Codecademy started as a Columbia University programming club — now a reported 45 million people use the site to learn how to code for cheap

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Codecademy started as a Columbia University programming club — now a reported 45 million people use the site to learn how to code for cheap
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Codecademy started as a Columbia University programming club — now a reported 45 million people use the site to learn how to code for cheap
Code Academy; Alyssa Powell/Business Insider

Codecademy, like so many companies in startup lore, began on a college campus.

Its first iteration was humble, as a Columbia University programming club founded by Zach Sims and Ryan Bubinski in 2011.

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Sims had already worked at a few startups (Drop.io acquired by Facebook in 2010, and GroupMe acquired by Skype in 2011) and seen firsthand how valuable technical skills like coding were, but struggled to teach himself the basics. Bubinski, a programming native, signed on to launch a club that would do so in an engaging way.

Using Sims as a guinea pig, the two developed an effective, fast learning experience that became Codecademy, which was later accepted into the famous seed accelerator Y Combinator, known for launching the likes of Airbnb and Dropbox. Codecademy became YC's then-fastest-growing company and signed up more than 200,000 people over the span of a weekend.

Today, Codecademy serves about 45 million students around the world, primarily between the ages of 18-35, according to Sims. Most students are looking to advance in their careers or build a new skill, though the content could suit students as young as 14.

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The company has also worked with governments on unemployment programs and K-12 computer science programs, including in the UK, Brazil, Argentina, and the US.

What classes you can take on Codecademy

Codecademy offers classes on 12 different programming languages including Python, Java, Go, JavaScript, Ruby, SQL, C++, Swift, and Sass, as well as markup languages such as HTML and CSS.

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Codecademy also has structured curriculum roadmaps like Career Paths that teach the core skills of Computer Science, Data Science, and Web Development, as well as Skill Paths focused on more specialized, shorter-term goals. You can take a quiz here if you're not sure where you should start.

Why people like Codecademy

It's interactive. "Codecademy is all focused on learning by doing," Sims told Business Insider. "You get points, badges, immediate feedback. It's a really interactive experience, which is really what differentiates us. [And] the second thing we wanted to do was build something that was accessible — so, low cost or free to reach as many people as possible."

It's pretty cheap. Currently, Codecademy costs between $0 (Basic) and $20 (Pro) for monthly access (the latter is billed annually however at $240/year). Eligible students can also sign up for the cheaper Student Pro membership ($150/year) with the same features.

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Students can access 180 interactive basic courses for free, but Pro provides access to 1,800 courses and perks like step-by-step guidance, peer support, and real-world projects. It's worth mentioning that cheap and sometimes free is not 100% free — and there are entirely free coding resources online — though they'll often lack the game-like design and structure that drove Sims to create Codecademy.

It's not a marketplace. Codecademy courses are created in-house by a team of 25 people, primarily software engineers. Their backgrounds vary from self-taught to programming instructors, and college professors. Otherwise, Codecademy hires third-party curriculum creators and contractors.

What Codecademy is doing to support students and workers

Sims and company have responded to the novel coronavirus pandemic by giving away free access and creating newly practical offerings. Codecademy pledged 200,000 donated Pro scholarships — 100,000 to students and 100,000 to impacted workers — and created a free day of Online Learning with partners like Food52 to teach four-ingredient recipes, and Casper on best sleep practices, and rolled out a series of forums on skills like how to interview remotely.

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Currently, the company is also offering a discounted Pro membership for eligible students.

More e-learning content here:

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