July 21st, 2015
Since its launch in 2011, more than 24 million users have completed more than 100 million exercises on the Codecademy platform. But even though 70% of all those users are from outside the United States, the lessons themselves have always been in English.
Until now. On Thursday, Codecademy announced a new global initiative to help bring those lessons and skills to other languages. According to Codecademy CEO and cofounder Zach Sims, this initiative is the first step to making the platform truly global.
Codecademy has partnered with governments and education groups in Brazil, France, the United Kingdom, Estonia and Argentina to better align its lessons and platforms for those regions.
To do this, the company has translated its lessons into Portuguese, French and Spanish — and more languages are on the way. The translations aren’t machine-based, but instead completed by experts in conjunction with local government or educational groups.
The Lemann Foundation in Brazil helped oversee the translation to Portuguese. The government of Buenos Aires worked with Codecademy as part of its commitment to bringing programming skills to all of its citizens. The Buenos Aires translation is in Spanish, which means that Codecademy will now be accessible to millions of users in Spanish-speaking languages around the globe. Codecademy will now be accessible to millions of users in Spanish-speaking languages around the globe.
In France, Libraries Without Borders is working on the French Codecademy translation. The target audience for French isn’t necessarily learners living in France, but those in French-speaking regions such as Haiti and Cameroon. Sims tells me that according to Libraries Without Borders, refugees often spend 18 years in refugee camps — without access to technology or infrastructure. Libraries Without Borders works to deploy educational materials, books and technology to those camps across the globe.
The Estonian government is working with Codecademy and the Tiger Leap program to bring coding skills to K-12 students.
In the United Kingdom, where Codecademy is opening its first international office, the startup is working with the government and with programs such as Computing at School to adapt Codecademy online lessons for the classroom.
It’s this model, where lessons can be de-tethered to a degree from a computer, that Codecademy hopes to replicate in other regions.
Codecademy is already optimized to work on low-speed connections, Sims said, and the company has an iOS app currently available. However, Sims added, the nature of programming really requires a computer.
Still, he concedes that the company is trying to made its service easier to access lesson offline, too, and the company is looking into optimizing for other types of devices. Codecademy works closely with the Raspberry Pi community, as those systems are often used in educational labs in emerging markets.
For Sims, this first push is just the beginning. Although Codecademy wants to ensure that translations are correct and up to snuff ( language and wording is particularly important in code language and wording is particularly important in code), he also recognizes the role communities can play in helping localize lessons into native languages.
In a perfect world, Sims said, the platform of Codecademy will create ecosystems and communities in certain areas where users can start developing their own lessons in their own language. This is similar to the way the Open Street Map project works, and in that case, the results have been remarkably successful.
The fact that so many of Codecademy’s users are from outside the U.S. is a telling indicator of the global demand for this kind of education.
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