Three places journalism students can learn code this summer

By Elise Schmelzer
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Basic understanding of HTML and CSS coding are irreplaceable tools in any journalist's toolbox and a fantastic reason for employers to choose you above other qualified job candidates. Though the languages may seem a tangle of confusing letters and symbols, they can become a gateway to beautiful web pages and applications with a little work.

Though many universities offer classes in web coding, students don't always have the cash or time in their schedule to devote to an official class. Luckily, the Internet provides a wealth of options accessible without a university class. I've outlined some of the best below in no particular order. Each option has its own pros and cons, but all offer a path to coding literacy.


Cost: Free
Available Programs: JavaScript, HTML, CSS, PHP, Python, Ruby, APIs

Founded by Zach Sims and Ryan Bubinski during their college years at Columbia University, Codecademy is a free online program that allows for self-paced learning. The site only requires your email to sign up, or you can connect your Facebook to your Codecademy so you can track your progress and compare it to your friends'. Though many other online courses rely on reading or video tutorials, this program focuses on learning by doing as lessons walk students through the lines of code. In my experience with Codecademy, I found that the lessons were quick, painless and easy to remember. The site helps the student work through lots of small problems and
then prompts the student to apply everything they've learned in the smaller lessons to a larger, self-directed project.

Code School

Cost: $25/month
Available Programs: JavaScript, HTML, CSS, Ruby, iOS

Code School's video-based system is fast-paced and challenging, and not as light-hearted as Codecademy. Each 15-minute instructional video is accompanied by a DIY section to practice the skills you've learned.  Along with its main programs, Code School also offers smaller courses, or "electives," on programs such as Git, R, and DevTools. Though most courses were created with the beginning coder in mind, some are geared for those with previous experience. Though there are a few lessons available for free, the majority of classes require the $25/month membership fee. There are rewards for completing certain lessons, such as gift cards to Code School or other online education tools.  


Cost: $25-$49/month
Available Programs: JavaScript, HTML, CSS, Ruby, iOS, jQuery, PHP, Android

Much like Code School, Treehouse begins each lesson with a video followed by a practice session. While Code School has a consistent teacher and format to its videos, Treehouse incorporates videos from a variety of instructors and its videos are not strictly instructional -- some touch on aspects of design and startup business that other online coding schools don't. Treehouse takes a child-like, animated approach to learning and includes lots of cartoons and simple instructions to make the experience as painless as possible.

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