It wasn’t too long ago that if you wanted to learn how to code, you either had to major in computer science in college or at the very least, pick up a fairly expensive book. Thanks to the App Store and the developers who make it grow, there are apps that offer completely free and extensive learning tools so you can be on your way to building the next big thing in software.
Two of the top choices are Codecademy and Code School. Both of these iOS apps are free and offer fairly different approaches to teaching code. Ultimately, it comes down to this question: which has the better approach and the more comprehensive education to provide?
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Codecademy is Hands-On, Code School Teaches Through Video
The fundamental difference between Codecademy and Code School is the approach each one takes to teaching code. Codecademy is extremely hands-on and there’s very little reading or watching involved. Every step of the way, the app instructs you to learn as you go by coding a little bit here and there starting with the very basics.
The Code School app, on the other hand, is largely just a collection of videos that you watch in chapters to build up your knowledge of code. There’s no coding in the app whatsoever, just the educational videos usually about five to 10 minutes in length each. They’re well-made and interesting enough to keep your attention, but do require that you set some time aside to give your full devotion. Codecademy is easier for a quick lesson on the go.
Codecademy’s sections are a part of what it calls Code Hour, which is the basis for the whole app. Code Hour vows to teach anyone the essentials for coding in under an hour.
Codecademy is Quicker and Easier, but Less Comprehensive
The major benefit of Codecademy over Code School is its ease of use. The learning technique is flexible enough that you can whip out your iPhone just about anywhere and pick up where you left off in a Code Hour session. Type in some lines of code, fill in some blanks here and there while learning along the way, then save the rest for later.
Since Code School’s primary teaching format is through video, you need either access to headphones or a quiet place to listen and concentrate. The app is basically just a collection of videos and it’s your job to absorb the knowledge and work with it yourself either as you watch or at a later point.
Codecademy forces you to apply the knowledge as you’re learning. For example, if you’re learning about an H1 tag in Codecademy, chances are you read a sentence or two about what it does. Underneath that is a code example where you’d insert an H1 tag on your own and run the code to watch your code spring to life instantly. Codecademy tells you if you’re wrong or right and how to fix the problem should you be the former.
While the intuitive hands-on format of Codecademy gives it some points in this face-off, Code School picks up the slack when it comes down to the fine details. More often than not, one of Code School’s 10-minute video “classes” is teaching you more about code than 10 minutes of running through steps and typing out code in Codecademy.
Again, Code School’s videos are brilliantly executed. Even though you aren’t doing hands-on work, the lessons are dense enough to fill your mind.
Code School Has More to Teach You… for a Price
Take the name very literally. Code School is basically a school, except the courses are exclusively available through short videos. There’s plenty of them though and each one has plenty to offer you as a student.
Unfortunately for Codecademy’s Code Hour, you should also take that name very literally. The app only has about an hour’s worth of content in it and it’s just about impossible to learn everything you need to know about code in a single hour – regardless of whether you’re designing a simple web page or creating an app from the ground up.
It’s a shame Codecademy couldn’t fit more into the app. It has plenty to offer and is a phenomenal resource for learning and applying code extremely quickly. But for the bulk of what you should know, you have to use the desktop website at codecademy.com.
The Code Hour app touches on data types, variables, comparisons, if-else statements, HTML and designing a website – but all very briefly. If the entire Codecademy website – which has thorough resources very much on par with Code School’s – was available for your iPhone, the app would win this competition by a landslide.
You can stream (or save offline) all of Code School’s videos on your iPhone, which makes mobile learning far more comprehensive. However, unlike Codecademy, Code School comes at a cost: $29 per month. Some of the videos are available for free and they teach you the basics, but the rest are for subscribers only. This subscription also unlocks “challenges” and screencasts on Code School’s website but those aren’t accessible in app either.
Ultimately, both apps disappoint on what they deliver in their apps versus what requires a desktop computer, but Code School gets the slight edge here.
Winner: Code School
It all comes down to the mobile experience: which app teaches code more effectively and has more to offer right in the palm your hand? The answer is Code School. Codecademy’s hands-on approach is undeniably terrific and it’s hard to beat the price of free, but Code School’s videos are wonderfully inclusive and cover a wide range of coding languages and topics. If you choose to enroll, you get even more of them.