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December 25, 2011 / carlispina

Practice JavaScript with Codeacademy

 My previous post discussed a resource for practicing Java and Python, but these are far from the only languages that can be practiced for free online. Codeacademy is a relatively new resource for practicing JavaScript for free in your browser. Currently, Codeacademy offers three lessons.  For absolute beginners, the “Getting Started with Programming” lesson is geared towards those with no prior programming experience. As such, it starts from very basic concepts and builds on these concepts over the course of 8 lessons with a total of 42 exercises. For those with experience in other programming languages, the “JavaScript Quick Start Guide” assumes some knowledge of programming concepts and therefore covers more material in its 8 lessons and 45 exercises. Finally, there is a separate lesson called “Functions in JavaScript” that specifically focuses on writing and understanding JavaScript functions.

In each of the lessons, exercises require students to make use of what they have learned to write and run code in their browser. Upon successful completion of an exercise, students advance to the next topic and exercise. Along the way, students can earn badges reflecting completion of exercises and mastery of lessons.  As someone with prior JavaScript experience, completing all three lessons only took a couple of hours, but beginners would likely move through the lessons more slowly. The topics covered hit on the major topics in JavaScript and provide a solid background for learning more advanced concepts and using JavaScript in projects. Each lesson includes the option to send feedback, which is helpful given that Codeacademy is still a work in progress. While I found that it ran well overall, I did notice a couple of minor issues that might cause initial confusion. Given these issues and the number of possible solutions to some of the exercises, it would be helpful if students could also see the ideal solution, but currently that doesn’t seem to be possible.

While Codeacademy currently offers lessons only in JavaScript, there are plans to add lessons in Ruby and Python in the near future. And, those who already know computer programming can sign up for the Codeacademy Teacher Beta which allows experienced programmers to create courses on the platform in a variety of languages. In preparation for upcoming lessons and to give students a chance to practice what they have learned on Codeacademy and elsewhere, the service launched the new Labs feature a couple of days ago. Labs allows students to write and run Ruby, Python and JavaScript “without downloading a code editor or IDE”. For each language, Labs provides example code and allows students to download the code that they write or share it via Twitter, Facebook or a URL. Even better, Labs doesn’t require an internet connection, so it can be used anywhere. The service has a lot to offer for those who want to learn or practice JavaScript and with the addition of Labs, it is likely to become a popular tool for those teaching themselves Ruby and Python as well.

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