Why We Created Codegym, a Gamified Course to Learn Java
CodeGym is an online course for learning Java programming from scratch. Yes, yet another online course to learn programming. What makes CodeGym so special, and what is the idea behind it? Let’s ask Alex Yelenevych, co-founder and CMO at CodeGym, who leads product development and is responsible for the marketing strategy and growth.
What is the story behind CodeGym?
Alex Yelenevych: The idea of the project came to Dmytro Vezhnin, CEO & Co-founder of CodeGym, back in 2012. He worked as a programmer for many years, and in his free time, he helped friends and acquaintances learn to program. Impressively, he published an article on a popular resource for programmers explaining how he assists people to learn Java, what methods and approaches he uses, and how they can move to IT from other career fields. The article received many views, comments, and hundreds of positive reactions. More than 50 people wanted him to be their teacher via Skype. Since it is impossible to teach so many people and work as full-time programmers simultaneously, Dmytro came up with the idea of an educational platform with virtual teachers. On this platform, tasks would be checked by the algorithms, and a fascinating game approach would solve the problem of rapid loss of motivation.
We now have an exceptionally talented team of engineers, marketologists, designers, and other specialists of over 70 people. Together, we develop our products and help millions of people worldwide build their programming skills, grow in their careers, move to IT from other fields, and much more. Our target markets are the USA, France, Poland, Germany, Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, China, and India.
How many people have used CodeGym so far?
Alex Yelenevych: Since our product is quite complex and contains various components, such as free levels, subscriptions, video games programming section, practical tasks, theoretical lectures, and a large Java community, it is difficult to answer this question succinctly. However, if you are interested in numbers, I will gladly share a few facts and general metrics.
In total, more than 2 million people worldwide have used our product
It isn’t easy to describe our users in just a few words. At CodeGym, our users include those who are just starting out in programming, those who are preparing for the Java school exam, those who wish to change their profession or switch from another programming language to Java, those who teach Java at the university, and those who are moving from manual to automated testing. Some users already work as Java programmers, but they use CodeGym as a platform for practice. For example, they use it to write articles for our blog, improve their developer authority, and participate in the community. As you can see, a significant portion of our users consists of experienced community members. That’s why our project is not only about Java, but it’s also a place of communication for experienced developers.
CodeGym has more than 500,000 registered users
This product is targeted at the USA, China, and Western Europe (mainly France, Germany, and Poland). Additionally, we have a different product for the Eastern Europe market.
More than 80,000 users have passed the first levels of CodeGym, where we teach the basics of Java
If you look at all of our products, this number is approximately 300,000 worldwide.
According to our estimates, 20,000 users have changed their profession (moved from another field to IT) thanks to our product
This is somewhat difficult to measure accurately, as not everyone shares this information. However, it’s worth noting that many of our graduates work for the following famous companies: T-Systems, Citrix, Luxoft, Epam, Kaspersky, Weplay, Deutsche Bank, Privatbank, and Tinkoff bank.
Why did you bet on Java? What makes this language worth learning still in 2021 or 2022?
Alex Yelenevych: Java is still one of the most popular, most requested, and highest-paid programming languages, according to the TIOBE and PYPL indices. This language is used by Google, Facebook, Netflix, Amazon, and many other technological giants. Further, Java is used for backend development, mobile app development, automated testing, and many other fields. For many areas where high reliability and high availability are important, such as the financial sector, there are simply no alternatives to Java. Hence, this language has been and will be popular for many years to come. Additionally, Minecraft was written in Java.
Our company initially had many Java experts who knew Java and knew how to teach this language to others. Therefore, it is logical that we decided to start with what we know well and what we are good at. In the future, we may also release other educational programs, but for now, we are working with Java only.
What is CodeGym, and who will it help to develop their skills?
Alex Yelenevych: There are two ways to answer these questions. In general, CodeGym is an interactive online Java course. And if you are now thinking, “Gosh, another programming course? There are hundreds of them already,” you are partially correct! Yes, CodeGym is another programming course, but there are several nuances.
The course is made in the form of a quest game
Users are first tested to determine their level of knowledge. After that, the system immerses users in a specific game plot. This makes the learning process more exciting in the hopes that the student doesn’t lose motivation throughout the learning process.
The plot consists of the following:
– Java lectures
– Practical problems from the real programming world that can be solved directly in a browser
– Mobile application or IntelliJ IDEA plug-in
– Materials about the IT industry
– Tests that check theory knowledge
– Motivational content
– Much more
By the way, our game designers were previously involved in the development of best-selling computer games, such as STALKER, Metro 2033, and others!
The course is 80% practice
Unlike other courses and projects, here we have one of the strongest and beneficial CodeGym features. In total, there are over 1,400 practical tasks at CodeGym. All code solutions are checked by special algorithms directly on the site, in IntelliJ IDEA or application. The user clicks the “Check” button, and in just a second or two, gets the verified result. If the user solves the task correctly, they receive in-game currency and can move further along the course. If not, the system tells them how to fix the solution. Based on the results of our research, actual practice is precisely what users love about CodeGym, and I think this is the most important thing. After all, programming is a practical skill, not just the knowledge of theory and the understanding of basic principles.
