Online Coding Classes for Kids- Do They Work?

Published by UCode Research on May 25, 2022

 

Online Coding Classes For Kids – Do They Work? Let’s find out. The Covid-`9 pandemic has propelled us into the age of learning online. Kids and parents are now familiar with platforms like Zoom, Google Classroom, and Teams. And there has been a lot of discussion around online learning in general and its effectiveness for kids. We want to share with you the conclusions that we have arrived at after two years of thinking, testing, and operating online classes. The results will surprise you.

Here is how we have organized the article, in case you want to skip around:

  1. Context
  2. How To Select An Online Coding Course
  3. Class Design
  4. In Person vs. In Screen
  5. Best Online Coding Courses

 

Context

As a starting point in our discussion on Online Coding Classes For Kids – Do They Work? I wanted to share a bit about UCode. I do this so that you understand our experience and our  biases (actually we are pretty upfront about stating our biases).  We have been teaching kids to code since 2009 – actively teaching kids to code in schools, camps, labs and online. We have run programs in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Hang Zhou, Taipei, Berlin, Ithaca NY, Los Angeles, Mexico, Costa Rica, Saudi Arabia.  We run in-person and online classes using the same instructors and same curricula. So, we have data on the effectiveness of curricula taught online and in person in our centers and camps. We can compare the two methods of instruction.

So, which is better? On-line or in-person? The answer is that it depends. Read on.

 

How To Select An Online Coding Course

With covid and the explosion in online learning, there are a lot of people and companies that have begun to teach coding to kids online. Many of these are people who know how to program, but not how to teach. Others know how to teach, but not how to program. There are a lot very ordinary providers and some you should avoid.

The point we are making is that a course that is not effective is not effective either online or in-person. So, what makes a course effective? How to choose? What do you look for? Here are some critical features of any effective course:

  • Curriculum Based – I cannot stress how important curriculum is to the learning process. A great curriculum can make up for an average teacher, but not the other way around. No formal curriculum? How can you assess learning? Project based? Great for older students with well-developed abstraction skills, but not for younger learners.
  • Integrated – The curriculum must be integrated – built concept by concept. Moving from one course to another must provide consistency. This is the issue with Udemy, Coursera, Khan – the curriculum is developed piecemeal by different “experts”. It doesn’t tie together.
  • Age Appropriate – Reading ability must be matched to the coding curriculum. Children learn differently than adults as they do not have an adult’s abstraction skills. Age, abstraction ability and reading level must all be appropriate. It’s never fun if you do not understand.
  • Student Led – Students must work at their own pace with the support of an instructor. Good programs are not instructor led and the do not teach to the slowest student in the classroom.
  • Assessed – Courses and learning must be formally assessed.

The above are the fundamentals that you should look for in any effective program or course. If you do not see them then run, run, run.

I would like to speak a moment about the importance of curriculum and being what we call “curriculum based”.  Helping your kids learn coding at an early age is probably one of the best things you can do for them. But it requires a “plan” and in education that plan is called the curriculum. Why is this important? Because learning to code is like learning a musical instrument. You need technique – which is the basic computer science concepts – and kids  need practice.  The “plan” makes sure that there are no gaps in technique and that the practice is integrated in a way that is effective. If there is no curriculum, there can be no assessment. Is your kid really learning what he needs? How do you know with no measurement? Well, you don’t.

 

Class Design or Pedagogy

Pedagogy makes a difference. You could argue that it makes a difference in both methods of instruction – online coding classes for kids or in-person coding classes. What we mean by pedagogy specifically is how the instructor chooses to present the material to students and then interact with them. Course material has traditionally been “taught” by “teachers” who lead the class or discussion. It has proven a cost-effective method to communicate course material to a large group of students and is the tried-and-true pedagogy in our public-school systems.

Teacher-led classes do not work particularly well online.  That is because the teacher is teaching to the slowest kids in the class and kids learn at different speeds. If you are sitting in a classroom there is no escape, but online your Facebook page, Tik Tok and Line are just a click away. It is just too easy to be distracted as Ms. Green drones on at the front of the room.

