Talking tech since 2003

Back in February, I looked at Codecademy as a way to learn programming. Codecademy does a nice job organizing its various lessons and projects into tracks, and at the time, I was impressed with the whole setup. After a couple of weeks, though, I fell off the learning wagon. The loosely-connected courses were often put together by different instructors, resulting in a change to the tone and approach of the lesson as well as the assumed knowledge you were to have going in.

treehouse-shotCodecademy’s presentation style also didn’t match up with my learning style. I typically need to see, hear and try things all at the same time to really absorb them. I found it easy to lose focus when having to read lesson after lesson, and after a while, the whole process became a lot less fun.

Treehouse, which recently redesigned its entire experience, takes a different approach. Its courses are also organized into tracks, consisting of “Deep Dives” (in-depth looks at concepts) and Projects (where Treehouse guides you on building something yourself). Much like Codecademy, there’s a bit of gamification going on — completing lessons will earn you points and badges, which are displayed on your user profile page. Treehouse added another neat twist, as well: obtaining a certain number of points will unlock a chapter of The Arrival, a fictional video series created by the company.

Where Treehouse really differs from Codecademy, however, is in its teaching approach. You aren’t just reading lessons and sitting in a code editor the whole time. You actually don’t have to read anything if you don’t want to. Treehouse does most of its teaching through scripted videos. The videos have a very professional feel to them, transitioning back and forth between the teacher who’s speaking and what they’re doing on their screens. Much like sitting in a real classroom, it helps tremendously to watch someone coding something while explaining what he or she is doing.

When learning on the site, you can jump seamlessly from a practice coding session to the next video, to another video, to a quiz, and so on. It all blends together very well. If you anticipate being without an Internet connection and you still want to keep up with your learning, the company provides download links for all its videos as well as project files from its lessons, allowing you to continue without having to visit the site. You will be missing out on the practice sessions and quizzes by going this route, but you can always come back to them later.

Treehouse packs a number of different learning tracks into its offering, everything from Web design to mobile development. A subscription starts at $25 per month, and another option exists at $50 per month that gives you access to Treeviews (a video series where Treehouse peers review your work) as well as exclusive content and interviews. If you give it a shot, tell us what you think of it.

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