SoloLearn teaches you to code anywhere at anytime, and it’s free

When you picture a typical coding crew, you probably imagine a room in Silicon Valley full of scrawny students with snug headphones on, eyes locked on the columns of numbers running down the screen in front of them. There are beer cans everywhere, greasy takeaway food boxes and the constant sound of typing.

SoloLearn, the winner of the 2017 FbStart Apps of the Year competition, is trying to bring coding outside Silicon Valley. It is a free mobile app teaching people how to code through a community of other learners. Users can take courses about platforms such as JavaScript and HTML, and can test their skills with peer-to-peer sharing and head-to-head challenges with other users.

Co-founders Davit Kocharyan and Yeva Hyusyan created the app to teach people in their native Armenia about coding, and Hyusyan told TechCrunch that the app’s users make up the “friendliest” community of peer learners. The app already has more than five million profiled learners, with 50% of its users split between India and the US, while the rest are spread across Europe.

The app, though, is available to anyone who wants learn at any time. Users can also reach out to each other for support via a forum on the app’s website. Most of the posts revolve around answering user’s questions, but some tout personal achievement – such as one excited user celebrating being recognised by SoloLearn with a post that reads “I’m platinum today,” followed by flower and excited emojis. All of the responses are positive and offer congratulations, or ask for assistance.  

While other initiatives have more niche targets, such as the Women’s Coding Collective, SoloLearn looks to be a positive advocate for general coding accessibility. This app lets users create their own projects and learn the code at their own pace, but it is free and accessible to anyone with a Wi-Fi connection. There’s a level of individuality, but anyone can give it a try, meaning the community is still diverse.

Facebook’s FbStart App of the Year competition started in 2015, about a year after the launch of FbStart, a programme that provides mobile developers with free tools and services worth up to $30,000. The competition’s winner receives a $50,000 (about £39,000) cash prize and $25,000 (about £19,500) in Facebook Ad Credit.

Competitors in the FbStart App of the Year Competition can also win in “Europe, Middle East and Africa,” “Asia-Pacific,” “Latin America” and “Social Good” categories. Other 2017 winners include Mondly, which uses VR to teach language, and Golden, a global platform that helps people find local volunteer opportunities.

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