Help section, a plug-in for IntelliJ IDEA, Android application, and other wonderful features
I don’t want to go into too many details and overload my story. Still, it’s important to note that we have implemented many more elements to make the learning process interesting, fun, and effective. For example, a rating system, awards, a help section with a vast community, various thematic chats, a lot of helpful content, an Android application, a plug-in for IntelliJ IDEA, and much more.
All of this makes CodeGym a powerful educational platform that helps people learn Java better and faster. It also gives users the opportunity to learn fundamental practical skills.
The second description of the product is more in-depth. If we analyze the different ways of teaching programming, we can compile a scale from the most effective and expensive to the least effective and cheapest. It is my belief that the most effective way of teaching is to pair students with a personal mentor who has vast experience in programming, excellent teaching skills, and someone who can devote a lot of time to the student (at least 5-6 hours per week). Mentors can explain the theory, answer questions, give advice, assign tasks, check the student’s solutions, give personalized advice based on the unique characteristics of the student, and help the student prepare for an interview.
The disadvantage of this approach is a very high price tag (the time of developers with 7+ years of experience is costly). Also, such a mentor is tough to find because not all programmers love and know how to teach.
The least effective (not bad, but simply less effective) approach includes courses built on video content only. This approach also has its advantages. For example, you can relax and just watch the video. You don’t need to strain too much. And, of course, the price is very low when compared to a mentor. However, there are also disadvantages. After watching the video, there is often a feeling that you understand something and truly know all you need about the topic, but the knowledge that you received is actually quite superficial. You likely won’t be able to solve any serious practical problems and will lack the true ability to code.
For these reasons, we believe that we managed to take the best from both of these approaches: a simple, understandable presentation of theoretical material, many practical tasks, automatic task validation, high-quality and quick feedback, bite-sized lectures, and interactive learning approach.
The result is a product that teaches programming even more efficiently than using a real mentor. Most importantly, we provide this experience to the user by the price of online courses that are built around prescribed videos or webinar-formatted courses.
Who will CodeGym help to develop their skills?
Alex Yelenevych: Generally, CodeGym helps users solve the following issues:
● Change current profession to Java Developer
● Develop the Java skills they need for their current job
● Help Manual QA specialists learn Java to move to QA Automation specialists
● Prepare for the Java AP Exam (relevant for the US and Canada)
● Help managers/entrepreneurs without technical skills understand how development works and learn the basics of Java
● For those who have no goal of becoming a programmer, the free version of CodeGym provides enough experience for them to try to learn programming
What aspects of learning programming or entering the IT industry did you put the greatest emphasis on and why?
When should I start the job search process?
Alex Yelenevych: This is all very individual and depends on your goals and experience. CodeGym is used by people who already work as programmers and want to switch from one language to another, and also by complete newbies in IT. So some users only need to go through 2 quests of “Java Syntax” and part of the “Java Core” quest. They are already able to get a job or go to projects where Java is used. There are the users who need to go through all four quests to prepare for interviews, consult with more experienced colleagues in the community, fail ten interviews, and only after that will they receive the job offer they are looking for.
What should I look for when choosing my first employer?
Alex Yelenevych: This also depends on your background and personal career goals. However, if you are a newbie, I recommend that you not consider salary and potential salary growth to the extent possible. Instead, I suggest that you assess the employer regarding potential growth in professional skills and experience. The first task for any beginner is to catch hold of a promising job and then develop rapidly. It is essential to look at what technologies are used in the project, who will work with you, whether there will be experienced developers in the team from whom you can learn and the company’s reputation in the market.
How does CodeGym support changes in my job search?
Alex Yelenevych: In general, we believe that the main benefits our students get from CodeGym are practical skills and the knowledge needed for employment. Additionally, CodeGym teaches some of the less obvious skills, such as the ability to understand someone else’s code. In general, practice is the most valuable and important thing that we offer. We help users create and proofread their resumes, and we provide interview questions, offer internships/work in partner companies, and collect and publish current vacancies for newcomers.
What are your plans for CodeGym? What will this platform be in a few years?
Alex Yelenevych: We are now actively developing in the following areas:
“Blended” and online education
We are focusing on the development of cooperation with universities, schools, colleges, and boot camps in the United States, Asia, and Europe. We feel that we could genuinely fit their educational needs. For example, we can help students prepare for the AP Java Exam or the Oracle certification. To do this, we launched an educational program that allows students to study at CodeGym for absolutely no cost. You can find more information on that program here. The University of North Carolina, Charlotte, The University of California, Cracow University of Economics, Uniwersytet Śląski w Katowicach, and many other universities are already working with us. Many schools and colleges in the US, Europe, and Asia are already connected to our educational program. For example, McDonogh School, The Wheeler School, Berlin College of Further Education for Information Technology and Medical Equipment Technology, Taiwan Adventist International School, and others. There are real cases that show the effectiveness of our platform for passing the AP Java Exam and other exams. We want to continue working in this direction.
Our product is quite popular in China. Therefore, we are actively developing a Chinese version of the course. Further, we are interested in the Indian market since there is considerable interest in Java and programming. We will do everything gradually and will try to focus on the main goals.
Learning ecosystem and microlearning
We are currently developing a complex ecosystem of all our products. We already have an Android app that allows our students to learn Java on the go, write simple applications, chat with colleagues in the help section, or read the latest news from the IT world. We will be launching an iOS application soon as well.
Other programming languages
Additionally, we’re currently working on launching similar courses dedicated to other programming languages and technologies.
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