Today we're going to help you pick the right coding class for your kid with four simple steps. This is critical to ensure not only that your child learns, but also that they have fun! We'll also reveal some of the biggest gaps with computer science education, and a few common coding misconceptions, so that you can be sure to avoid these pitfalls. Let's get started!

Studies show that 80+% of parents consider learning coding to be at least as or more important than learning math and English. Unfortunately, most schools are ill-equipped to teach it. Even right in the center of Silicon Valley, most schools teach very little computer science. Here are several of the biggest gaps with school programs today:

  • Classes focus almost entirely on coding as opposed to computer science principles.
  • There is no learning of state of art technologies with broad impact, such as AI.
  • Lack of transparency on the learning process. While students show off fancy projects, much of them were just from copy and paste.

The root cause of all of these is that most of places equate coding to computer science. You heard it right, coding is not the same as computer science. In fact, coding is just a small part of computer science. And it is not even the most important part of computer science for young students to master.

There are also many more misconceptions about Computer Science (CS) education than about other subjects. Here are just three examples to be aware of as you consider your child's education.

Explore the common misconceptions about Computer Science classes

1. Misconception: My kids can learn coding from websites

Many parents are led to believe that kids can learn coding just by watching videos and playing coding games. Many of these websites are great tools. However, no parent would believe their children can do math, English, or science by just watching video and playing games on their own without a teacher. There is no difference for coding. A qualified teacher is a “must have” for truly learning coding as well.

2. Misconception: Computer Science = coding

Computer science has never really been just about coding. Check out the Computer Science curriculum at top universities like MIT, Stanford, or Princeton where only a few classes are about coding. With the development in cloud computing, data science, AI, and other fields, Computer Science has extended even further beyond coding. This is why at Create & Learn, coding is just one of the multiple curricular paths we teach.

3. Misconception 3: It is just coding. It is all the same.

As mentioned earlier, CS education is not coding. But even for just coding, the quality of the programs vary a great deal and suffice to say most of them are not up to standard.

So how do you pick the best coding class for your child?

On almost every website that advertises kids' computer classes you see pictures of happy kids, shiny computers, big smiles, and enticing class descriptions. But how can you tell if your kid will really learn coding? In fact, even after your child has gone through the program and seems happy, how can you tell how much they've actually learned?

These are important questions because coding is a critical skill to master, and schools teach very little of it. So, parents have to turn to after-school programs/camps to make sure their kids fill the gap.

We struggled with these questions for years, as parents ourselves, before we started Create & Learn. As just one example, Jessie Jiang's daughter started attending tech camps in the summer at age 6.

But the results were mostly disappointing. And rather surprisingly, the most expensive ones often fell short the most.

As a result, her family spent a lot of effort figuring out what she had learned and benchmarking. But for busy parents who don’t have time, or for those who don’t have a coding background, how can you tell?

Luckily over the years, we have found some very simple but strong indicators of program quality. These features will only take you a few minutes to check out, without having to do hours of deep research. The key to picking the right coding program for your child is to go beyond the fancy pictures and words, and get to the foundation of the programs.

Discover four simple ways to pick the right coding class for your kids

Here we reveal our formula for selecting the best class for your child's coding journey.

1. Class size is important when it comes to coding class quality

Your intuition probably tells you smaller class size is better already. But do you realize it pretty much sets the ceiling for how good a program can be?

Even the best teacher in the world would have his/her hands tied in a large classroom, because the teacher can no longer adapt to individual student’s needs. Personalized attention is particularly important for developing students’ creativity and critical thinking skills.

What we have found is that if there are more than half a dozen students per class, teaching tends to be instruction-based following a rigid template, without sufficient attention to each student’s strength and areas of needs. For elementary or middle school students who are still learning how to learn, the lack of individual attention fails to deliver the best learning.

Pro tip: Look for classes with 6 students or less.

2. Differentiated projects are one of the keys to a great coding class

When you see your kid’s projects at the end of a program, don’t just get excited about what your kids have done. Take a look at how your child’s projects are different from those of other students’.

In many programs, students produce almost identical projects. This is because instead of teaching kids coding, teachers just hand detailed instructions for building the projects to students, who then blindly follow the steps.

In this type of program, there is little true learning, exploring, and creating. As a result, even after producing the projects, many students still don’t understand what they have done.

Pro tip: Ask your child how their project is different from that of their peers.

3. The teacher’s background is critical to a great coding class experience

Most camps are staffed by high school and college students. They are great people, and some may care about teaching. But can they teach well?

Teaching is a skill that takes many years to master. Think for a second, about examples from your own school days, of both good and bad teachers. Did the difference make a world of difference in your own learning? We'd bet so!

Effective teachers not only help your kid do one class well, but also nourish his/her passion for learning in general. The reverse is also true. The influence of a poor teacher can go far beyond a single class. So be very mindful about who teaches your kids.

Pro tip: Read reviews left by parents about teachers to see whether they were engaging.

4. Who created the curriculum impacts the learning experience

Learning coding is not that different from learning skills such as painting or swimming - in that learning from the masters or Olympians will no doubt set your kids on a much more successful path. The experiences and accomplishments in the tech world of the people who create the coding curriculum determine how far the program can bring your kids.

If you would like your kids to go far in the tech world, find out if the curriculum team has worked in the top tech companies. And if they are insiders of both the tech and business side of the broader high-tech industry. Not just someone who can code.

Pro tip: Look on the coding class website to learn more about who created the curriculum or reach out to their customer support to ask.

Now you can pick the right coding class for your child!

To sum up, check out these four things before signing up your kids for a coding class/camp:

  • Class size — ideally no more than 5–6 students per class
  • Whether students produce diverse projects
  • Background of the teachers — do they have extensive teaching experiences?
  • Who created the curriculum — do they just know how to code, or have they held important technical and business roles in top tech companies?

Here’s to all of our kids having fun, learning and flourishing! If you would like to get a taste of what a first-tier program looks like, sign up for a free kids coding class.