Coding is fast becoming a sought-after skill in the modern job market, which means that it’s also becoming increasingly important as a school subject. To help deliver effective coding curricula, many schools are now turning to online learning platforms to access the tools and guidance they need to bring coding to the classroom successfully.
One such online learning platform for coding is Codesters. Unlike other platforms designed to be usable by individual learners and schools, Codesters is specifically for school use.
But how helpful is Codesters for teaching students to code? And, how does it compare to other school-focused platforms like Zenva Schools? Our review will cover everything you need to know, including the features Codesters offers for students and teachers, how well it matches the curriculum and how much it costs.
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What Is Codesters?
Codesters is a modern, online coding platform combined with a learning management system (LMS) for use by teachers.
The platform features a library of coding courses and lessons that are specifically for use by schools in the delivery of their coding curriculum.
Codesters focuses on teaching students to code with Python using a “drag-to-text” toolkit that allows students to drag and drop ready-made portions of text code into their projects. The system helps to provide the accessibility of block-based coding languages – while still allowing students to learn a useful text-based language commonly used in real-world coding.
They designed the platform’s LMS to help teachers easily monitor students’ progress and identify when they may need extra support. The LMS also includes detailed guides on how to get the most out of the platform with students.
What Courses & Content Does Codesters Cover?
Unlike other platforms that allow students to learn multiple block-based and text-based programming languages, Codesters focuses solely on Python. Python is a commonly-used text-based programming language with various uses in real-world coding. In addition, it has a simple and intuitive syntax, making it an ideal language for coding beginners to learn to code.
Each course on Codesters consists of a series of lessons that task students with undertaking various interactive projects to master multiple coding skills and concepts. Each lesson divides into three sections: Build, Modify, and Create.
The Build stage sees students create an app or game using step-by-step instructions before moving onto the Modify stage, where students change and customise project elements to test their understanding. The Create stage then tasks students with creating their own project from a blank canvas based on an open-ended project prompt.
These project-based lessons last roughly an hour, with an additional capstone project provided at the end that students can complete if they want to go more in-depth.
Codesters currently has a library of nine courses on offer, covering various coding concepts and subjects. The courses currently available are:
- Intro to Codesters – an introductory module that helps students to understand the platform and learn basic coding processes like debugging, problem-solving, computational thinking, and algorithms.
- Python Part 1 – Covers the core concepts used in Python, including variables, loops, and if-statements.
- Python Part 2 – Moves on to the syntax, structure, and process for writing programs in Python while detailing concepts like indexes, data types, events, and game mechanics.
- Python Part 3 – Rounds out the Python series with further projects and introduces advanced concepts like nested conditionals and loops, try-except, and data structures.
- 6th-Grade Coding – Teaches Python at the 6th-grade level, covering various basic coding concepts.
- 7th-Grade Coding – Teaches coding at the 7th-grade level, covering slightly more advanced concepts.
- 8th-Grade Coding – Teaches coding at the 8th-grade level, introducing advanced concepts.
- Cybersecurity – Teaches students about cybersecurity processes and concepts while introducing them to Python.
- PCA Certification – Prepares students for the Python Coding Apprentice exam, helping them master foundational Python skills precisely aligned with the exam’s framework.
As you can imagine, though, Codesters is not the only platform offering Python courses given its popularity as a programming language. Zenva Schools, for example, has a huge collection of Python courses as well with practical applications focused on things like algorithms, computational thinking, data science, and game & app development.
While there is no block-based approach on Zenva Schools, the focus is more so on building real job skills. As such, there is an emphasis on building projects that are suitable for a portfolio.
What Coding Content Is Missing From Codesters?
In addition, the platform could delve further into specific coding applications like data science, web development, and game development. Game development, in particular, is a missed opportunity. Many projects involve creating simple games, but while Python Part 2 explores game mechanics, there’s not much room to explore game development beyond these creations.
Zenva Schools also dives a lot deeper into game development – which has become increasingly popular as a means to get students invested in their coding education.
What Age Group Is Codesters Targeting?
Codesters doesn’t provide a specific age range that it’s most suited for, but given the courses for 6th, 7th and 8th-grade classes, 11 to 14-year-olds are the targeted age range. That said, the platform is usable by students who fall outside this age range thanks to its accessible drag-to-text coding system that still has real-world applications to some degree.
However, older learners may not like the platform’s aesthetics; the cartoonish design of many projects seems geared most towards early-to-mid teens rather than older teenagers.
All in all, mileage here will definitely vary – which is to be somewhat expected given the supreme focus on Python specifically.
Other platforms with more content, though, may be a better match depending on the situation. For instance, since Zenva Schools has a much wider breadth of content, they’re able to cover grades as young as Year 3, and all the way up to Year 12. Even the Python content featured on Zenva Schools has a wider scope, with some content specifically being reserved for senior students.
How Well Does Codesters Match The Curriculum?
Codesters’ courses align with the CSTA’s Computer Science curriculum standards. Teachers can access details on how each course meets specific curriculum standards through the platform’s educator guide, which includes lesson plans and guides to using the platform.
In addition, the Python Part 3 course also includes a concurrent module designed to specifically build the skills students need to pass the Certiport IT Specialist Certification exam. There’s also the PCA Certification course that teaches the specific skills necessary to take the Python Coding Apprentice exam successfully.
Finally, Codesters states that its courses involve standards-aligned math lessons using coding projects to teach statistics, probability, and geometry. However, the frameworks or standards these lessons align with or how they specifically meet these standards are unclear.
Although Codesters closely aligns with a few curricula, other platforms also have Codesters beat in this area.
