Codeacademy – Bugs in Online Teaching Platforms

Last week I decided to learn Python. My office-mate keeps on telling me how cool it is, how he can write impressive code in ┬áno time, that would have taken him like millions of years to write in Java. So I decided to give it a try and started the Python track at Codeacademy. This site provides free online courses to learn programming. The cool thing is that all the learning is web-based, you have an editor in which you do exercises, hit “run” and the site checks that you solved the problem correctly. No need for external editors, etc. Pretty cool.

Since I am one of those guys who read the foreword of the Calculus books used at the university, I could not skip the initial parts of the track, even though it explains basic programming stuff that I already know from 10+ years programming in 3+ different languages. The learning goes OK until the exercises start to get more complicated… The instructions get a bit cryptic (maybe because the guys who write these tracks are not teachers but programmers), and suddenly – A BUG! Check out this output:

Enter a word:>
 Arieh
vowel
==> None
Oops, try again.
The first character of Arieh is actually a vowel.
Enter a word:>
 Arieh
vowel
==> None
That's correct! Next Exercise: I'd like to buy a vowel
>

I didn’t change anything in the code between the two runs of the exercise, so something must be wrong with the automatic exercise checker that the site is using. Makes me sad :-(.

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