Good programs that teach kids coding, must allow students to work at their own pace with the support of an instructor.

 

In Person vs. In Screen Coding Classes

Ok. So what is better, in-person or online for teaching kids to code? Here is what we know:

  • 1:1 instruction is equally effective for both in-person and online instruction. It does not matter how old the student is (assuming they can read at a 2nd-grade reading level) as either of the two instructional methods works well.
  • Online small group classes for students in grade levels 2nd to 5th are not effective for many students. We are not seeing the learning outcomes from small group classes online for students in 5th grade or lower. These are classes of 3-4 students and many simply need too much support. Clearly, the older they are the less support they need.
  • Online small group classes for students in grade levels 6th to 12th are very effective. In fact,  small group classes online for students in grade levels 6th to 12th seem almost as effective as individual instruction. Why? Phantom learning- students are listening to the interactions between the teacher and other students and absorb the material that way.

 

Best Online Coding Classes for Kids

But what are the three best coding classes for kids online? Programming is one of the most monetarily beneficial careers a person can pick. Here are three sites that have the best online coding classes for kids.

  1. UCode

We have a very different approach to teaching online coding for kids. First, we use a combination of high-quality instructional videos and we combine that with live instructional support.  We integrate the videos, live instruction, quizzes, coding exercises, and project steps into a learning management system that you can access anytime you want. This allows kids to work on their own outside of class. It also allows us to track and measure learning progress.

Our approach is extremely beginner-friendly in that we focus students on the fundamental concepts of programming. The course material is specifically tailored toward kids who are studying coding for the first time. We use simple non-technical language and focus on mastering fundamentals. Oh, and did I mention that access to course materials, quizzes, exercises and projects is Free? FREE. Instruction is sold separately on a simple pay-as-you-go basis. No monthly subscriptions. No hassles. More learning and less cost.

http://www.ucode.com

https://www.ucode.com/courses/coding-classes-for-high-school-students

  1. Codewizards

We like Codewizards (www.codewizardshq.com). Why? Because they have invested in curriculum and have good programs and experienced instructors.  They offer live instruction via Zoom or similar. But they are very expensive. That is the only negative about them.

  1. Juni Learning

 If you are looking for individual instruction, we can recommend Juni Learning at www.junilearning.com. They were started by some Stanford grads, but that doesn’t really impress me as David and I both went to Stanford and Scott is a PHD candidate in AI at USC. They are solid but very expensive. UCode individual instruction is half the price.

 

Online Coding Courses Not Really for Kids

The next three resources are not classes as they do not have live instruction and they are not really for kids. But if you have a teenager in high school it may be ok.

Coursera

Coursera is one of the most popular websites on the internet to support learning. There are thousands of courses from the top universities around the world. The best part about Coursera is that you get certifications for every course that you complete. This means that your kids will have proof that they completed a certain course from the same professors teaching the course in universities like Harvard, Yale, and Oxford. However, in order to get the most out of Coursera, you will have to pull out the credit card for your kids. A lot of the courses are locked behind a paywall and a very big one, for that matter. Other than that, the free courses won’t give your kids a certification, which is kind of defeats the whole purpose of using Coursera.

Udemy

Udemy is a great alternative to Coursera, which gives you a bit of a beginner’s perspective into the art of coding. Udemy’s courses are a lot more user-friendly and optimized for individuals that are completely new to coding. This is what makes the courses here great as online coding courses for kids. Udemy also gives out certifications, but they might not be as prestigious as the certificates from Coursera. Most of the decent courses on Udemy are paid, but the prices are not nearly as high as Coursera. If you just signed up to the site, you’ll get most of the popular courses at a bargain price of $12. But, even if there’s no discount, you’ll still get a lot cheaper courses.

 

Some UCode Courses You Might Want to Look At

 

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