How to make it easier for adults to learn code

Not everyone will learn code out of curiosity. Some will learn it out of necessity to keep up with the digital transformation in their work. Kathryn Parsons, cofounder of Decoded, shares a few lessons she learned while helping adults make the leap into programming.

During an interview with Mashable Australia at the CeBIT technology conference in Sydney, Parsons, who is cofounder and co-CEO of global coding education provider Decoded, explained some of the tactics her company uses to help people overcome their fears and get started with digital skills.

  • Put a human face on it: To help people begin the learning process, it's important to make it clear the Internet was created by humans. According to Parsons, if you want to put coding on a human level, you need to start by answering these questions for students: "Who are the human beings who created this stuff? What does code actually look like? How can I use [code], contribute, collaborate, and become part of the community of the web?"

  • Build a community: If people feel there is a world of coders and coding they can join, it might feel more welcoming. "There is this global community of coders, this open source community, collaborating and creating together," she said. "That's a really profound thing for a lot of people," she added.

  • Make learning creative: Students might find it easier to stick with coding if they think of it as a creative skill set. They should ask themselves, "How can I use the languages of the web to create the ideas that I've had in my head?" Parson said. "It's a mindset, she added. "Convincing people that it's relevant, that it's something creative, that it's something anyone can do."

  • Don't teach, guide: The idea of guidance plays out in how class facilitators in Decoded interact with students. "They never lean over anyone to correct their code," she explained. "That's incredibly disempowering." Rather, students are encouraged to focus on problem solving.

  • Think about the space. And the snacks: Decoded considers the physical environment important in the learning experience. "Generally, the space will be incredibly large," Parson said. "A real feeling of space and light." And all the food is brainfood. As she explained, "Coder food. Not pizza," she said. It could be lentils or a vegan lunch, but the aim is to keep your mind ticking over.