Many parents want their children to learn coding beyond the basics they learn at school. One way of achieving this is through after-school coding courses or clubs.
But how does after-school coding work? Are courses and clubs the same thing? (short answer: no) Does it matter what "flavour" of coding kids learn? (short answer: yes)
In this blog post, I'll answer these questions and more. I'll describe how after-school coding works and how it's different to what children learn at school.
After-School Coding Courses and Clubs
To discuss how after-school coding works, I'll first need to explain the difference between a coding course and a coding club. Often, these terms are used to mean the same thing. However, there is an important difference between a club and a course.
A coding club is normally a session that has little or no structure in which students work independently, with a club leader overseeing them and helping them out.
A coding course is a structured series of learning where a teacher makes sure key topics are learned and students progress through a curriculum.
To learn any subject, including coding, you first need a course. Through a structured series of learning, children will learn the fundamental topics in the right order and at the right pace for them.
To learn a subject thoroughly, you also need to practise it a lot. With coding, you can practise independently or through coding clubs, or indeed a mixture of both.
Therefore, to understand how after-school coding works, you need to look at the balance between courses and clubs.
How After-School Coding Works
Our after-school sessions at codetoday start with Live Online courses. As the name implies, these are courses, they're delivered live, and they're online. Our experienced, UK-based instructors will run courses following the codetoday curriculum which we have designed to ensure that coding is taught properly but also in a fun way.
The course sessions are highly interactive. Instructors will introduce a topic and a project and then, they'll let students work on the projects during the session. During these periods when students are coding, the instructor will observe students work through screen-sharing, answer any questions students ask, and guide students and provide them with suggestions and feedback on their work. The instructor will then bring all the class back together to work as a whole group and make sure all topics are well-understood.
We run our courses in four-week units, and students can move from one Level to the next to progress through the curriculum. The progression through a curriculum is an important aspect of learning through structured courses.
We also run codetodayEXPLORE sessions at the end of every after-school Live Online coding course. These sessions are similar to coding clubs and are designed for students to consolidate what they've learned in the courses and learn to become more independent in their coding.
Students work on a project independently in the codetodayEXPLORE sessions. The project they work on is suited for their level depending on which Live Online courses they've completed. Our instructors are there to guide and assist students, and to give them feedback and support as the students work independently.
Choosing Your Own Pace To Learn
There's another reason we run our Live Online courses in sets of four sessions. This approach gives control to parents and students on the pace they would like to learn at. Some students attend courses back-to-back, while others take breaks in between one course and the next to allow time for independent work.
Students can, if they want, attend after-school coding sessions throughout the whole term by attending a four-week Live Online course followed by two weeks of codetodayEXPLORE sessions before half term, and then follow the same pattern after half term, too.
However, parents don't have to commit to a whole term which makes it possible for students to only do half a term of coding, say, and then come back for more Live Online courses and more codetodayEXPLORE sessions in a later term.
What's Covered In After-School Coding Courses?
The answer to this question can vary a lot. Some coding clubs run by schools or even some external providers are aimed at keeping children occupied and entertained for an hour or so. Others, especially courses, are aimed at teaching a subject and focus on learning more than entertainment.
What type of "coding" is covered also matters. Many clubs, and some courses, focus on using children-specific platforms and games. These are great to keep children occupied and entertained, and children do enjoy playing with these coding games.
When the aim is to learn how to code, then a proper language such as Python is used and the toys and gimmicks are removed so that children can focus on learning coding as an academic subject. This doesn't mean it's not fun and engaging. On the contrary, coding is at its most fun and engaging when it's at its purest: just coding in Python and a computer, with no toys and distractions!