Coding is essential for young people to learn in today’s tech-focused world. But given the often steep learning curve associated with coding, getting students engaged with coding lessons can sometimes be challenging.
CodeCombat sets out to address this problem by providing its coding lessons and courses in the form of a game. The novel approach to an online coding education platform marks it out from its more traditionally-structured competitors – but how well does it work in practice, and does it compare to more traditional platforms like Zenva Schools?
Our review will cover everything you need to know about CodeCombat, including the subjects its gamified learning system covers, its features for teachers, students, and parents, and how much It costs.
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What is CodeCombat?
CodeCombat is an online learning platform crossed with a browser-based role-playing game. In essence, it aims to teach students to code via an online game where the player’s hero must be controlled via typed code – with each level helping students to learn and master new coding concepts and techniques.
CodeCombat’s mission is to make coding accessible to every student on the planet using its gamified approach to learning to code. The platform states that its approach is more akin to a conversation than traditional teaching methods. Its practical, typed code exercises provide students with more interactivity and aim to help them engage more with coding than simply reading through instructions.
As such, the platform puts a heavy emphasis on creativity and imagination, with students given the freedom to find different solutions to each level and optimize their strategy using different codes, characters, and items.
The platform also takes pride in being open-source. CodeCombat was built on the foundations of several open-source projects and seeks to give back to the community by making its own platform open-source, allowing players to experiment with and adapt the game as they see fit.
In addition to the original CodeCombat game, the platform has also recently released a new game called Ozaria. Ozaria uses the same principles as the original game to help students learn to code, but is designed specifically for classroom use, with more teacher resources and tools plus a bigger focus on aligning with curriculum standards.
What Content & Courses Does CodeCombat Provide?
CodeCombat provides the bulk of its coding content through the platform’s code-based role-playing game rather than traditional lesson-based courses. Students use written code to advance through levels by commanding their chosen character to fight enemies and complete tasks of steadily-increasing complexity.
As students progress through the game, they’ll learn and master various coding concepts and techniques. Early levels cover coding basics like sequences, algorithms, loops, and variables, while later levels move onto more complex subjects such as boolean logic, nested conditionals, and basic game AI.
Eventually, students will have the chance to work with advanced coding concepts like computer arithmetic, arrays, recursion, and break/continue statements. Since students must play the game entirely in sequence, it allows them to start with little or no prior coding experience and steadily advance their understanding to impressively high levels.
Ozaria follows a similar format to the original CodeCombat game but with a more immersive story and a focus on school-centred elements like curriculum alignment and class management tools.
Ozaria covers topics like sequences, algorithms, debugging, variables, and loops, as well as topics designed to help students think about technology in the real world, such as how different computing systems work and how computing can impact areas such as accessibility and bias. Ozaria also includes Capstone Projects, design projects to help bridge the gap between in-game coding and real-world applications.
Zenva Schools, to name one, offers tons of courses on both subjects. Additionally, Zenva Schools doesn’t shy away from games with them with plenty of project-based approaches showing students how to make their own games with the languages. As such, students learn not just how to code, but how to code fun things with real-life, practical approaches.
What Coding Content Is Missing From CodeCombat?
While CodeCombat covers the ground with the coding concepts, principles, and techniques, there are plenty of gaps in its content. The biggest of these is that it doesn’t apply the game development teachings in real-world contexts.
For example, while the CodeCombat game introduces students to web design principles, they’ll likely need additional practice and guidance outside the game to build an actual web page or app. Additionally, CodeCombat’s game development content gives students a good understanding of how games are made, but doesn’t implement standard tools like the popular Unity engine.
Another issue with CodeCombat is that the level-by-level progression system can hinder students who already have experience and want to learn new subjects using the platform. While teachers can assign specific levels and courses to students as they please, individual learners have to play the game in sequence, which could frustrate those who want to skip past the subjects they already know.
Lastly, and most obviously, CodeCombat is focused a lot on principles – so students don’t really get a huge opportunity to learn different programming languages and see how the principles apply across different disciplines.
Additionally, Zenva Schools is designed to be suitable for different learners. Not only can students self-pace themselves, but receive a variety of ways such as videos, interactive lessons, quizzes, and written summary content.
All the courses are also made by industry experts, so the focus is a lot more on building practical skills than just making everything a game everything.
What Age Group Does CodeCombat Target?
