What is Codecademy? Simply put it is a website that serves two distinction functions, first and most obvious is that it attempts through the use of lessons and exercises to bring an awareness and heighten sense of achievement when learning to programme. It does this through the use of tokens and points, although having completed the course available I am not sure what the maximum score achievable might be. There is no league table that I am aware of so cannot compare notes so to speak. The second function I can tell you nothing about, other than the fact that it has the means for others to upload their lessons and exercises in a given discipline.
The code itself is aimed at the beginner it does not include things like file handing but does touch on aspects of programming considered advance such as arrays. The fundamental aim here being to get the novice to be comfortable with code to reward and encourage those achievements as they work through the course. Much of the more advanced code I feel is glanced over rather than built on for example by the time you reach the Blackjack project you would expect it to include all the code you have learned in previous lessons such as the arrays. Perhaps the author just forgot to include this within the final project but I would have expected it to be included. The course despite the fact I spent a little time on it, (took me over a day to complete) don’t be fooled this is not an easy course. The guidance though is well constructed and the lessons do not allow much by way of mistakes.
There is a good level of support though where others have commented or redefined the question to aid in it’s understanding of the original problem required to be solved.
I have done a very quick comparison with the popular w3c for schools W3Schools suggested by another SoSLUG member which is a good site but does not teach code or coding practises or styles, instead it tests your knowledge only, this is great if you already know how to programme and absolutely useless if you do not know were to start. Actually I have to eat my own words whilst the above in actual fact is true there is a quiz, it is not the whole story. What I neglected to realise was that in many aspect w3schools is similar to that of Codecademy in that it does supply an editor and a console to manage.
It should be noted that W3Schools.com apparently is not affiliated to the W3C in any way. Allegedly when asked to explicitly state this, W3Schools have declined to do so.
They are not therefore an authoritative source of information. On the whole the information is correct, but there are errors; especially where they have been slow to update information which is no longer current. There are other equally good, if not better and more up to date, sources of information. In referring to other sites, it does not necessarily mean SoSLUG endorse their use.
In common with of sites that offer certification, unless they have support from government, or the relevant standards institution, such certificates are probably of little value.
Codecademy takes a different approach it assumes no previous knowledge and teaches the art of programming all be it at a basic level but hell you got to start somewhere. Right from the start you have three areas you need to observe and respond too the left most column consist of the question and description of what you are being asked to do. The second column couples the editor and a console window with the editor top most and the console output underneath. You build your code in the editor, and when you are ready you initiate with the run button, the console window provides you with the result your code initiated and a link to move to the next lesson. Word of warning you can crash your browser when the code is incomplete, incorrect or corrupt.
What I liked about Codecademy
No advertising, completely free to join and use, rapid response to a function component that should have already worked on the site during the process of working on the site. Plus the considerable support by way of FAQ’s for each sub section of the exercises. For now the site is leaning towards being used as for want of a better description, a teaching aid, it is thankfully total devoid of any advertising I really hope it can stay that way.
Sadly the good explanations instruction, and hand holding was there no longer. In some cases the instructions far from being descriptive where now non existent. The manner in which this new content was added also leaves me cause for concern, rather than add a new chapter to existing lessons the new lessons and projects were added in this case to the Introduction (Lessons) and Functions (Projects) sections. I attempted these new lessons and projects but I did not feel as though I was progressing, more than going round and round in circles.
As quickly as the lessons arrived then the lessons were gone, the only measure that proves I had done as much work as I could was the additional points and the additional badge awarded. This last code provided by Codecademy was bloody hard, I still felt that I wanted to try and I still felt that I wanted to achieve, but the constant drain due to lack of proper instructions was having a “oh! I think I will give it up now” effect, I didn’t but my energy levels dropped considerably.
Links to other free programming sites
W3schools is in the opinion of this beginner cluttered confusing and is a focus on generating money perhaps to keep the site going perhaps for profit so the clean look is not there. Descriptions and instructions are better that the other sites but relies on the code being already written and the user or would be programmer to try this code. On the plus side you can modify the code and observe the output on a browser simulator. Codecademy also provides you the ability to modify the code if fact it encourages you to write it from scratch hopefully your solutions will match theirs.
Hurricane Electric is the newest one I have tried, it again has a clean uncluttered look with no advertisements but there is no project description and no question, just copy this parrot fashion and you will learn to code. Unfortunately, whilst you will attain high scores by using this site it’s seem’s to me at least that this course is a stepping stone to further learning, rather than a tool that can teach you another language.