Practice Ruby with RubyMonk
Another resource for practicing programming online is RubyMonk, a free resource designed by c42 Engineering for learning and practicing Ruby. RubyMonk currently includes 6 lessons (for a total of 54 exercises) on increasingly complicated facets of Ruby programming with additional lessons listed as coming soon on the site. In addition to the exercises included with each lesson, the site also provides problems that require students to use their knowledge of multiple topics covered in the exercises to write code that will solve a specified problem. Both exercises and problems can be written and run in the browser with no need for a separate text editor or IDE. Students can proceed anonymously without signing in, though most will probably find the lessons too lengthy to complete in a single sitting and would benefit from the ability to use a Google, Twitter or Github account to sign in and save progress.
While RubyMonk does aim to teach Ruby through these lessons and includes explanatory text and examples, it is a bit difficult for true novices and seems geared towards those with prior Ruby experience or, at a minimum, prior programming experience in another language. However, many of the lessons include hints and solution code, so even novices could manage to work through them, albeit at a slower pace. The lessons themselves work smoothly with editing and submitting code in the browser being a quick and seamless process. And, given that RubyMonk is currently in an alpha version, it is likely to continue to change, grow and develop rapidly. This is particularly evident from the fact that users can leave feedback at any point and can even easily include screenshots of the page being commented on to illustrate the feedback. Even though more experienced programmers might find RubyMonk a bit easier to use, I think that this is a helpful tool for anyone who is interested in learning the basics of Ruby on their own.