One of the most important aspects of a high-quality education is access to hands-on experience with what you are learning. Whether it’s primary school field trips, high school science experiments, or university lab sections, having these hands-on, real-life experiences is crucial to reinforcing classroom learning and helping you retain and expand on what you’ve learned.
When you’re learning online, however, opportunities for hands-on learning and labs are limited. But at SoloLearn, we’ve put a lot of thought into giving our students hands-on experience with coding. This is why tools and an environment to learn and practice anywhere is the second of our five pillars of learning.
Why Hands-On Learning is So Important
Humans are wired to learn through experience. From infancy, we learn things by imitating those around us, especially our parents. This is especially true as we learn language -- we don’t memorize lists of words as babies; we imitate sounds and eventually associate them with what we see around us.
As we grow up and begin school, we learn other skills through play. Things like shapes and colors are much easier to learn by direct experience. Higher concepts still require some memorization and rote learning, but these things are retained better when reinforced with hands-on activities.
How The Scientific Method Enhances The Learning Process
One of the key principles that formal scientific education teaches is the scientific method. At its most basic, the scientific method tells us that hypotheses need to be tested by experimentation and observation. While there is a formal process to creating, testing, and analyzing hypotheses with the scientific method, it can also be used more generally in other learning situations.
The process of developing a hypothesis, or possible explanation for something, and then testing that hypothesis through experimentation can help guide the hands-on learning process in many fields. For example, when learning to code, you may “hypothesize” how changing a do-while control structure to a for loop will affect the execution of your program. By actually making the change and observing the result, it will help you to learn and retain that information better.
Why Trial-and-Error Exploration Is Vital
In early childhood, we learn many things by trial and error. This kind of hands-on experimentation can continue to help us to learn into adolescence and adulthood, but we tend to become more afraid of failure as we get older. This is where the hands-on experience of a classroom lab setting can help us in our learning journey.
In a lab environment, the effects of a mistake are limited. We can try many different things before settling on the right answer. Of course in a field like chemistry, we take precautions to make sure we don’t do anything dangerous. But for most fields, childlike exploration can be an important way for us to get acquainted with a new subject and test its boundaries. This is especially important to try before we end up in a real-world situation where productivity is important and we feel the pressure of not making mistakes.
How SoloLearn Lets You Try and Experiment From Anywhere
When you learn to code with SoloLearn, you are given the tools to do hands-on experimentation from any device, anywhere in the world. This flexible learning environment has several advantages that can help you on your learning journey. Let’s look at some of the advantages of the SoloLearn Code Playground and how they can help you as you learn programming with us.
The Code Playground Requires No Setup
Ordinarily, setting up a coding and testing environment requires installing several pieces of software, configuring them, and testing them. This needs to be repeated for every language that you would like to learn. And if you switch computers for any reason, this process has to be done all over again.
By contrast, the Code Playground runs entirely in your web browser or in our mobile app. This means that you can start coding immediately, with no complicated setup required. And if you’d like to switch to learning a different language, you can do so with just a few clicks.
The Code Playground is Safe for Experimentation
When you set up a coding environment on your computer, there is always the possibility that something could go wrong. Running live code on your computer -- especially when you’re just getting started -- runs the risk of accidentally deleting important files or corrupting the operating system. While this is harder to do with modern languages and OSes, the risk is still there.
The Code Playground, however, is totally sandboxed and isolated from your computer. You are free to experiment to your heart’s content with no risk of breaking anything. And if you get too far off track, you can reset and start over from the beginning. This gives you the freedom to explore and experiment that you need to reinforce what you’ve learned and try new things without risk.
The Code Playground Works from Anywhere
You can do a lot of things from your phone or tablet -- reading, web browsing, watching videos, and connecting with friends. But mobile devices weren’t really designed to allow you to write code and run it right there on the device. Coding for mobile apps and websites is usually done on a computer, and then later compiled and distributed to mobile devices through another channel. This means that it’s hard to take advantage of situations where you only have your mobile device to practice coding, such as commute time, downtime between classes, or break time at work.
The Code Playground is different. By installing the SoloLearn app, you can get access to the Code Playground whenever and wherever you need it. This means you can practice your coding skills anytime or anywhere that’s convenient for you. Easily fit in a quick practice session on your bus ride, at the library, or on your lunch break. By practicing writing code often, you’ll learn new things more quickly and reinforce what you’ve already learned.
The Code Playground Integrates with Every Lesson
While freeform experimentation and practice is important, it’s also good to have practice sessions that are tied to what you’re learning at the moment. SoloLearn does this by integrating the Code Playground with learn-to-code lessons. With one click, you can launch the example you’re currently looking at in the Code Playground to continue experimenting with it at your own pace. This hands-on practice combined with guided learning will help you to complete lessons faster and better retain what you’ve learned.
The Code Playground is Collaborative
As we discussed in the previous article in this series, community and mentorship is another vital learning pillar. In the Code Playground, you can save your experiments for others to use and review, and you can look through and experiment with others’ code yourself. This collaborative approach means that you’ll have the help of thousands of other learners to guide you through your learning journey.
Next Steps: Hands-On Learning
If you haven’t done so already, head over to the SoloLearn Code Playground now to get started with your own coding experiments. Start from scratch, or start with one of the examples from a lesson or another learner. Then, feel free to play, experiment and test as much as you’d like, from your home, office, or anywhere.
Another important learning pillar we use at SoloLearn is Interactive Lessons. In our next article, you’ll learn how this interactivity is a key component of our learning environment.