My first time: What happened after I joined a programming course on Codecademy

Influenced by the general public debate surrounding the digital revolution, I have been curious about learning to code for a long time. You know, because “software is eating the world”. More specifically, I want to avoid a future scenario in which I might regret having ignored the opportunity while it was there. Also I expect to get a deeper understanding of the rules and limitations of software as well as of the challenges that come with the connected age.

After a long time of mental back and forth I finally decided to go for it. At the beginning of January I joined Codecademy and enrolled in the Python beginner course. I chose Python because it is quite a popular language and allegedly comparatively easy to learn.

So far, I have completed 42 % of the course, and I spent about 7 hours in total, distributed over 14 sessions of mostly somewhere between 20 and 40 minutes each. I try to do at least 4 sessions a week. Codecademy lets you choose the pace freely. However, I figured the lower the frequency, the less of what I learn will stick. That of course applies to any new skill one learns.

Code

So how did it go so far? Here is my report:

  • Even after about seven hours of following the course I am still highly motivated. In fact, I might be more motivated now than in the beginning. Codecademy does a great job at allowing learners to experience moments of success early on, which increases the likelihood that they won’t give up. This is the type of philosophy the language learning app Duolingo is based on, as well.
  • Codecademy is so good at instantly increasing the learner’s self-confidence that at one point I actually asked myself whether I might be an undiscovered natural talent in programming. I am aware of the presumptuousness of this thought – which went away quickly once things got a bit more complicated. Yet, it shows that the service is built on a solid, effective pedagogic foundation.
  • What has given me most pleasure so far is when I managed to solve a seemingly tricky problem by myself. Sometimes, it can take quite a while, and comes with a heavy load of frustration. A couple of times I had to give up and take a break from a task until the day after. But when I looked at the task and the code again next time, I suddenly managed to fix the problem. Whenever this happens, the rewarding feeling of accomplishment is priceless.
  • I am approaching the “halftime” of the course. It gets noticeably harder now. The explanations of the various steps are not as detailed anymore. A couple of times I was forced to “cheat”, meaning I looked on the web for the solution. But I keep my ambition of trying to solve everything myself as often as possible.
  • While I have never done serious programming, I realize that I benefit from my general experience as an interested observer of the digitization and creator of digital content. A basic understanding of web technology, HTML, WordPress formatting and so on ensures that coding in Python does not feel like a completely alien activity.
  • With each new unit, my admiration of software developers grows. I look at the tiny code I wrote and I see how little it does when executed. Then I realize how incredibly complex the software must be that powers each aspect of our lifes, and that each and every line of code of these software systems has been written (and understood) by a human.

I am committed to finish this course. But the second half of it will undoubtedly take much longer time to get through. I silently hope that the tasks won’t get too complicated, fearing I might lose motivation as soon as this happens.

To everyone who plays with the thought of learning at least the basics of a programming language I’d recommend this Python class on Codecademy. It’s a lot of fun actually and feels like a fantastic way to get rid of some limiting belief such as “coding is not for me”. At least in basic teams, it probably is for many. As often when it comes to online classes in particular, the real requirement aside from time is the right attitude: You need to be curious, open minded and, most importantly, willing to grow.

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