Free Code Camp Or Launch School

My Experience With These Two Valuable Entities

Every person who wants to learn how to code has probably heard of freeCodeCamp. I am no exception to this rule and I have to say that their curriculum looks very attractive. In this story I want to talk about how I tried to learn how to code with freeCodeCamp and ended up switching to LaunchSchool. This article is not a review of Free Code Camp or Launch School, I spent 2 months full time learning with freeCodeCamp and around 4 months learning with LaunchSchool, I am simply writing about my experience with both of them and how one fits my needs better than the other.

I made the decision of opting for a career in Web Development in February 2016. Back then I had done tons of research about which path to follow for the next 6 months so I could be ready to find a job right after the summer. Yes, I was optimistic, 6 months to become a professional Web Developer… Of course, I had heard about the 3 months bootcamps promising you to achieve the same in half the time, but the cost was too high and I was skeptical. At first, I thought I was going to use Coursera, Edx and Udemy courses only. However, after considering that option in depth I realised that I needed something structured, a path to follow. That’s when I found Free Code Camp.

Free Code Camp seemed like the perfect tool for what I needed. It was structured, looked fun and was covering all the topics I wanted to learn about front-end and back-end (including the most popular JavaScript frameworks). 
So there I was, I had picked freeCodeCamp and had started their front-end section. I spent a whole 2 months on it. I started with their HTML / CSS and was feeling so empowered from creating these little Web Apps! I was thrilled so I kept going and learned about JavaScript, solved some really hard problems using complex algorithms. As I was going through the curriculum I was updating the portfolio I had created as my first Web App. Honestly, it was great and I think that freeCodeCamp’s curriculum is really good. However, something wasn’t feeling quite right for me. I was often in a hack’n’slash mode, trying things, not really understanding what was happening in depth… And, personally, it is something that really bugs me: doing/making something that works but not understanding how it works. So I started taking courses on the side: an algorithm course with Coursera which was very interesting, and also a JavaScript course on Udemy just as interesting. It made me feel better and more accomplished, with those courses I was able to understand better what I was doing. 
After learning more about JavaScript I thought it would be important to know OOP with another language so I decided I was going take a Java class on Coursera that covers OOP in depth… I think that’s when I realised that freeCodeCamp wasn’t right for me. With freeCodeCamp there is this implicit expectation that you are going to have to dig / study on the side in order to understand what you’re doing, I think this is fine for some people but it is not for me. In this context I am going to want to know more and more about every new thing I do not understand. Hence, I get off topic trying to understand something that might not even be that relevant to Web Development. For example, when I took the algorithm class, there were some underlying mathematical concepts that I tried to understand/study, thinking that I needed to know them in order to become a professional Web Developer. I was wrong and that’s how I realised that I needed a more structured program. Then, I discovered Launch School.

In April 2016, I was getting worried about being all over the place: learning about front-end, algorithms, JavaScript in depth, feeling like I needed to learn OOP with some other language… I felt in over my head and I knew I needed structure to get back on track. After some substantial time spent searching for a program that would work for me, I found Launch School. I read their front page and immediately felt like it was what I needed:

  • Learning the fundamentals first and thoroughly
  • Learning to proficiency/mastery
  • Factoring out time when considering to get ready to start my career in software development: picking the slow path over shortcuts
  • Learning in a circular fashion
  • Assessments composed of a written test and an interview

It has been what I have needed from the beginning and I couldn’t be happier with my experience going through LaunchSchool. I am now about 4 months and a half in the program (I took 2 months off during the summer) and it is working out great for me. Fundamentals are well-covered, I am not getting sidetracked and the depth reached for each topic is on point. I am learning what I need to learn to become a professional Web Developer in order to launch my career and that is all I could ask for. Moreover, the team at LaunchSchool is very responsive and the community is motivated and helpful. The only downfall, and LaunchSchool even talks about this on their website, is that you are learning on your own, so it can get difficult sometimes, but if your goals are set it is doable. After all, this is the downfall of almost every online program teaching how to code.

To conclude and come back to my title, Free Code Camp or Launch School? Well it all depends on what you want to learn and how you want to learn it. FreeCodeCamp might be better for people that like to learn along with some freedom in their learning, whereas LaunchSchool is more structured and doesn’t really let you get side-tracked. Whatever you are looking for, I recommend you check them out because they are both really great if you want to learn about Web Development.

EDIT: PS: It might be important for some people to know that Free Code Camp is free where as Launch School requires a monthly subscription of $199 which is still pretty cheap compared to most of the coding bootcamps out there.