CodeCombat recommends that its original game and learning content be suitable for ages nine and over. The game’s design is mainly for children and younger teenagers, but older teens and adult learners can still get use of the platform if they’re looking for a heavily-gamified introduction to coding.
Ozaria is mainly for middle school-aged students because it aligns with middle school CSTA and ISTE computer science standards. However, Ozaria is accessible enough that older elementary school students can still learn effectively with it. High school students looking for a gamified learning tool may also get much value from Ozaria.
CodeCombat also provides online classes with one-to-one tutoring. These are for students aged 7-16, but students of any age are welcome so long as they are comfortable using a computer.
In comparison, however, other platforms are equally accessible. For example, Zenva Schools has content for Years 3 to 12. In addition, the content is designed to be equally accessible to adults – with a separate section for teachers to use the course for professional development as well.
How Well Does CodeCombat Match The Curriculum?
CodeCombat’s content covers subjects and concepts within coding and computer science, with the aim that teachers can use the platform as the basis for their coding curriculum. They develop the content and additional resources with an education specialist’s input to ensure the curriculum meets this aim.
As well as the educational game itself, CodeCombat provides teachers with curriculum resources in its Resource Hub, such as lesson plans and extra activities to help students retain what they’ve learned.
The College Board for the AP Computer Science Principles course endorsed CodeCombat for the 2019-20 school year. They no longer endorse CodeCombat – but the teaching materials for the AP course are still available and provide a good framework for meeting the curriculum’s standards and learning objectives (although these are now outdated).
Ozaria, however, is a different story. The new game aligns with CSTA and ISTE Middle School Computer Science standards, helping students to master core concepts, develop their computational thinking skills, and learn about how computer science relates to the world around them.
However, if you need something more firmly matches to curriculum standards, there are better platforms available. Zenva Schools, for instance, provides pre-mapped lesson plans that align to both the Australian Digital Technologies curriculum and three US curriculum standards – including CSTA standards and Common Core.
What Features Does CodeCombat Have For Students & Parents?
The biggest draw of CodeCombat for students and parents is the game-based structure that the platform uses for learning – meaning it’s easier to get kids to learn.
CodeCombat also offers live online classes with one-to-one tutoring for students who need slightly more guidance. These sessions can suit any schedule and are a handy option for parents who don’t know how to code themselves, but still want their child to have adult assistance to make the most of the platform.
Additionally, every level of the game includes a blue hint indicator that students can click for a more in-depth explanation of the CodeCombat level’s concepts to help them find the right solution. These Hints can also provide step-by-step guides if students struggle to complete the level.
In addition, the game can detect when students have struggled with a particular level and provide them with additional practice lessons to help them improve their grasp of that level’s concepts. The practice lessons allow students to move quickly through levels where they have a firm understanding of the coding involved but still have time to practice concepts where they feel more challenged.
Another feature for students is the CodeCombat AI League: a multiplayer AI battle simulator where players program a team of characters to compete in battles where the best code and best strategy are the keys to victory.
The AI League involves an annual, global tournament that follows eSports models to create a competition that’s fun to play and watch as it unfolds. The competition gives students another way to get invested in coding, with a competitive element to drive them to learn even more to increase their victory chances.
Finally, CodeCombat offers a Level Editor that allows students to experiment within the platform’s game engine to create their own levels and challenges to share with friends.
While many of these features are unique, other features can easily be found on other platforms. To name one, Zenva Schools motivates students by offering Certificates of Completion. These not only help mark student achievements but can also be used practically on resumes.
Additionally, most CodeCombat features are more focused on “fun”, which may be a downside if you’re looking for more serious platforms. Zenva Schools, for instance, focuses more so on project-based approaches with the courses so students can have fun while still building something worthwhile and practical in today’s world.
What Features Does CodeCombat Have For Teachers?
In addition to the base game, CodeCombat provides teachers with additional teaching resources and lesson plans for their classes. CodeCombat also offers separate Professional Development licenses to access courses covering various educational topics.
These courses are split between specific coding knowledge and skills such as computational thinking and more teaching-focused modules like project- and game-based learning, social and emotional learning, and assessment strategies.
CodeCombat also offers some class management tools, such as the ability to assign specific levels and courses to different classes and students. The Course Progress tab also allows you to check how far students are through each course and compare their code to the official solution code to gauge their accuracy and innovation in finding solutions.
