Codeacademy teaches programming; might be revolutionary
If you’re like me, your New Year’s resolution probably involves a few extra sessions on the treadmill at the YMCA. But if you’re looking for mental exercise to complement the physical, check out Codeacademy.com.
Codeacademy provides free, simple lessons on the basics of programming. Learning a little about programming, even if you don’t intend to do it for a living, is a useful tool that can be a quick boost to anyone’s resumé or knowledge toolkit.
As a programmer, my assessment of the difficulty of the course might be suspect, but I promise it’s about as easy as it can be. There are clear instructions, good feedback, and did I mention it’s free?
The revolutionary element comes in when you dig a little deeper. The data Codeacademy gathers can be used to get real insight into the art of learning, and that’s where things get interesting on a larger scale.
When we incorporate A/B testing into Codeacademy’s short, quiz-like structure, you can get an amazing wealth of data on how people learn. A/B testing, if you don’t know, is just a comparison between two things. In this case, Codeacademy can give one question to some of its users, another question to the rest and monitor the results.
If version A of the question has an 80 percent success rate and version B has a 40 percent success rate, we can assume the wording and instructions for version A will get better results for the majority.
This is a little over-simplified, but there’s not a whole lot more to it on this level.
When we extend this over time and to a large enough audience, Codeacademy’s tests gradually can get simpler, meaning more and more people can share in learning the material. They can also take the things they’ve learned from their data and apply them to other subjects.
Codeacademy’s real innovation is their ability to improve the quality of education across the board. Take their model and apply it to Spanish class in high school. By using data gathered over time, we should be able to improve the quality of education offline as well as online (if that distinction even exists a few years from now).
If you’ll follow me a few more steps down the rabbit hole, consider that I signed up for Codeacademy with my Facebook account, meaning Codeacademy can see my profile and other personal information I allow. Given that data, Codeacademy could theoretically make a personalized learning profile for me based on my background.
It may seem a little too “Big Brother” for some, but look at it this way. College graduates might learn differently than high school dropouts. Age can affect how you learn. Sports backgrounds can give you an advantage here and there.
All of the nuances we carry around have an impact on our preferred method of learning, and Codeacademy’s data combined with social networking profiles mean we might be at the doorstep of a real educational revolution.
Or maybe it’s just an easy way to learn to program. Either way, keep an eye on the emerging Web-based educational offerings. There’s moving and shaking going on.
Original article written by Jesse Bushkar for The Savannah Morning News