Common Sense Review
Updated June 2015

CodeHS

Computer science curriculum offers great feedback, fun challenges
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Common Sense Rating 4
  • Students learn in an interactive environment.
  • Build programming skills and make games!
  • The dashboard lets teachers monitor students' progress.
  • Teachers can easily manage their classes online.
  • Teachers can also view student performance in the integrated gradebook.
  • A message center makes it easy to contact tutors.
Pros
Video lessons are clear and easy to follow, and the guidance kids will get from actual tutors (with a premium subscription) is amazing.
Cons
You can’t do much without paying for access; a subscription is required to view most sections, and you can’t send tutors questions without one.
Bottom Line
Effective tools and clear lessons teach real programming, but you'll have to spend some cash to help kids master coding.
Erin Brereton
Common Sense Reviewer
Common Sense Rating 4
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 4

Instructional videos have a conversational tone and step carefully through concepts. Kids work methodically through approachable, easily digestible sections.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 4

Kids learn as they go and can get personalized feedback (with the paid premium package). Working through a more traditional computer science curriculum, students explore key concepts and practice writing code in an interactive editor.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 4

Learners can view a cheat sheet and track progress. Classroom subscriptions offer access to experts, who answer questions and review assignments, and teachers get responses to support emails in less than a day.

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How Can Teachers Use It?

Teens can move through the individual lessons on their own, or you can share them with the whole class. Videos are short enough (less than five minutes each) to hold students’ interest, and they provide visual instruction and narration to help kids follow along. Each section also includes exercises that let users test out what they’re learning by creating code instructions, simple games, or other items.

If students are working independently, teachers can create an account and monitor their class to see which sections students have completed. With a paid subscription, teachers can also either check students’ work or encourage them to contact the site’s tutors for input. In fact, CodeHS was designed to provide everything a classroom teacher needs to support and deliver a high-quality computer science course in their school.

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What's It Like?

CodeHS is a website (and Chrome app) that features programming lessons, puzzles, and challenges to help teens learn to write and use code. Users watch short videos that explain design concepts -- these are also available as slideshows -- and then complete online programming challenges. The first learning module illustrates basic programming principles with instructions on how to move a virtual dog, Karel, in different directions. With a premium subscription, kids can get personalized feedback from qualified tutors or ask questions. The complete lessons mirror the topics and exercises common in a basic computer science course. 

There are several ways to get access: Students can sign up with an access code provided by a teacher (based on a paid school membership) or get an individual membership. Four individual packages are available for a range of prices, from free to a super-premium membership with access to one-on-one tutoring. Each level of membership includes increasing access to learning modules and learning support.

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Is It Good For Learning?

While the program seems costly at first glance, the high-quality instruction is worth it. Lessons were created for beginners, so they’re easy to understand. Because each section is broken down into individual lessons, students can learn at their own pace and track their progress on the site, helping them set and complete educational goals. Using Karel the dog as a way to teach commands makes things especially accessible for beginners. Students move the cartoon around the screen, dropping balls using basic code. Kids will also have fun with the first results of their coding: retro games and simple art programs. Once they've mastered concepts, they can get creative and design their own games. Accessibility-wise, CodeHS is great: Content is neatly organized into tabs, and sections include visual examples and text to fully explain the concepts. The narration has a casual, friendly tone, frequently posing and answering questions and ending descriptions on positive notes like “Well, there you go; we’ve done it!”

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See how teachers are using CodeHS

Lesson Plans