Code School vs Treehouse vs Codecademy: A Review

I’m so thankful for all 3 of these companies. They’ve all been a huge help in my path from total hack to advanced-beginner rubyist. After spending so much time on all 3 sites, I thought the time had come to share my thoughts to help anyone out there who may not have time to fully devote to all 3. They’ve all got strengths and weaknesses, and each seems more targeted for a specific learner.  I’ve spent quite a bit of time on each, and you can see my profiles here:

View Code School Courses I’ve Taken

View Treehouse Courses I’ve Taken [Inactive]

View Codecademy Courses I’ve Taken

In this first post, I’ll cover Code School in-depth, followed by Treehouse and Codecademy in later posts.  If it helps, I’d describe my learning style as the exact opposite of a photographic memory. I need to first understand something, then I need to read it, then I need to type it myself, then I need to answer questions on it, then I need to repeat the process until it’s beaten into my head. All while trying not to think about giant spaceships.

Code School


Monthly Cost: $25.00

Ruby Courses Available (as of 1/10/13): 8

Best For: Advanced Beginners and Above

I’ll come right out and say it: I love Code School. They were the first online learning course I tried, and I find they consistently have high quality, entertaining courses.  The entertainment aspect wasn’t just a little sugar to help the medicine go down either; it really did help keep me motivated.

Code School Strengths:

Incredibly High Production Values: Every class is extremely well done. The styling is awesome, and the slide transitions are well thought out and helpful. The graphics don’t feel gratuitous: each one, whether it’s a little caution sign next to bad code or a 2x up next to great code, adds information to the text. It all adds up to do a great job of keeping my attention focused, and I personally never found any of it distracting.

Good Pacing: This is more a matter of personal preference, but I prefer a slightly fast pace with online learning. I figure I can always pause or rewind the video if it’s slightly fast, but if it’s too slow there’s nothing I can do and I find my mind wandering uncontrollably.  It might just have been my imagination, but I felt like they chose the pacing based off the topic, so beginner videos are slightly slower whereas more advanced videos move at a faster pace.


Good Presenters: I think Greg (the main presenter) does a great job presenting. I don’t even know what you’d call it, but it feels more like a friendly discussion and less like a presentation. He seems to know the areas that are worth spending a little more time on, and he takes the time to mention an example.

Really Useful Content: Ultimately the goal of everything else is to help you learn useful content, and I think they guys at Code School have done a great job of distilling things down to some of the most useful content. Each course has a ton of usable, practical information on every slide. I’m able to take a lot of it and directly apply it to Ruby projects I’m working on.

Well Thought Out Exercises: The exercises strike a balance of being difficult enough that I really had to think through them and often reference the slides. This is huge for me, as I have trouble just learning by reading, so exercises that really test my understanding of the subject are hugely helpful.  With online learning there’s no instructor to contact, so it’s also incredibly important that the exercises aren’t too hard. They solved this two ways: first, they based the exercises very closely off the examples they used in the course, often just changing the variable names.  If I still had trouble after referencing the notes, they provide hints and eventually the answer if you’re truly stuck. Surprisingly, not all online code schools do this.

Code School Weaknesses

Fewer Courses: This one feels a bit unfair, since they’re a smaller shop and since they spend so much time focusing on quality. That said, if you’re a total beginner and can only afford to pay for one code school, this could be an issue. If you compare just their ruby selection to the others, and you consider how much content is in each course, they actually compare pretty favorably. But in general, they have the most limited number of courses of the three.

Tough to Refer Back To: I’m quick at picking up concepts, but I have a terrible time with things like remembering specific syntax.  One thing that’s been tough with the code school courses is referring back to them. They offer downloadable slides, but I find the format and styling works great during the course, but feels busy and not as readable when referencing later.  I think something similar to what railscasts offers, the option to watch or read the episode, would be hugely helpful.  It also seems as if the courses themselves aren’t really designed to be done more than once, which is shame since there’s a limited amount of courses and it’s a monthly subscription model.  You can redo the courses, but things like drilling down to certain sections or quickly reviewing certain parts was tough for me. Though if they had a read-through option with code examples like railscasts, I probably wouldn’t even need to redo the courses.

Code School Review:

Overall, I highly recommend Code School. They’ve been a huge help for me, the courses are enjoyable, and it’s a ton of actionable content that I can use directly in projects. They have several free courses such as Try Ruby, so if you haven’t tried them yet go do it. Right now.

Update: I found out my treehouse account was accidentally deleted by the group admin when it was moved into a group account for learning, but I’m trying to figure out a way to get it re-instated.

19 thoughts on “Code School vs Treehouse vs Codecademy: A Review

  1. Rick


    I am wondering where the other reviews for treehouse and code academy are. Also, your treehouse link doesn’t go to your profile, just an error page saying it no longer exists.


