Over the 2011 Christmas holiday, I noticed a fellow tweeter had posted information about a computer-coding project called Code Year. Code Year was attempting to get people to sign up to their online service at the start of 2012, in order to receive weekly interactive coding lessons and exercises to complete via email.

I was interested in learning more about coding (I had some brief experience of using HTML code when constructing the DMU Library Facebook page, and also when composing posts for this blog!), and hoped this may be a service to utilise to develop my skills and knowledge with all things ‘coding’ related. So, I signed up to the project. At the time of writing this post I am still awaiting the first online coding lesson to arrive in my Gmail inbox – in light of a recent Mashable headline covering Code Year, it seems a high number of participants have already signed up in a matter of a few weeks.

Intrigued by what kind of challenges Code Year may send in their first email (and also to allow me to share news regarding Code Year to DMU Library colleagues at a #MashDMU workshop in early Jan 2012!), I decided to take the plunge and sign up to the Codeacademy website. Codeacademy are the organisation behind the Code Year project, so in effect, I was fast-tacking my Code Year registration to see what interactive learning was available direct from the Codeacademy site. Registration to the Codeacademy platform was free, so I went ahead and signed up.

After a couple of days viewing the Codeacademy site, and undertaking some of the ‘beginner’ coding exercises, I can see definite value in signing up for the service and completing the online courses. The interactive element of the coding lessons is seamless and easy to understand. “Learning whilst working” (rather than reading or ploughing through pages of theory in instruction manuals) is my preferred way of developing skills – and in the context of developing my coding skills, I think this mechanism is fun and extremely valuable. I also like the ‘gaming’ element of the Codeacademy website – you can earn points/rewards/badges for completing specific coding elements or challenges. The idea of “gaming/gamers” seems to be a prevalent theme in the library sector at the moment, especially around the use of library management systems (LMS) by library patrons. Huddersfield University Library have recently released the Lemon Tree initiative – an elearning platform designed to engage users with resources etc. The manner of using levels of access to online systems, allowing users to unlock further features of the platform after successfully completing specific challenges or exercises, may be a more engaging and intuitive teaching method for organisations to employ, especially when a high % (but by no means all) of the people receiving this system(s) training are well-versed in playing on consoles and computers from an early age. The fact that you can also save your progress, log out and return to the Codeacademy site whenever suits is another plus.

Any downsides? Well, as other people on Twitter have pointed out, the lessons only cover Javascript at the moment. This will apparently be widened by Codeacademy to cover other computing language types in the near future. The Codeacademy site also appears to be not compatible with Internet Explorer (the internet browser I use the most). This is not a major negative, just means I have to use Firefox as my internet browser instead when accessing the Codeacademy tutorials.

As discussed with DMU Library colleagues at the recent #MashDMU meeting, I would definitely recommend signing up to the Codeacademy/Code Year sites. I am not yet entirely sure how many of the skills I will gain from the coding lessons will have a direct impact on my day-to-day duties at DMU, but I believe the knowledge I will develop by completing the online tutorials will be enhanced and widened by participation in the Codeacademy guides.

Happy coding!

About Mitchell Dunkley

I work in the Content Delivery Team at De Montfort University Library. I manage DMU Library's e-resources portfolio and I am involved in library systems admin, collating resource usage statistics and troubleshooting. All comments are my own.
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