The Mechanical MOOC and Codeacademy

This post is part of a series that expands on Dave Cormier’s Youtube video “Success in a MOOC” and applies his advice to the upcoming Mechanical MOOC about the Python programming language.  Cormier breaks down online learning success into five steps: Orient, Declare, Network, Cluster and Focus.  This post offers a quick orientation to CodeAcademy.

Happy Girl Hopscotch in Strawberry Free Creative Commons

CodeAcademy will guide you step by step in learning to program in Python.

A product of Y Combinator 2011, CodeAcademy is just over a year old, but it has already built a user-base of hundreds of thousands of people who are learning to code or teaching others.  The tool has garnered widespread media coverage and healthy start-up investments.

CodeAcademy offers course “tracks” that include instruction in JavaScript, JQuery and Python, Web Fundamentals (HTML and CSS) and “Code Year“, a curriculum which combines elements from all of these tutorials into a year-long learning challenge.  Courses are split up into small exercises, which the learner types into an in-browser text editor.    When the user clicks “run” to test the code, she gets immediate feedback.  Above the assignment box, there are links to the discussion forum, a glossary of terms and a scratch pad where the user can experiment with code outside the structure of the course track.

On each lesson page, there’s a feedback button so that the learner can report bugs and spelling mistakes or offer a review of the lesson.  Some of the JavaScript lessons have a “show hint” button to give users a little help when they’re stuck, but I haven’t seen this in the Python lessons I’ve looked at so far.

On the profile page, the learner can track how much of the course she has completed and the course milestones she has yet to accomplish.  Codeacademy awards badges for perseverance in a course, including completing a lesson or working on exercises for a certain number of days in a row.

The Codecademy profile page shows the learner’s progress toward completion of the course and milestone projects.

You’ll need a CodeAcademy account to participate, but it’s easy to set up the account using your Google, Facebook or Twitter credentials.  You can set your account profile to be public or private and share your Twitter and GitHub profiles there if you like.

The Codeacademy Terms of Service includes a generic termination clause, but doesn’t describe any behaviors that would get someone’s account shut down.  It also mentions that they plan to offer premium accounts in the future, which raises the question of continued access to your lessons, coding projects and record of accomplishment.

Instructors interested in producing courses on CodeAcademy should be aware that the site’s owner Ryzac, Inc. will retain intellectual property rights over your contributions, per the Terms of Service:

“You hereby grant us the right to own all right, title and interest (including patent rights, copyright rights, trade secret rights, mask work rights, trademark rights, sui generis database rights and all other rights of any sort throughout the world) to any and all Curriculum Contributions you make to the Website, and you hereby make all assignments necessary to accomplish the foregoing ownership.”

photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography via photopin cc


About Claudia Scholz

Higher education professional in Atlanta, GA specializing in faculty development and research administration.
This entry was posted in Learning to Code, MOOCs and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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