Google extends coding education to adults

By Kauthar Gool
Johannesburg, 20 Apr 2018
Google app Grasshopper teaches users the basics of coding.
Google app Grasshopper teaches users the basics of coding.

Coding is becoming essential for today's changing job market, but few adults have access to programming education, with many barriers hindering the learning of this skill.

This is according to Laura Holmes, founder of Grasshopper, the Google coding app launched this week that teaches users basic programming in JavaScript.

"We saw there was a need in the coding education landscape to build a tool that started with no prior knowledge and guided a user towards practical skills without having to worry about which language they were learning in or downloading new tools.

"Grasshopper strips away the complexity at the beginning, and then slowly builds the user towards being able to write code using many of the same skills that a real programmer uses.

"Interestingly, more than 69% of our users tell us they're interested in coding to apply new skills to their career."

Holmes adds Grasshopper was built by a team within Area 120, Google's workshop for experimental projects.

The app teaches adults to code through a series of programming puzzles and quizzes, she notes. "These puzzles and quizzes build on each other and the previous lessons learned, resulting in the student being able to apply code to increasingly complex challenges. Each puzzle has the student writing real JavaScript code using a custom-built code-editing environment.

"The student is given a challenge and has to solve it using code, but it only takes a few taps to write out. Each time the student runs code, they're given real-time feedback to help guide them towards solving the challenge.

"Many students have told us this real-time feedback feels like a tutor, since it seems so tailored to their current state and learning level. We've also added a lot of motivational features, like achievements, progress indicators and coding streaks."

Holmes adds Grasshopper is seen as a launchpad to help introduce people to code. "For one-third of our users, Grasshopper is the first time they've ever encountered coding. Many people think they're not able to learn this skill, or may not have the access and time needed to consider it as a viable career path and we want to help change that perception."

Grasshopper offers several courses, beginning with "The Fundamentals" where users learn about the basics of code.

The app has been installed more than 100 000 times since its launch earlier this week.

Holmes says there have been encouraging results so far, with over 5 000 people having graduated from the JavaScript fundamentals course, with 47% of these students from backgrounds that are traditionally underrepresented in tech. "Around 68% of our users say they're more motivated to learn to code after using Grasshopper."

She notes the content will change over time as users provide feedback on their experiences. "In the coming months, we plan on learning from our users and adding more lessons. What's been really exciting about this journey is that we're continuously gaining knowledge, just as much as our students."

Grasshopper is a free-to-download app, available on both Play Store and iOS App Store, accessible from anywhere in the world.