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Code Academy Review

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Last week I reviewed the KidCoder Series from Homeschool Programming Inc. You can read that review here. This week I wanted to compare it to Code Academy. The reason for this comparison is that we’ve tried using both and these seem to be the two most popular resources for teaching kids computer programming. This is really a tough comparison to make because they teach different computer languages. I had hoped that Code Academy would add a Visual Basic section to their options back when SWB started learning it using KidCoder. So far, no luck. Code Academy does teach HTML and CSS, jQuery, JavaScript, PHP, Python and Ruby. All of these are GREAT! But, I like starting kids with Visual Basic because it’s like starting them at the beginning in my mind. :)

I’ve used Code Academy myself. I didn’t retain most of what I learned. Not that it has bad courses, it’s just not right for my learning style. We tried using it for SWB, but it didn’t go so well. It certainly wasn’t something he could do on his own like KidCoder. I think that once SWB has mastered the KidCoder and TeenCoder courses, he will be able to handle Code Academy much better. Once he has a bit more of a background in the languages taught at Code Academy it won’t be so hard!

The way Code Academy works is you choose the language you want to learn and you can immediately start the lessons. The courses are written by different people. For me, some write much better lessons than others. Leng Lee has AWESOME lessons in HTML (there are more as well). The definitions and steps are really clearly written and simple enough to follow. I didn’t have a whole lot of trouble with that one. In fact, I learned quite a bit! Plus, if you make an account, you can track your progress and score. That one is HUGE for us homeschoolers. You can login once a week and check up on your kid’s progress and see if they really should go back and retry a section. Or that they may need some outside source to help them learn more about their problem area/s. 

Java was another story entirely. Not enough practice or instruction. For me. I’m a complete novice when it comes to Java. I do have a little HTML background, but even if I didn’t, I think I would have been able to follow the course with little trouble. Once SWB is a bit older, I do want him to take the HTML course at Code Academy.

Code Academy has a really awesome Mission Statement on their site. Basically, they want to completely reinvent education. They believe that the US school system is totally outdated and flawed. They are absolutely correct! And some pretty big names agree. Code Academy is free, and ad-free, because of their benefactors. Richard Branson or Founder Collective ring any bells? Like I said, big names. ;) Check out their About page to read their full Mission Statement and to see a list of benefactors. It’s pretty impressive!

If I had to put a general age range on the courses at Code Academy, I’d say it’s more high school and beyond. Definitely not for kids. I was hopeful about the Code Academy After School program. But it’s really just setting up a club for kids to join. You use the Code Academy courses, it’s just in a group setting. Maybe if it worked better with our way of learning, but it doesn’t. So I can’t really comment on the effectiveness. There are some teachers on there that really like it! And they can’t all be wrong, so it has to work really well for a lot of people.

When I took a course there I had some problems and went to the forums for help. It wasn’t much help with some of my issues. I was able to find the answers I needed for a few things, though! But, for the most part, I didn’t get many answers. That’s one of the flaws of Code Academy for me. There needs to be a better way to get assistance. With it being free, I’m not sure how they would be able to go about that without having staff that is solely for monitoring the forums. And I don’t expect them to do that with something that’s free! I think free things should be appreciated for what they are. That’s why I’m willing to pay for a program. Especially when it’s something I KNOW I’m going to need a lot of help and guidance to do.

To wrap it all up, I think Code Academy is GREAT. For older students. Especially if their learning style jives well with it. I don’t know if we need more visual aspects or what. I’m still going to recommend KidCoder and TeenCoder because they’re just awesome programs. For us, they give us that visual and audio we need. Most importantly, there is help if you need it. I wish it was possible for Code Academy to do that, but I in no way expect that from a free program. And I don’t think anyone SHOULD expect that from them. 

Bottom line: give Code Academy a try! If it works for you, AWESOMESAUCE!! If not, well you’re only out your time. 

Have you used Code Academy? Did it work for you? I would absolutely LOVE to hear your success story in the comments. Feel free to link to your review if you have one! I’d also like to know if it didn’t work out for you. What do you think it was that was lacking?

3 Comments

  1. Thanks for the review. I know these programs will be ones my son would be interested in when he gets a little older so it’s good to know the pros and cons of each. I love it when I can find something for free but I do miss the support.

    • Me too! Free is always awesome in my book. ;) Teaching computer programming to kids just isn’t an area that I’m really comfortable doing on my own and that’s kind of how I felt at Code Academy. But it’s still a FANTASTIC site!!

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