To name one, Zenva Schools aligns with the CSTA Computer Science standards as well, but also includes lesson plan mappings for the K-12 Computer Science Framework and Common Core standards. For those outside the US, Zenva Schools also maps to the Australian Digital Technologies curriculum as well.
What Features Does Codesters Have For Students & Parents?
The standout feature Codesters offers students is, of course, the drag-to-text coding interface, which makes the platform accessible while allowing students to learn and practice with real-world code using Python.
Another feature is the code editor’s colour-coded interface. Different colours are used to help students distinguish between elements of code like variables, strings, integers, and functions. The code editor also includes a quick-access toolbar for running, stopping, saving, and sharing projects.
Finally, the editor includes a library of visual elements to drag onto the project “stage” to quickly and easily customise the appearance of each project.
Another part of Codesters for students is the project-based structure of its courses. This structure allows students to gain hands-on experience in coding.
However, the drag-to-text coding interface may not be everyone. Additionally, some students may find it difficult to transfer to regular text coding despite the middle ground approach.
Other platforms like Zenva Schools may be better, as they do take the pure text-based approach while still offering projects for students to complete. Zenva Schools is also able to offer interactive lessons, quizzes, and downloadable course files as a consequence of their approach – catering to all learning styles.
What Features Does Codesters Have For Teachers?
The main feature of Codesters for teachers is the platform’s integrated learning management system (LMS). The LMS allows teachers to enroll students into a class, assign courses to different classes, monitor progress through each course, and view grades all in one place.
The LMS allows teachers to view an overview of each class or student’s progress or dive deeper with a lesson-by-lesson view that gives more detail. This view also allows teachers to view and run students’ code to see how they solved a particular task or identify any issues.
Codesters also offers a Class page where projects are automatically saved and shared for the whole class to view. The page allows teachers to encourage collaborative learning, peer review, and other teaching methods relying on students sharing and assessing each others’ work.
Another feature is Codesters’ automatic grading system. Each lesson includes assessments made up of multiple-choice and open-response questions, which are marked and graded when students complete them. As well as giving students immediate feedback, this system takes the legwork out of grading and assessments for teachers.
Codesters provides further resources for teachers through its educator guide, which includes full curriculum alignment details for each course, plus lesson plans and pacing guides to help deliver them in the classroom. The guide also provides tutorials for using the platform effectively, assisting the teachers in getting to grips with the platform quickly even if they haven’t used it before.
Finally, Codesters provides a range of professional development resources for teachers. These include free self-paced professional development materials, a series of remote workshops training teachers to use and teach Python, and options for private PD sessions for multiple teachers (although these are limited to District plans).
All this being said, keep in mind a fully-stocked LMS is not needed in every case. An LMS tends to have a higher learner curve. So for teachers who want to hit the ground running, set up may not be as quick as they would like.
For comparison purposes, Zenva Schools offers a nice middle-ground. While not a fully blown LMS, Zenva Schools does offer a classroom management system and analytics to track student progress. The UI is consequently kept very simple, so teachers can easily find the tools they need without having to master the platform.
In addition, Zenva Schools still offers a variety of other features like lesson plans with curriculum mapping and the ability for teachers to use the courses for professional development. In addition, if you decide later you want an LMS, Zenva Schools can be paired with one very easily.
How Much Does Codesters Cost?
Codesters runs on a subscription basis, with different plans for different uses. The full details of each plan and what they include are in the table below.
|Plan||Cost||What Does The Codesters Subscription Option Include?|
|Trial||Free for 30 days||Access to Intro to Codesters for up to 30 students, plus FAQs and documentation, limited email support with a 24-hour response time, self-paced professional development and Google SSO integration.|
|Club (10 students minimum)||$20 per student per year (annual billing)||Access for 10-30 students, including everything from the Trial version plus access to all other courses (except for the PCA Certification course), full email support and a quicker response time of 8 hours.|
|Classroom (30 students minimum)||$15 per student per year (annual billing)||Everything from Club but for 30-100 students, plus access to online professional development training and Office 365 SSO integration|
|School/District (100 students minimum)||Custom plans – contact Codesters directly for a quote||Everything from Classroom but for 100+ students, plus a quicker 2-hour response time, options for in-person professional development at an extra cost, a dedicated account manager and integrations with ClassLink SSO, Clever Secure Sync, and Canvas and Schoology LTI Platforms|
In addition to the basic plans, Codesters also offers the PCA Certification course at an extra cost. This course is available in student, classroom, school, and district licenses, with further options for exam-only, practice tests, and a bundle that includes the exam, retests, and practice tests. The total costing breakdown is in the table below.
|Student (1 license)||Classroom (30 licenses)||School (100+ licenses)||District (500+ licenses)|
|Exam-only (per student per attempt)||$25||$25||$22||$20|
|Practice Tests (per student)||$20||$18||$14||$12|
|Bundle (per student)||$50||$45||$35||$30|
While plenty of options are available, this does make budgeting trickier. Plus, Codesters does lock some features behind higher and higher price tiers – so it simply may not fit your particular schools situation.
Other platforms can do pricing a bit better in terms of structure. For example, Zenva Schools charges a similar price per student per year. However, that’s it. There are no extra charges, and teachers get all the content and all the features for that price. So there is a lot more simplicity in signing up!
Conclusion: Is Codesters Worth It?
Codesters provides schools with plenty of project-based Python courses that take students from the basics of coding to advanced concepts and subjects. Its drag-to-text system also makes the platform accessible to students of all experience levels, allowing learners to practice with actual text code while providing the simplicity and usability of block coding.
However, other options are available if you aren’t interested in a platform that only has Python resources.
Of course, this by no mean makes Codesters bad. Instead, just do your research first and make sure you pick the platform that has content that is most useful to you!
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