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New York U. Turns to Free Site to Help Teach Computer Programming

A department at New York University is beginning to use a free online service to help teach computer-programming courses.

The department of media, culture, and communication in NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development recently announced a partnership with Codecademy, a free site that started last year and has quickly gained a following in the computer-science field, to provide a 10-week programming course this semester.

Fifty undergraduates will participate in the pilot program, which includes a weekly class and monthly lectures from technology-industry leaders. If all goes well, the course may be incorporated into the department’s curriculum.

Students will learn to code programming languages like HTML, Javascript, and Python using Codecademy’s free platform at their own pace, and they will use class time to address problems and ask questions.

Marita Sturken, the department’s chair, said the idea of working with Codecademy had been sparked by the rapidly changing work environment and the high demand for college graduates familiar with programming.

“Part of what we’re trying to do is teach them to be flexible thinkers,” she said. “Coding is a sort of grammar they need—they’re very likely, no matter what profession they go into, to need and draw on these skills and to understand digital literacy.”

Codecademy’s offices happen to be across the street from the NYU campus, which made the partnership easy to arrange, said Liel Leibovitz, a visiting assistant professor who is teaching the course along with the coding instructor David Hu.

Codecademy provided its platform free, and the two parties have not discussed plans to collect revenue through the partnership, said Zach Sims, Codecademy’s chief executive, in an e-mail interview.

Plans for similar arrangements with other colleges are in the works. “Tons of universities have reached out to us to extend Codecademy to their students, and we’re actively working with a bunch of them,” he said, though he declined to name potential partners until the arrangements were made final.

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