Code School – A Review

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Over the Christmas period I completed the Shaping up with Angular JS online course offered by Code School. I chose the course because it is free, and there is a direct link to it on the angular js website, so I thought it must be good. Watching videos is generally not my preferred form of learning, as I don’t like the set pace of learning and prefer to have more control over how I learn Go Here. However, a peek at the videos persuaded me to give them a try. It looked like a fun course.

Which brings me to my first observation, which probably extends to Code School’s other courses in general – the course is indeed good fun.

In my younger and perhaps more cynical days, I didn’t appreciate attempts to mix humour with education. I read Head First Design Patterns around ten years ago and didn’t like it. I found the jokes distracting and cheesy. However, more recently I have softened this view somewhat, and actually enjoyed the occasional jokes thrown in by the course tutor, Gregg Pollack.

The lessons in this course take the student through the process of building a very simple application, which is essentially as simple as it could possibly be whilst demonstrating a few of the key capabilities of Angular. The application is ‘The Flatlanders Gem Store’, and at several points throughout the course you are treated to a short song:

“The flatlanders need a store, to sell their gems and more, and they need it really quick, angular will do the trick.” – cheesy Code School song.

If I had read about this prior to taking on the course, I probably wouldn’t have bothered with it. It sounds horrendously cheesy, but somehow it works. It is intentionally cheesy, to the point where it is actually amusing. If you do take this course, I can guarantee you will know the song off by heart by the time you complete it.

Pollack is an engaging teacher. He explains concepts clearly and does not have one of those incredibly boring voices that I often come across in programming tutorial videos. I like the fact that you can actually see him in the corner of the screen as he talks. It makes the learning process a little more personal than the more common voice-over approach.

But what of the actual course content? I found it to be adequate for an introduction, and the pace was about right. It is clearly aimed at people who have no prior experience with Angular, which was perfect for me. You are introduced to the basic concepts: directives, controllers, data binding, modules and so on. Each feature is explained at an elementary level, with examples. The course gives a web developer who is familiar with JavaScript enough of an understanding of Angular to make a start on developing simple applications.

The only let down on this course was the feature which had the most potential to make it great. At the end of each lesson, you are invited to complete some simple challenges, by writing some HTML and javascript using the knowledge you have just acquired. This is a fantastic idea, and one which Pluralsight lacks. You are presented with a code editor on the left of the screen, a preview of the browser output on the right, and as you type your solution, it is assessed in real time and if you get it right you are rewarded with a success message and some points to add to your overall score. Or at least that is the idea. However, on several occasions I found that even though I had typed a correct solution, I was still being told that it was incorrect. I could only get my solution approved by removing some or all whitespace from my code. Once I realised this was the issue, it wasn’t so much of a problem. However, it was quite frustrating initially as I tried to figure out what was wrong with my solution.

Would I use Code School again? I probably would on the condition that they fixed this issue. Their approach is so close to being fantastic, but just falls short. I would certainly use their courses again if the content offered was free, but I would expect the code editor bug to be fixed in return for the monthly subscription fee of $29 (the same as Pluralsight). In terms of the number of courses on offer, Pluralsight clearly has an advantage over Code School, which is still young in comparison, but in terms of delivery, I would choose Code School for its more light hearted, fun and personal approach. The Shaping up with Angular course is a very basic introduction to Angular, however a follow up course entitled Staying Sharp With Angular is apparently coming soon. When this course is released, if I can receive some assurance that the code editor bug has been fixed, then I will quite possibly sign up, and then suspend my subscription once I have completed the course.

In summary – well done Code School on bringing some fun into learning programming, and offering some good free content. Now go fix that bug!

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  • Andre Varandas

    Hi Ronnie Mukherjee, thanks for sharing, found this really helpful. I was looking for something like this site. Best regards

  • Hello Ronnie,

    This is really useful codeschool review. But codeschool is recently acquired by pluralsight. So codeschool and pluralsight comparison is not valid. Codeschool is also offer first month trial:

    • Hi Tanvir,

      You’re right!

      Funnily enough I posted this just a couple of weeks before the announcement.

      I’m looking forward to seeing how things develop between the two!