The internet is a wonderful and horrible place, and I have long felt compelled to make my mark on it (hopefully for the better). I used to have a Geocities site. I took a class in community college where I learned the fundamentals of HTML. I still have my copy of HTML Goodies, which was a fantastic reference book in its time for newbies like me.
Every few years, I feel the urge to dive into creating websites again. This very site is the result of one such urge. Nowadays, anyone with an internet connection can build a website using WordPress or another content management system (CMS). You can download themes and change colors and fonts. But what if you want to go deeper? You are going to need some training. And thankfully, in this age of technology, there are resources for learning web development, just like Codecademy.
I was “ready” for Ready
I was emailed an invitation to join the pilot program of Codecademy/Ready, a course (like a boot camp) designed to give you a running start into web development over 8 “intense” weeks. I was psyched! I had the time, I had the money and I had the inspiration. Codecademy Ready came at the perfect time for me to give it my all and learn some web development. The program offered 2 weeks to try it and if I wasn’t satisfied, I could get a full refund. No risk!
Time investment: 8 weeks
Cost (with pilot program discount): $250
Each week consists of :
- The coursework for the week
- The online interaction with other students on the Gitter IM service
- Office Hours for interacting with instructors (twice daily to accommodate students’ schedules)
- A webinar (online seminar) livestream with instructors
- A membership to Codecademy Pro
Let’s do this!!
The first week into the Ready program we were to learn the command line. I decided to do the standard Codecademy Command Line course as prep. This ended up being good practice, because the Ready program was…exactly the same as the free course already offered by Codecademy.
Well, exactly the same with one exception; my coursework for the standard Codecademy didn’t apply towards /Ready. This is what I meant by “good practice” since I had to do the same work again.
I knocked this out pretty handily and there was really nothing more to work on afterwards. It was a pretty “light” week. But Codecademy/Ready is more than just the coursework. During the week I was able to jump on Gitter and chat with other students doing the Ready course.
Gitter is a service where groups of invited members can chat in real-time to one another. It’s an instant messaging tool like Skype. This was my favorite part of the Ready course, hand’s down. Gitter was always buzzing with people asking questions about the course and offering helpful tips. I tried to contribute when I could. I liked just having the Gitter window open. It made me feel like I was part of a continuous classroom even though we were spread throughout the country.
I attended the streaming seminar and enjoyed the atmosphere. Like the gitter chat, some students were chatting in the video feed but most just watched and listened. Since there was an instructor present, I was able to voice a major concern of mine from the first week, “How is the command line useful for web development?”
Seriously. This is supposed to be a course on web development and we hadn’t even been told what the web was, or a web browser. Obviously, I already knew the answer to those questions, but many students didn’t. So I asked what the value of learning this as our first lesson was.
I was told it was “very important” and that “many things could be done faster with the command line than with a GUI (graphical user interface)”. I’m sure that’s true, but most of us know how to drag and click with a mouse. Do we really need to learn the command line first thing?
I guess we did need to learn the command line first thing, because the next thing we learned was Git. Git is a version control software program that allows you to manage different “versions” of your code. It’s great for tracking changes and rolling back if your code all of a sudden doesn’t work anymore. Git pretty much requires that you know command line interface to use it.
Git is great if you actually have code to roll back, but here at week 2 of the Ready program, we didn’t have any code. We still hadn’t been taught how to do anything at all in the web space.
At this point I was getting nervous. My two week trial period was nearing its end and I wasn’t convinced that I would benefit from the remaining six weeks based on the first two.
I immersed myself in the Git course anyway. I liked learning Git, but longed to be learning how to style a web page.
I attended the webinar and watched a course instructor demonstrate how to use Chrome Developer Tools to view and “edit” webpages online. I interjected to the class that they could not actually use this tool as a GUI web site builder, and was primarily for troubleshooting. Keep in mind that we had still not been told what HTML was. The class was confused by the demonstration, as could clearly be deduced from the comments that followed.
I reached out to one of the mentors and voiced my concern. She was very helpful and understood that Ready wasn’t challenging me yet. She offered me several links to learn more information about web development and some insight into what we would be studying in the coming weeks.
I hammered through every link she sent me and at the end I learned a lot. Most importantly, I learned…that I didn’t need the Ready program. I needed something more.
“Ready” for something more
After careful deliberation, I decided to ask for my refund, which they granted. I wrote up a polite and informative explanation of why I didn’t think the Ready program was for me. They approved the refund immediately and a few days later, the money was back in my account.
Everyone involved with Codecademy Ready was polite and knowledgeable. So why did I back out after two weeks? Why isn’t my review complete? Succinctly, I lacked confidence that the team behind Ready was going to be able to lead our group to a useful knowledge of the web development subjects on the syllabus. I knew they had the knowledge, and even a vision to teach, but something went wrong in the planning stage which trickled down to the execution stage.
Some time shortly after receiving my refund, I received an email asking to participate in a survey about what I thought about my time in the Codecademy Ready course. I figured it to be an automated email since my email address was in their database. I politely informed them that they probably didn’t want my input since I backed out of the course. I was reassured that my input would be valuable because I had not been satisfied. I was invited to partake in a 30-45 minute phone survey in exchange for an Amazon gift card. I agreed to these terms.
A meeting was scheduled and I answered every question openly and honestly to provide the best feedback possible for future Ready programs. I explained that I thought that the course started with the “wrong” information and placed too much early emphasis on non-web development (CLI, Git).
I also explained that I thought that the inclusion of Codecademy Pro with the course was especially useful, but for self-motivated individuals, that was probably a better value than the Ready course.
I enjoyed the Gitter interaction and “vibe” most, but didn’t feel that it justified the total cost just to have real-time chat with other students.
I realize that this was a pilot program and that there would be kinks. I won’t knock them for trying. I will however knock them for not making good on that Amazon gift card. After the time I spent writing detailed responses plus my time on the phone, I did expect that they would give me the promised gift card. I even emailed back a month later to remind them about (beg for) my gift card. I was ignored.
If you have any knowledge building or editing web pages, you are probably too advanced for Codecademy Ready. If you need to brush up on skills or learn some new ones, the already free Codecademy is probably sufficient.
update: after receiving a request for more feedback, I reminded the Codecademy staffer that I hadn’t received my gift card. He apologized and promptly compensated me. So he made good on my previous mistreatment.