CodeHS – Review 2021 – PCMag AU

High school sucks. This is a fact. But if it can teach you valuable skills, skills that help you land a sweet career, maybe it’s not so bad. CodeHS tries to make high school a better place by giving educators easy tools for integrating coding classes into their curriculums. Even if your high school days are long behind you, you can still access numerous coding lessons by using the program. However, given CodeHS’ high price and limited free content, you’re better off with Codecademy or Treehouse, our Editors’ Choice picks for coding education services, if you’re looking to learn to code outside of the school environment. 

Education for All

CodeHS offers free coding classes for both schools and single users. Schools can enroll students in the first five lessons of more than 60 courses, create assignments, and track student progress without spending taxpayer money. Individuals can only take one introductory class.  

CodeHS’s classes tackle a variety of coding subjects. One intro course teaches you how to write JavaScript and the Karel educational programming language. Karel’s initial coding metaphor, one that sees you command a dog on a grid, is kid-friendly and easy to grasp. Still, it resembles real coding more than CodeCombat’s video game version of similar concepts. The built-in text editor instantly checks code for errors, while highlighting what you did right. CodeHS’s game development lessons are deep, yet easy to understand. You can even code your own version of Snake, the classic video game. The Hour of Code section is a convenient option for impatient kids or busy adults. And CodeHS’s cheery video tutorials surpass those found in Code Avengers, despite being a little corny and unpolished in spots.

That said, the free trial is limited, especially for individual learners who only get one course.  You’ll have to pay to get the thousands of hours of material that Free Code Camp offers for nothing. Also, CodeHS’ courses are laid out in such a way that it is not obvious which lessons are behind the paywall. Creating assignments may be free, but educators who want to create due dates for those assignments, and activate cheat detection for quizzes, need to pay. If you’re hoping for an in-depth, free education, you’ll find it disappointing to discover that so many enticing classes are beyond reach. Codecademy, our Editors’ Choice pick for free coding services, balances free and paid content much better.

Thankfully, the Sandbox mode, my favorite CodeHS feature, is free. Many coding classes have a clean and intuitive text editor, and CodeHS is no different. However, whereas most programs limit students to only typing code that will solve the prompt, CodeHS’s Sandbox mode lets you code whatever you want, from an HTML page to a JavaScript game to a Python or C++ program. Creativity is crucial to being a successful coder. It’s how you’re able to work around unexpected challenges. CodeHS gives students an awesome outlet to practice that kind of expression. It’s simple enough to copy your code and save it offline for later use elsewhere.

CodeHS’s community features further ease students into increasingly complicated topics. School administrators and teachers who use CodeHS can create class codes that let teachers and students collaborate online during and after school hours. If you’re just an adult looking to brush up on your coding skills, you can study the glossary (paid subscribers can speak with a tutor). However, the service lacks community forums where you can share knowledge; presumably, that’s what classrooms are for. Only teachers can collaborate in their own forums.

Tuition

CodeHS lets schools request a quote for one of its three paid subscription tiers: Pro, School License, and District License. The base Pro tier includes the entire course library along with improved tools for teachers and administrators, such as automatic grade book, individualized quiz reports, and tutors to help teachers get a grasp on the subjects ahead of time. AP courses are especially useful for college-bound students. The most expensive configuration offers full administrative powers across multiple schools, and lets you manage teachers’ professional development.

I can’t really say if CodeHS’s prices are reasonable for schools, since I don’t work for one, but I did find its prices for individuals a little odd. And by odd, I mean expensive. CodeHS’s individual Grading plan costs $75 per month. For comparison, Treehouse, our Editors’ Choice pick for paid coding education, costs a much more reasonable $25 per month. The Grading plan lets you access all the material, and offers tutor feedback and expert grading. I understand why a plan that requires actual human labor would cost more money, but CodeHS no longer provides any middle ground for single learners between this pricey plan and the extremely limited free plan. You can also enroll in individual courses, such as Intro to Computer Science in JavaScript or Fundamentals of Cybersecurity, for a flat $199. 

Fast Times at CodeHS

CodeHS’s course variety, teacher tools, and freeform coding sandbox make it a robust solution for schools looking to enhance their computer science curriculum without committing much money upfront. However, this focus on educators leaves CodeHS somewhat disappointing for individual, adult learners. Codecademy and Treehouse keep their Editors’ Choice crowns for free and paid online coding classes, respectively, for offering similarly stellar lessons at lower prices.