My Review of Code School and Thoughts on Online Learning

March 06, 2013

Now that I have completed the majority of lessons on Codecademy I decided to head over to another online learning platform, Code School, to learn the Rails framework for the Ruby language. So far I have completed three lesson sets at Code School: Try Ruby, Try Git, and Rails for Zombies. These lessons were good, but in some places it was harder to navigate than Codecademy.

The big difference between Code School and Codecademy is that Codecademy uses only text to walk you through the lessons step by step. The instructions are available for easy reference as you move along. Code School plays a video before you try challenges that demonstrate you have mastered your material. (Though Try Git works in the same manner as Codecademy.) Since one of my weaknesses is a bad short-term memory, I found retaining all the information from the Rails for Zombies video difficult as I moved onto challenges. A friend astutely suggested I take notes during the Rails for Zombie video the way I did for class lectures in law school, and that significantly improved my retention along with giving me a nice reference as I worked on the challenges.

Unlike Codecademy Code School uses a freemium model. This means you can try free lessons and then must pay to continue to the more advanced ones. While I enjoy the fact Codecademy is free, I can accept that Code School has to pay its employees and they kindly give you a $5 certificate towards your subscription when you complete a free course. Since I am impressed with the free lessons overall, I probably will subscribe to it for a month or two.

Overall I am finding these online learning platforms great for wetting my feet in the various programming languages. I have also been refreshing my spanish using DuoLingo. I do not believe that on their own they will replace classroom type learning, in spite of the optimism of people like Tom Friedman about MOOCs and other forms of online learning I think it helps to have peers working on these things with you. It also lacks that feeling of “whoa, I did it” you get after doing a final exam or project. So after I finish learning Rails I will probably try making my own Ruby on Rails project as a personal capstone.

If you are not a computer person, or are looking to expand your programming knowledge, I recommend these online programs as good starting points. However it will be up to you to take the next steps. You can read and watch all you want, but it is up to you to take action and make these skills real.

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This work by Matt Zagaja is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.