November 2013

Gavin Pickin

Online Interactive Learning - LearnStreet - Javascript Python and Ruby

Online Interactive Learning

In our field, we are on the constant slide down the technology hill, and we have to fight, climb, run, jump, do anything we can to try and stay on top. Luckily, as technology advances, so do the awesome online training tools available, and surprisingly, a lot of them are FREE.

I thought I'd look at a few of them, it seems like every week there is a new one, but as I hear of them, I want to evaluate them, see which ones are good, and why, and share the knowledge with you. 

Last week on Twitter, I heard about NodeSchool again, Ray Camden is always talking about them, and for good reason, but then I heard of one that hadn't crossed my radar before then. Carol Hamilton was talking about one of her sons, stealing her laptop to get back to If its that appealing to an eleven year old... maybe I should have a look... so thats what I did.

As you can see from the screenshot above... LearnStreet is for students, and teachers. Its an interesting idea, trying to provide the tools, and programs, for free, to get programming into our schools, and provide a quality experience to ensure its a big part of tomorrows developers.

I went through the Javascript course, as a good test of quality, duration, and challenge, and of course, to see if I remember the basics of Javascript... enough to pass the course, without requiring the hints. This course was comprised of 7 lessons, each with an Overview of the Lesson, and a series of exercises. Each exercise references videos if you need help, and hints to help you if you're stuck. You can easily go back and revisit past course lessons, and there is a glossary as well. 

The best part of these courses are, the interactive and quite handy Console... that as you progress... you are required to code and test your code, to see if you're passed the exercise, and get feedback as you go. I love this interactive learning that forces you to actually code as you go... this is why I'm trying to spread the knowledge about Coldfusion Koans and how Koans can help you and your development team... thats why I proposed the talk for cfObjective

I found the course was a solid beginner level course, and although the concepts were not too advanced... it still made you think with one or two of the exercises. The lessons were short, and sweet, and to the point, great for young programmers in the making, and a lot of us multi-tasking wanna learn everything types, were we can only spend a few minutes on each of the 20 things on our todo list at one time.

The course was pretty nice, but one of the nicer features of LearnStreet was the Projects section. which is a series of projects / challenges, for each of the language offering, from Beginner, Intermediate to Advanced, comprising of Tools, Games, and Algorithms. One of the first ones recommended when I finished the Javascript Course was Snakes and Ladders. You do not have to create the whole game, the UI and most of the code is done for you, and hidden, but you are given some specifications, and guidance, to complete the game, and when you're done, you can play it. Again, for each piece of the project, there are hints, from simple, medium, to give you the answer, but you can do your best to complete it, and worse case, you can see how its supposed to be done.

Its a great looking tool, from the small amount I've seen, and by the sounds of the teaching section, I can only imagine this tool gets better and better with time. The company is a small company, with the right reasons behind their product, and I think in time, this could be a really great resource, for Teachers, Students, and developers alike. 

I like it so much, I might even have to try the Python course out.

PS: I have been looking at LearnCFInAWeek, NodeSchool, TutsPlus (which the free courses are kind of hidden and pretty cool - more to come later on those), CodeSchool with their free day passes floating around on twitter, a new Coldfusion Community project started by Abram Try CF available at, and there are lots more of courses around.
So, if you use an online interactive learning site, leave some feedback.

  • What is it? 
  • Is it free, per course, or subscription?
  • What topics?
  • What type of course is it, Videos, Text, Interactive Consoles etc. 

by Abram
11/15/2013 09:23:29 AM

For those that want to learn (or teach) CFML in an interactive way I have setup a site called This has an interactive CFML editor that let's you write and run your cfml code directly in the browser.

As tutorial authors you can include unit tests that check the student's code and can provide customized feedback based on the results. Pretty cool stuff.

As a student you can try your code and if you get stuck you can peek at the "solution" provided by the tutorial author. Also, if your code errors, the line in the editor is highlighted and you are presented with the error message - and for some errors the actual CF documentation related to the function you messed up on.

It's free and has a total of two really small tutorials at the moment (well, 3 if you count the home page tut). Anyone interested in submitting tutorials can join at and submit their own tutorial.

NOTE: The site is very minimalistic at the moment. I'm working with a few community folks as well as Adobe to beef it up to include much more functionality and tutorial content, such as tracking your progress in a lesson, sharing your code via gist, code project competitions (puzzlers), include multiple cf files, etc... ANY AND ALL HELP IS WELCOME!

by Gavin
11/15/2013 11:21:30 AM

I was going to mention your site as well Abram, which sounds like a great site, and its on my list of todos to look into it more. I didn't want to publish it in this article knowing it was a work in progress, not meaning any disrespect to it.

I hope to find some time soon to jump into it, and quite frankly, I'd love to use it for our developers, to teach them some conventions, as we're trying to establish and lock those down.

So yes, please, guys, check out - Abram is a solid member of the community, and these are the types of projects we should be supporting.

PS I am adding it to the list in the article.

by Abram
11/15/2013 12:08:14 PM

No worries Gavin. I've been kind of quiet about it but think it's time to rip off the bandage and just run with it.

I had a good talk with Rakshith yesterday and Adobe is going to help get the project going and support it long term in various ways (like with prizes for code contests and some other cool things coming)!

Thanks for the mention though ;)

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