I've been working towards learning more about programming and coding languages outside of the classroom, because I want to stand out more when applying for jobs after college. One of my favorite ways to learn is through interactive apps, especially free ones, so I was excited to discover the SoloLearn app so I could develop my programming skills further. Here is my review of the free SoloLearn app for programming and coding in honor of Computer Science Education Week- read more about Computer Science Education Week and the Hour of Code here.
What is SoloLearn?
SoloLearn is a series of free apps that allows users to learn a variety of programming languages and concepts through short lessons, code challenges, and quizzes. Lessons are written with the beginner in mind, so anyone can learn to read and write their own code. SoloLearn is available for free download for iOS on the App Store here and for Android on Google Play here. SoloLearn courses can also be accessed online here.
SoloLearn has lessons for the following programming languages and concepts. Users can take as many lessons as they want for free.
- Algorithms and data structures
- Machine learning
- Design Patterns
Required technology skills
SoloLearn does not require users to have any prior coding or programming experience, though the app does require that users be able to read English proficiently. The following additional technology skills are required to use the SoloLearn app:
- Ability to select items on the screen
- Basic typing
- Drag-and-drop items on the screen
- Use VoiceOver gestures- read more about VoiceOver here.
Setting up an account
To set up an account, users need to provide the following information:
- Password- read more about creating secure passwords here
This app requires an internet or data connection in order to access most functions in the app. Previously accessed lessons can be downloaded for offline use.
The app opens by default to a user profile, with four additional tabs on the bottom of the screen.
The "Learn" tab contains free lessons in programming languages and concepts, which are arranged in horizontal lines. After selecting a language or concept, the user is taken to another screen where they can select a module, where there are several lessons. Lessons can be completed in 3-5 minutes depending on how familiar users are with the concepts.
Users can practice and test their coding skills by participating in challenges against opponents. These are similar to the quizzes, except instead users are competing to see who can answer questions the fastest.
SoloLearn has a free IDE built into the app so users can write their own code and share it with the community. Users can also read code that other users have uploaded to SoloLearn.
SoloLearn has a giant community of programmers and learners where users can go to ask questions and learn about the latest in programming. I have not spent a lot of time in the online community, but this may be a helpful resource for others.
SoloLearn does not use the system default font size, and I found that even the largest text size on the app was too small for my needs. That being said, I'm able to use the Zoom magnifier without any flaws, so I can easily magnify text as needed. SoloLearn is also compatible with VoiceOver on iOS and Select-to-Speak on Android, though it does take some getting used to because users have to tap each text box or button to hear it read out loud.
My experience with SoloLearn Java
I decided to try using SoloLearn to study concepts for my upcoming Java exam. Since I'm still not very confident with my programming skills, I was happy to see that the explanations for each concept were short but still provided a lot of detail. I found the exercises where users determine what will be output from a block of code to be the most helpful, since I don't get to practice that a lot in my classes. I like that I am able to complete modules in a short amount of time, which would make this perfect for last-minute studying before I take a test in the disability testing center at my college- read more about the disability testing center here.
Not to be confused with the challenges against opponents, coding challenges allow for users to participate in mini contests with other users to write short programs based on a given theme. This is a fantastic way to explore practical uses of programming skills across a variety of topics, including math, writing, and logic. It's worth noting that users can just complete these activities for fun and don't have to share their programs with the community if they don't want to.
Benefits of using SoloLearn
Here are some of the benefits of using SoloLearn to learn about programming and coding:
- Study for an exam or class in a low-pressure environment
- Have an understanding of how your favorite apps are created
- Learn about web development and web accessibility
- Receive free training for in-demand job skills
- See how programming and coding concepts are used in everyday life
SoloLearn is a great study tool for me because it explains concepts in a way that is easy for me to follow and helps me prepare for exams. I also enjoy using it as a tool to help me get ahead in my classes and ensure that I understand the different constraints of programming languages, as well as how they can be used. I recommend SoloLearn to anyone looking to learn how to program and write their own code.