Codeacademy is an online platform on which users can get free coding lessons in 12 different languages such as Java, Python and PHP, among others. The company was founded in 2011 with a mission to make code tutorials accessible to everyone in the world in a bid to truly democratize programming. Ever since its founding, Codeacademy has raised $42.5 M and acquired 25 M users that are not only learning to code themselves but are also creating content on the site to help others do the same. Though it seems that the depth of information on the site is not sufficient for mid to high level coders, the platform is great to get early adopters to start coding given the easy to use interface and interactive community.
Codeacademy has taken several steps to create value for its customers considering the platform has been free since inception. Lessons are taught not by video but via guided exercises that users need to complete via the in – browser terminal after which they accumulate points and badges that can be shared on social media. This not only creates a sense of achievement but also encourages users to continue. There is an online forum as well where users can discuss lessons and coordinate in – person meetups in their respective cities. To keep up with demand for more lessons, the company now allows its users to create and teach their own content which may be shared on the website depending up on its relevance.
All features on Codeacademy have been free since inception however in 2016 the company started offering the Codeacademy Pro version for $19.99/month or $199.99/year to offer a more personalized and guided method to learn code. The company has talked about other ways to potentially monetize in the future but it remains to be seen how they will proceed with those business models.
Incentivizing participation and managing crowd
Codeacademy recognized early that it did not have enough lessons available to satisfy its growing user base and created the Course Creator to allow third parties to create their own content – the company provides documentation on how to use the site tools to write these interactive lessons. Codeacademy incentivizes participation by having no approval process to publish a lesson, however the company does screen them so that only valuable and relevant lessons are put up on the site. This makes it attractive for authors to create high quality courses since the exposure can build their online reputation on the platform. Codeacademy also encourages participation by inviting users who have had over 500 Q & A on the forums to become “moderators” (who get a virtual badge) on the platform to ensure user questions are answered appropriately and in a timely manner. Fortunately, for Codeacademy, it seems that the true intent of course creators and moderators is aligned with companys’ mission to contribute and share knowledge on coding which makes it easier to manage the crowd.
Challenges and growth
There are several challenges that Codeacademy faces given the competitive landscape and its existing approach to teaching code. The company has a much higher user base of 25 M compared to some of its competitors such as Coursera 7.5M and Udacity 1.8M, however, a high percentage of these users do not finish their lessons and drop out prior to learning tangible transferable skills. Even if the users stay on the platform, the general perception is that the content is not thorough enough to teach someone how to become a coder worthy of being hired. Some of its competitors have costly ($15,000 / year) boot camps, however, they offer guaranteed placements post course completion which can be a better overall proposition. The challenge for the Codeacademy will also be to further incentivize its crowd to create better content that is bug free and relevant to the discussion topics and finally to make its community more inclusive.