Teachers who choose to use Ozaria and the base CodeCombat game can access more features. Ozaria is specifically for use in the classroom, so it includes more in-depth class management tools than the base game.
These include a teacher dashboard that gives quick access to lesson plans, pacing guides to extend Ozaria’s content across multiple lessons, distance learning strategies, and other helpful resources for teaching. There’s also a Track Progress page that allows teachers to monitor student progress with valuable information on their performance.
Finally, each Ozaria Chapter ends with a Capstone Project: a design project where students create their own games. These work well both as a tool for helping students apply what they’ve learned in a more real-world context and as ready-made summative assessments to gauge students’ performance and inform grading.
However, other platforms offer similar tools and features, so CodeCombat is not unique with this specific aspect. To example one, Zenva Schools offers teachers the ability to use the same courses for their own professional development. Not only does it allow for upskilling, but prepares teachers to teach the same content in the classroom.
Zenva Schools also offers features such as classroom management tools to organize students and assign courses. This is in addition to several analytics tools so teachers can easily track students’ progress and identify problem areas where they need to pitch in more. Most courses also come with pre-mapped lesson plans to save teachers extra time.
How Much Does CodeCombat Cost?
CodeCombat operates as a “freemium” platform, meaning that the majority of its content is available for free, but certain additional content locks behind a premium subscription. As well as this premium subscription, there are other subscription models for one-to-one tutoring and school licenses.
All of these different pricing tiers and subscriptions are in the table below.
|Subscription Type||Price||What It Includes|
|Free||Free||All core levels and content in the CodeCombat game.|
|Premium||$9.99 per month||An additional 531 levels, plus exclusive heroes in the Ranger and Wizard classes (which enable more varied uses of code), Game Development and Web Development courses, premium items and pets for use in-game, premium debug support, and private clans to create group leaderboards with friends. It also includes 3500 gems each month.|
|Self-Paced Subscription||$99 per year||Everything is included in the premium subscription is billed annually at a discount.|
|Private Plan 1||$219 per month||All premium features plus one 1:1 private tutoring session per week; real-time personalised feedback; bonus activities, rewards, and completion certificates; end-of-course projects to demonstrate understanding; monthly progress updates from instructors; flexible scheduling; and 1:1 support for complex concepts.|
|Private Plan 2||$399 monthly||Everything in Private Plan 1, but with two 1:1 sessions per week. It also includes automatic qualification for AI League coding tournaments.|
|CodeCombat Schools – Free Trial||Free||Access to Introduction to Computer Science course and teaching materials, providing 1-3 hours of lessons for use with unlimited students.|
|CodeCombat School License||Custom solutions per school, meaning an individual price for different schools – contact CodeCombat directly for a quote.||Fully unlocks all features, courses, and teaching resources for use in the classroom, plus professional development courses and additional support from the CodeCombat team.|
|Ozaria – Free Trial||Free||Access to Ozaria Chapter 1 for unlimited students, plus lesson slides and resources that can extend this content for up to 10 class sessions using unplugged activities and other projects.|
|Ozaria – School License||Custom solutions per school, meaning an individual price for different schools – contact CodeCombat directly for a quote.||Access to all Ozaria content, teaching resources, and teacher tools/dashboards; once Ozaria Chapter 1 is completed, students can also access all paid CodeCombat content and resources.|
Though this many options are fantastic for individuals, for classroom settings they can add up quickly. Similar platforms have comparable or competitive pricing in this regard – and much simpler pricing structures.
For example, Zenva Schools only has one tier for teachers with an affordable, yearly price based on how many students will be using the platform. For this one price, teachers unlock all content and features – so there’s not hidden fees for teachers who need classroom management features or similar.
Conclusion: Is CodeCombat Worth It?
With its gamified approach to learning, CodeCombat is a unique option for learning to code online. The game-based learning framework offers an engaging method for learning to code, and for teachers, there are some additional bonus features as well for use in the classroom.
However, although CodeCombat is effective for learning coding concepts and principles in theory, it’s not the best for practical applications. There are also tons of significant content gaps that other platforms are better at fulfilling.
Zenva Schools is a great consideration for not only having more content, but the same sorts of features for more competitive prices. To boot, Zenva Schools’ content will have more direct, real-life applications with projects that are aimed at job-skill building and preparation.
At the end, every student is different – so pick the right platform for the student. However, do remember there are tons of platforms out there with pros and cons.
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