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Learn a little programming and earn badges

October 21, 2011

If you have ever wanted to learn a little about how computer programs are written, Codeacademy would be a painless way to get your feet wet. Started by Ryan Bubinski and Zach Sims when they were students at Columbia University, the site presents a free interactive tutorial that gets you started with Javascript.

Right now there are two courses: “Getting Started with Programming” and “JavaScript Quick Start Guide” (for people who already know some programming). You can dig right in anonymously, create an account or log in with your FaceBook account.

Learning to program can be very frustrating, especially if you are not attentive to detail. If you miss a point of syntax and leave out a period you can easily get lost. The tutorial does not (yet) have a good way to give adequate feedback on errors, but it does provide hints. A non-programmer could easily get stuck at a number of points.

One exercise I particularly liked was having the user debug a few lines of code. As you complete lessons you earn badges, and your badge count appears at the top of the page. So besides being a nice little tutorial, Codeacademy is a decent example of gamification! All in all, I love the concept and believe they have done a nice job. If you get REALLY good at coding, you might end up like this:

ProfHacker reviewed the site and had pretty much the same reaction. They also mentioned a tutorial called Hackety Hack (Ruby on Rails) and the W3Schools “Try It Yourself” editor. If you think you might be good at writing this kind of tutorial, Codeacademy has a Teacher Beta program that is looking for folks to write for/with them.

Disambiguation: Codeacademy is not Code Academy, a Chicago-based training company. It is not an online university, and do you not get any kind of recognized credit for completing the “courses.”

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