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Codecademy's New API Lab Lets Wannabe Devs Tinker With NPR, Twilio, SoundCloud, And More

Learning to code is more fun when you're building something you can use. Codecademy's new lesson plans use APIs to help students build more complex projects earlier.

After completing the first HTML project at online programming school Codecademy, you'll be able to insert a header, text, and images into an otherwise blank website.

But a new lesson category the site introduced Wednesday lets students tackle complex projects by incorporating services from YouTube, SoundCloud, Twilio, Stripe, and others—even before they know the code behind their solutions.

Each of the lessons is written by programmers at a partner company and provides step-by-step instructions for using that company's API. Although APIs make it easy for developers to use existing services in new apps, the instructions for implementing them can be dense. Codecademy's tutorial format makes using them a better option for novices.

Lessons are centered around specific actions. Students can, for instance, learn to build applications that make phone calls using Twilio, find radio show transcripts from NPR, or incorporate a YouTube search.

Codecademy's Zach Sims thinks the instant gratification of building something useful early on will help encourage students to stick with meatier lesson plans such as JavaScript and Python. Learning how to make real use of apps that, say, take advantage of voice and messaging for mobile apps, is comparable to an electrician learning how to make the lights come on, Sims says.

"When after 10 minutes of fooling around with Twilio, your phone rings, that, I think, is a really empowering moment for someone learning programming," he tells Fast Company. "It can get them over the initial hump."

The startup has never had trouble attracting users. Last year, more than 250,000 people—including the New York City mayor—made a New Year's resolution to learn to code by signing up for Codecademy's Code Year. But this year, by adding more practical lessons, it hopes more of them can keep it.

[Image: Flickr user Torley]

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  • Charles Manfre

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