    1. mlapeter Post author

      Hey Rick,

      The other reviews are coming soon. Thanks for the heads up, I found out my treehouse account was accidentally deleted by the group admin when it was moved into a group account for learning, but I’m trying to figure out a way to get it re-instated.

  2. J P

    Thanks for the post, it helped me! Though I’d love to read your reviews on the other two sites as well.

  3. Luke

    Thanks for this Mike! I haven’t gotten into CodeSchool yet. I definitely will once I get through the CodeCademy tracks.

    In the meantime, what are your favorite resources for a list of all Ruby’s Methods and the parameters that they take?

  4. John Olsson

    Hmm, I don’t find codeschool so good. What happens when you can’t answer a question? It doesn’t let you progress to the next question, so basically you are bashing your head against a brick wall. Then you write to them (twice in my case) and no reply. Then you phone them and you just get an answering machine. So I’m going to unsubscribe.

    1. mlapeter Post author

      That’s a good point John, and now that you mention it I feel like I got stuck a couple times myself. Most of the time, if you click the “hints”, the third hint basically tells you the exact answer. I never contacted customer service myself, so can’t speak to response times, but if you’re paying they should definitely be replying at least within a day or two.

    2. Mars

      I haven’t tried to contact customer service, but I did reach out to the javascript instructor, Jason Millhouse, directly, and he was very receptive and encouraged me to send any questions or suggestions his way. He said that the team at Code School is perpetually working to improve the site. I was really pleased and surprised that an online instructor was so accessible; just like in a real class!

  5. Fred

    Hi Mike, your post is great. I’m , like you, registered in few ‘online school’. I know CodeSchhool from Google chrome dev. I suggest you to try the ‘Explore and Master Chrome DevTools’, it’s free and then, maybe you will can give us your thoughts. This course doesn’t give me confidence to pay courses at CodeSchool, by comparison to others online schools. For example I can’t find any forum at CodeSchool. But I definitely wait for your thoughts about the one I mentioned and if it’s the same style for the others you followed. I precise that I didn’t say exactly what I think, to not influence any one.
    If you read me so far, thank you for your attention.

    1. mlapeter Post author

      Thanks for the recommendation Fred. Which code schools with forums have you found you liked? I agree that forums or some kind of learning cohort would be a huge benefit for any of the online code schools I took.

  6. Pingback: Code School vs Treehouse vs Codecademy: Part 2 | Mike LaPeter

  7. Gloria

    Hi there,
    I did a few iOS lessons on Team Treehouse but gave up and asked for a refund. The “teacher” was speaking super slowly, the text editor didn’t help with debugging xCode which was super annoying. Found myself googling for the solution to a lot of the exercises. The HTML lessons were great though.
    Just finished the Try Ruby on Code School and absolutely loved it. Going to try their iOS lessons in order to compare apple with apple.
    Oh, forgot to mention I have PHP and mySQL background (and HTML and CSS as well). Look forward to reading more of your reviews!

  8. Gabe csj

    Great review. I’ve been using codeacademy for a while and I’ve completed the web fundamentals, javascript and jQuery. I want to take a step further in my studies with this but I can’t decide between Treehouse or Code school. After reading both parts of your review, I am thinking code school. You’ve also inspired me to learn ruby. I can’t say I’m an expert but I’m not a total no brainer at this either. I was wondering if it was a good idea to subscribe for code school. Would it teach different things than what I learnt in codeacademy or would it be the same stuff. Looking forward to your third part of this review. Thanks!

  9. perry

    this is great Mike; i typed in Code School review and your very helpful blog came up.

    Im on Treehouse atm by my own random choice (it was either this or Code School). Based on your review, since I am beginning my journey, I believe I made the right choice as the avg 5 min Treehouse vids are pitched at newbies.

    I did see the Code School presentation and I think their presentation with an editor that highlights elements as you code is a BIG PLUS. Treehouse has tabs as you know so you constantly are tabbing btw html / css / view (as opposed to 1 view of all moving parts). That said I am enjoying my journey at Treehouse at this point in time.

    I will try Code School too shortly.

    Thanks for the great post.

  10. melissa

    Thanks for your review on three programming skills schools. I took coffeescript, ruby, and rails courses in CodeSchool. Absolutely their high quality video lectures attracted me to pay membership fee. I like CodeSchool much. I have not visited the other two, will give my opinion later on.

  11. Eric


    I think that Code School and Treehouse are great resources, but my favorite one is lynda. I took the course “Ruby on rails 4 essential training” and I was super useful and easy to follow, although is pretty basic. After finish this course I created my first web, code, a simple web where you can find the best resources to learn web development online.
    I also used code academy, and I have to say that I was not very useful for me, specially the ruby track. Yes, I learned some concepts, but I didn’t know how to use them. However, I think codecademy is great for things like HTML/CSS or jQuery.


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