Grok is how teaching programming online should be done

grok screenI’ve been working my way through the Grok Learning Python course over the last few days and it is simply excellent. Two weeks ago I did the same with the Code Academy Python course and Grok leaves it for dead.

Why is Grok so good? Let me list some of the ways: Clear instructions. Interesting and amusing problems. No errors. (None of which, sadly, applies to the competition). On top of that it’s an Australian initiative which means friendly local support and proper spelling of the word ‘colour’.

Online courses are clearly one part of the future of education. They allow for self-directed learning at the student’s own pace, for instant one-to-one feedback, for learning outside of the classroom, and for world-class instruction in spite of the limited knowledge of a particular teacher. We’ve just introduced Grok to our High School programming group and the response has been fantastic. The kids are quickly picking up Python at their own pace in spite of having two adult leaders who, although we can help with problems, have no idea of how to teach Python programming.

Now it must be said that one big difference between Grok and most of the other online courses we’ve looked at is that Grok is not free. The fact there is a business model involved is reflected in the quality of the course materials, but will clearly be a limitation for some people. There are, however, free modules available to try Grok out. Signing up a student in a class environment costs $30 for a year’s access to all course materials, and includes the annual Python Challenge which otherwise costs $20 per student. Outside of a classroom environment the cost is $100 for a student. The teacher administration area is pretty good too, but clearly still needs some work to be as seamless as the actual instructional areas.

At the moment Grok only covers Python, and even there some of the more advanced modules are not yet published – although they are set to appear very soon. There’s also a LOGO course on the cards and no reason the same model can’t be applied to a variety of other languages.

Grok has been put together by a group from Sydney University. They describe themselves as:

We’re a team of educators and software engineers who want to make coding fun for everyone. We are passionate about teaching the next generation the skills they need to become the creators of tomorrow.

Together we have decades of experience teaching computing to university students, high school students, teachers and professionals. We love using the latest technology to make it easier for you to learn.

Although Grok is still in its infancy they’ve already gone a long way towards achieving their goal. I can’t recommend Grok highly enough for anyone wanting to teach programming, or even to learn it themselves.

For all the Grok Learning goodness head on over to their website.

3 thoughts on “Grok is how teaching programming online should be done

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  • August 8, 2016 at 9:13 pm
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    Hi, I’ve just started using Grok after giving Codecademy a go. In 2016, would you still recommend Grok as an online programming tool for High School students and their educators? Thanks, Felix

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    • August 8, 2016 at 9:16 pm
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      Absolutely. Grok is a great grounding in coding. But it is focused largely on Python so if you want to go beyond Python Code Acedemy is good. That said, Grok’s use of Python gives a solid grounding in core coding techniques.

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