Starting Out with AngularJS at Code School

AngularJS seems to be everywhere, so I decided to learn it even though 2.0 is going to come around and change everything down the road. To get myself started without too much crying, I decided to try membership at Code School.

Code School full logo

Code School is one of those paid services that teaches you how to code. There are a few really good ones out there, but I had to make a decision about where I wanted to drop thirty bucks. Code School had a free level in their AngularJS course, so I gave it a try. The videos featured a guy named Gregg Pollack, who gets the viewer started by speaking in plain English. He doesn’t assume that you already know a bunch of stuff about the framework, which puts him parsecs ahead of the other materials I’ve found online. I can’t really stress that enough. If I knew stuff already, why would I go around looking for tutorials?

Anyway, instead of a confusing mess which is only understood by the Internet’s cool kids, Gregg makes AngularJS fun.

In fact, Angular rocks Gregg's socks.

In fact, Angular rocks Gregg’s socks.

Each video is followed by some challenges so you can use the code you just heard about, and there are bloopers at the end of each level to break whatever tension is created by shoving new stuff into your brain. That’s where the image above came from.

Challenging the Viewer

The videos are excellent, but the challenges are what sold me on a membership. You get a chance to write some code in a mock environment with servers and everything already set up. You don’t have to go away and learn something else just so you can come back and finish this course. And if you do get stuck, you can buy hints with some fake points that you start each course with. They’re kind of like your grade. If you don’t buy any hints or answers, then you keep them all. It’s sort of a game-theory way of encouraging you to figure things out. It worked, too. I gave things a solid try before I bought any hints. My second AngularJS course score isn’t perfect, but so what? Nobody out there cares if you got 100%. They just want you to build stuff that works.

Yep, I Bought Into It

The next AngularJS course takes you deeper, and you discard a couple of bad practices that were kind of necessary to get you started in the first course. After going through this one, I was able to understand the AngularJS docs and start building a real app. When I find things on Stack Overflow, I can actually follow them and figure out if they apply to my situation. That’s a big time-saver when there’s a specific problem to solve.

Staying Sharp with Angular.js It was definitely worth the money to join, and the bloopers at the end of each level were excellent, because Alyssa Nicoll is really funny. I envy whoever gets to have after-work beers with her.

One major theme of her videos is her need to gesture as she explains things. (I am exactly like this, so I can easily relate.) Code School often shows a course’s instructor in the corner of the screen so you can see code examples and animations in the center. This means that Alyssa is sort of standing in a clipping path, and if she reaches out too far then her hands disappear. It was fun to watch her struggle to keep inside the imaginary box.

Alyssa Nicoll stretches her arms out.

Alyssa wants more room for gestures.

Not unlike a gym membership

I’m moving along pretty well on my first AngularJS app, but I’m going to suspend my Code School subscription before my next renew date. Code School is excellent, but if you don’t keep taking new courses then you’re just bleeding money every month. This is exactly like joining a gym, except that there’s no awful contract involved. You can join up or bail out whenever you like. And you can leave temporarily if you choose. You can suspend your membership for a specified period of time, allowing you to get through a busy month and come back when you’re ready for more courses.

I’m focused on AngularJS now and I’ve downloaded all of the videos for that, so there’s no point in staying on until I’m ready to take another course. I’ve already paid for more than one month and I haven’t branched out into the other courses. My plan is to suspend, take a couple of free courses when I have time and then reactivate when I’m ready.

I’m a fan, and I’ll be back

Although I’m going to take a bit of a break from it, I’m a big fan of Code School. I actually understand AngularJS now. I’m not an expert yet, but I’m on my way because these courses were specifically built to help people. I can’t say enough good things about them, especially after seeing so much online that seems to be written for a person who already knows the framework. Once I have another opening in my schedule, I’ll reactivate my membership and take some more courses.