My Codecademy review

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As a beginner Computer Science student, I decided that I wanted to have an idea of programming before I started going to school. Many people referred me to Codecademy to start out. While I have not completed all of the programs, I have completed several. Here is my review:

The details

Codecademy is a website that offers free coding classes in programming languages Python, PHP, jQuery, JavaScript, and Ruby, as well as markup languages including HTML and CSS and how to build APIs. It is designed around the absolute beginner, and assumes the user knows absolutely nothing about the language it is teaching. For example, the first lesson for JavaScript asks you to type your name in quotations. It will teaches you the basic structures of the different languages as you progress, and in some cases (HTML and CSS + JavaScript), how they work together.

You will learn about data types and variables, math and comparison operators, all the way up to objects and classes. You will come to understand the differences between the languages, and what the difference is between a Markup language and an interpreted language.

If you follow the guides, you should be able to make yourself a basic website with decent functionality. While it is not a replacement for a years worth of study and coding, it is a first step in the right direction. Once you have completed the lessons, there is an option called Codebits to start taking what you have learned and writing your own ‘bits of code’.

The Good

If you are an absolute beginning programer, Codecademy is a great introduction to the structures of programming. You will learn the basics of the languages you study. While it will not cover EVERYTHING, it will guide you through the things that will start you on your way. You can take the information you learn here and then build on it. If you are going to school, you will have a solid foundation when your teacher references an array or a class.

Another advantage to Codecademy is that you see the fruits of your labor as you code. This is helpful to correct mistakes and experiment to try ‘what-ifs’ on the code to see what the result will be, sometimes real time.

The best thing that Codecademy has to offer is the Q & A forums. If you are ever stuck or just have a question, there is a forum for every module, of every lesson. Whenever you are not sure what to do, or what the Instructions are asking you to do, there is always someone to help you out. Other people have been stuck on the same module as you, so someone has probably asked the question. If not, you can always post a question yourself. You can even post your code for others to point out your mistakes. You will usually get an answer fairly quickly.

The Bad

Unfortunately, this website has some serious drawbacks. The first is the structure of the modules. Most training programs will start with a ‘Hello World’ program. This is designed to teach you the overall structure of the programming language and then build as you go. Codecademy does things a bit different for languages like JavaScript. It teaches individual lessons and then eventually puts the lessons together in a cohesive structure, where the PHP follows the more traditional route. I understand there are different teachers for the different lessons, but when you are learning, consistency matters.

Some of the other issues I had while taking the courses are that the Instructions were sometimes hard to understand. Many times I had to go to the Q&A Forums, just to find out what was being asked of me. Also, the biggest issue I found was that the lessons did not follow the strict guidelines of the language. It would say I passed a module with missing semi-colons, improperly declaring variables, and I even skipped an entire objective of the Instructions once, and it allowed me to just go on to the next lesson.

Finally, the website itself is sometimes hard to navigate. If you have posted a thread on the forums and want to go back, it is not that easy to find without knowing the exact module you posted on. Finding the Codebits can be tough as well. The design changed and it used to be easier to just write some code using the languages the site offers.

Summary

Codecademy is a good learning experience for someone who is just starting out and trying to learn about programming. It can also help in understanding individual topics within the language. While it will not qualify you to get a job as a programmer, it will give you a good foundation towards being a good coder. Go through the program. Ask questions in the forums. Answer other peoples questions or try to figure out where they may have gone. You might be surprised at how much you have learned. Then you and create some codebits and share them with the world, by Twitter, Facebook or Email.

Author

Michael Day

Long time coding noob, who finally decided to take this thing seriously. Going back to school starting in October '14.

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6 Comments

  1. Gabak June 12, 2014 at 11:04 pm

    Is there other place better than this one?
    Is it 100% this code academy ?

    • theNoobCoder June 13, 2014 at 8:48 am

      There are some that cost money, but if you want to go free I generally recommend watching YouTube video series from TheNewBoston and if you want PHP, Eli The Computer Guy

  2. Joey Graziano June 17, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    @theNoobCoder, see if your school will provide access to Lynda.com. That is another well organized video training program that will give you access to the code of each course. That has personally helped me more than anything.

    • theNoobCoder June 24, 2014 at 12:31 am

      Oddly enough I do have access to Lynda.com. I found out just last week that my work offers it as part of the benefits package. Access to the code makes these videos VERY good. Once I go through a few of the videos I will probably write a review on that site.

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