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My thoughts on the new Python courses at CodeAcademy

I’m new to Python as a language. I’ve read about it, seen some code and ran other peoples programs from time to time in the process of getting things done. My programming languages of choice are usually PHP or C#. I’ve had several books and PDF’s on “Learning” Python in my possession for years and never used them. Then I went on r/programming and read about Code Academy announcing a new Python course the other day. So I signed up and started doing their courses.

Their Python courses are really well written and have good flow even considering I’d never touched the language as a whole. I progressed well and grasped the terminologies of functions, imports, control structures and variable evaluations noting the differences between the constructs in Python compared to my time with C#, Java, C++ and PHP. Then things went a little funny, suddenly I was finding that my scripts wouldn’t run in the console when I pressed run, this led to me copying the contents of the code input, reloading the page and trying again. This was merely an inconvenience but it has been brought up in their support forums here so I’m clearly not alone. Other things I noticed was that the link to the next step would appear even when my code clearly failed or didn’t output what it was supposed to. Having gone to the next section before realising I hadn’t been able to collect enough information to file a support request with them.

Anyhow I completed all the courses and at the end I was left at a loss, what do I do now? Obviously their courses aren’t going to make you proficient in the language as they are merely a starting point. I guess their intention is that you get a taste for it and go off and expand your horizons, they sort of indicate this when part way through one of the tasks they give you the link to the Python documentation. Some of the things I believe are missing tend to revolve around “OK so I can do some basic Python stuff, I have Python installed here on my PC so I want to go off and do some small scripts”. The only problem here is that the course doesn’t explain how you would do this, i.e how you would save your code into a file and execute it via the command line on your PC, I know you can go to the Python Documentation and find this out but until they add to their courses it would have been nice if they gave us “homework” of a fashion showing us what we can do in the meantime. I guess this sort of stuff is too advanced for a beginners course and that you can use their Lab Features for coding in the browser for the time being.

I guess I’m going to start playing around with Python in my XUbuntu VM and check out the Python Documentation while I wait for off track exercises or more courses from them. I’d like to hear your thoughts on this in the comments.

Jason Edwards