Though at first I was not thrilled to review CodeWizardsHQ, I enjoyed exploring the live homeschool coding classes they offer. While free and lower-cost options for learning to code abound, none of them include live, interactive classes which can help students succeed when coding gets frustrating.
CodeWizardsHQ’s live classes meet once a week. During each class, the instructor teaches skills which students immediately put into practice. About 80% of each session includes actual coding. The instructor can see each student’s work in real-time and offer immediate advice and feedback. Students use their computers’ microphones or a headset to interact with the instructor and other class members.
After each week’s class, a coding project and quiz are assigned. If a student encounters difficulties while completing the assignment, she can elicit help from her classmates in the online student community. Instructors allow time for other students to offer assistance but also provide support within that community.
If a student falls behind or is struggling with the class, CodeWizardsHQ provides free one-on-one sessions with an instructor to help that child get caught up and back on track.
Completing a single twelve-week class does not qualify for high school credit on its own. CodeWizardsHQ is designed to be a supplemental class. In my opinion, a student in eighth grade or higher who completes three twelve-week sessions (equivalent to one Wizard level) might earn up to half of a high school credit, but homeschool parents should use their own judgment.
The classes do not count as Advanced Placement Computer Science since they do not prepare students for the AP exam. CodeWizardsHQ focuses on practical coding; the AP exam also covers theoretical concepts not addressed in the class. However, CodeWizardsHQ’s courses do include plenty of instruction in object-oriented programming with Java, giving students a head-start on the practical concepts of AP Computer Science and preparing students to be successful in that course.
My twelve-year-old daughter attended a sample one-hour class designed to familiarize students with the format of CodeWizardsHQ’s classes and coding platform. It also served as a brief introduction to HTML and using a code editor. Hands-on exercises during the class kept her and the other students actively engaged. As in CodeWizardHQ’s regular classes, the size of the class was small; she attended along with five other Review Crew students.
We arrived more than an hour early for class, since I had forgotten it was in Central Standard Time. We took a few minutes to explore the website and ensure the sound and microphone were working properly before I sent her off to work on some other assignments.
Shortly before the actual start of the class, my computer pinged, indicating the instructor was online. Immediately, we heard other students saying hello. My daughter and her twin sister both dropped what they were doing to check out the class. Since everyone had arrived early, the instructor began teaching.
After introducing himself and allowing each student to do the same, our instructor, Sam, made sure everyone was logged into CodeWizardsHQ and could find the code editor. He walked students through the process of opening an HTML file and talked about the basic tags (HTML code) that were included in it. My daughter quickly understood how to save a file and display it as a web page. The basic file produced a single frame of a comic.
When Sam instructed students to copy some of the code and paste it further down in the file to add a new comic frame, they all quickly complied. Unfortunately, his instructions were not completely clear, and several kids copied more than he intended, with some unexpected results. My daughter made the mistake as well, but her sister immediately pointed out her error.
After copying the code, she modified it to customize the background, the image that is displayed, and even the text. A variety of image files were readily available on the coding platform. Sam also demonstrated how to search for transparent images online so they could add to their image library and personalize their comics more.
While my daughter breezed through the process, other students encountered problems. As soon as they asked for help, Sam looked at their code and let them know how to fix the error, ensuring that every student was successful.
Before wrapping up the session, Sam invited the students to present their projects to the rest of the class. It was neat to see the different direction each comic took even though everyone started with the same idea.
My daughter enjoyed the format of the class and had a lot of fun expressing her creativity in the comic she created. “It’s not really that hard to put a comic together; it’s really simple,” she comments. “It was just as fun as writing my own story!”
We had been a bit nervous about the logistics of a live online class, but it actually worked very well and was straightforward to set up. The class used the same kind of web app my husband uses when he attends meetings remotely from home.
How did my daughter appreciate the live aspect of the class? “It helps people with the instructions.” If you do not understand something, “you can just ask them to repeat that part.” Her sister, who enjoyed observing the class, adds, “The instructor fixes one person’s mistake, and that helps the other people not make that mistake.” Both girls enjoyed seeing other students’ completed projects at the end of the class.
Who would benefit most from these live classes? “I think that it would be fun and interesting for people with no programming experience, and they would be able to get the experience.” She believes the classes “would be very appealing to kids my age and even younger.” Building comic strips is a wonderfully simple way for kids to get their feet wet with coding, and CodeWizardsHQ teaches students as young as fifth grade.
“I think that it’s really fun to do those classes, but I’d mostly let Mom and Dad teach me because they know what I have and haven’t learned….what skills I have and don’t have.” I explained to her that CodeWizardsHQ allows students with coding experience to test into more challenging classes. Even so, she would “much rather have Mom, Dad or [my older brother] teach me because they know how to explain it in a way that I would understand, and they also know what they do and don’t have to explain to me.” Would it be beneficial for students whose parents are not into coding? “Of course!”
CodeWizardsHQ’s classes look great and offer essential support for a child to learn programming if his parents are not adept in this area. Since I have a computer science degree and my husband works in the tech industry, I do not anticipate using a resource like this, but I can certainly recognize its value.
Their homeschool offer gives homeschool groups the opportunity to enroll multiple students in live coding classes at a time that is most convenient and pay a discounted rate based on the number of students enrolled. If live coding classes appeal to you, partner with a few other homeschool families you know to get the best price.