• 08.14.12

Learn How To Code From YouTube Educator Khan Academy

Online education giant Khan Academy is offering a fully immersive e-learning system for JavaScript and basic programming. The new Khan Academy Computer Science school teaches coding through art and picture-drawing exercises, and is a direct competitor to other popular learn-to-code organizations.

Internet education giant Khan Academy is venturing into new territory: Interactive, graphics-based online programming courses available for web and mobile. The new Khan Academy Computer Science courses, which are launching today, brings Khan Academy into direct competition with established free learn-to-code sites such as Codecademy and Programr. Khan Academy’s programming courses are aimed at absolute beginners, and teach users how to make simple drawings and artwork via code.


Khan Academy recruited John Resig, developer of the jQuery library for JavaScript (which, like Codecademy is what students are taught to code with), to develop their new Computer Science program. The decision to focus on drawings and artwork was intentional. “We really wanted to tap into student’s creativity and sense of exploration. We wanted to make something that was immediate and visceral and got the students producing something that was compelling. Targeting drawing and art seemed like a logical realm to approach as it inherently triggers a student’s artistic abilities and helps to elevate the normally logically inclined programming that they’re doing,” Resig told Co.Exist.

The curriculum for students on Khan Academy sticks to the basics of coding. Students in the course are guided through creating simple programs to create pictures and animation, while covering topics like reading documentation, variables, mouse interaction, if statements, and boolean logic. Don’t know what any of that means? That’s why you need to take the class. Development for the computer science project started in late October 2011, with primary development by Resig, Jessica Liu (of Brown University), and Jamie Wong (of Waterloo University). Although development started in late 2011, the platform was built relatively quickly; according to Resig, most of the development process consisted of testing “with people of all ages and skill levels” in order to fine-tune the learn-to-code environment.

Learning how to code has become a hot educational commodity. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg recent promised to learn how to code via Codecademy, and high-profile initiatives like Code Year have been evangelizing the virtues of basic coding nationwide. Individual proponents such as Douglas Rushkoff and Farhad Manjoo (a Fast Company contributor) have also been instrumental in getting the word out.

The burst in popularity for coding is the result of two factors. First and most important is America’s continuing sluggish economy. While many job markets remain dismal (especially for educated, unemployed older white collar workers), there has been continuing growth in the larger information technology industry. Although most full-time coders and engineers started in their teens or younger, there’s a fair amount of hopes among unemployed Americans of cracking the market. Secondly is the fact that basic coding skills are now required–or will be required soon–at many office jobs. As sales and managerial staff increasingly find themselves collaborating with techies who speak in APIs, JavaScript, and iOS mobile applications, a basic ability to speak the language is needed. For Khan Academy, this means lots of eager new learners.