). But I think of them as something like a comprehension test. It shows the student how they can use their new knowledge and gets a laugh out of me all the time.

The Forums:
The one place you go looking for help if you don’t get it.

I do not have the time to participate actively in the forums. But the times I took a look they were really helpful and are very neatly organized (you can filter by lesson and lesson section).

They are user to user help which is great but also opens to some “here is the right answer” posts. These posts don’t help guys! But nice to know you got it.

Bottom line:
I think Codecademy is great. It is free and for not paying anything you get good lessons.

What I would wish for was a stricter control of the lessons and a reference (functions, notations,…) or a link to a good JavaScript site to look things up – no I do not want to go back to another lesson to see the explanation there – you can’t do that later on either.

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