An Experiment with Google+ Hangouts and Code Year

What happens when you combine Codeacademy’s Code Year and Google+ Hangouts? Robert Hernandez is hoping it equals a bunch of journalists learning to code together.

“This is a group DIY Project, where we learn together, teach each other and support our growth,” wrote Hernandez, a professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, on the Learn Code for Journalism with Me site. “My goal here is for all of us to grow and improve journalism.”

The experimental project seems to be a good one, so far. Almost 100 people have signed up for it, including some professors from Medill, a competitor to USC. While Hernandez is still working out the specifics, the general plan is to have classes start in April and meet regularly in pre-scheduled weekly Google+ Hangouts to work on a lesson together.

Hernandez came up with the idea for Learn Code for Journalism with Me after beginning Code Year — a free weekly coding lesson — but stopping after the first lesson. He said he didn’t have the time or dedication to continue the lessons on his own but still wanted to increase his coding skills. He thought doing it in a group would be good motivation.

The Google+ Hangout platform can only accomodate 10 people so classes will be relatively small. Hernandez is hoping participants will volunteer to lead the different hangouts.

“People will be working out their brains together and pushing each other along,” Hernandez said in a Skype interview.

Robert Hernandez

Hernandez isn’t alone in wanting to learn coding. In its first three days, 100,000 people signed up for Code Year. BetaBeat recently reported that the number has now swelled to more than 400,000 people. Informal Code Year Meetups have popped up all over the world.

What makes Code Year so appealing is that it promises to teach non-programmers the basics of programming in a year through bite-sized lessons. And when almost everything we do relies on computers and software, knowing coding is a valuable skill set.

Interested parties signed up for the Hangouts via a form on the Learn Code for Journalism with Me site, but Hernandez has since closed registration because it is, after all, an experiment. (He has also submitted it for a Knight News Challenge.) Hernandez emphasizes that it is a laid-back approach to learning coding, dependent on Hangout members supporting and helping each other.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen. Hopefully no one is rude to each other,” he said. “I think that it can be great. It’s something that has a future to it that a lot of people have expressed interest in.”

What do you think about learning to code via a Google+ Hangout? Would you sign up for this?