Codecademy teaches aspiring coders to use APIs with YouTube, SoundCloud, NPR

Starting today, wannabe programmers on Codecademy will get to do more than just fiddle around with code in a vacuum. They’ll be able to plug into the APIs of several popular websites and services to build apps around YouTube (s GOOG) videos, NPR newscasts, congressional records and more.
With ten partners, including YouTube, NPR, Soundcloud, and the Sunlight Foundation, Codecademy is launching a new track of lessons on using APIs to help students create projects and website that have real-world, concrete applications. Through APIs (application programming interfaces), developers are able to communicate with applications from other sites and services — Codecademy’s goal is that by enabling students to build with APIs, they’ll more easily realize the power of programming.
“This gets you from not knowing anything to building something that feels pretty substantial,” said co-founder Zack Sims.
The new track follows the recent launch of Codecademy Projects — a set of courses that help students build specific applications, such as a CSS-styled button or a web form — and further emphasizes the startup’s goal of “reinforcing learning by doing.”
With the new lessons, for example, students will be able to embed a YouTube player on their website and search for videos, find NPR radio show transcripts, send text messages with Twilio or analyze their state’s Congressional transcripts with the Sunlight Foundation. Codecademy expects to add more partners going forward.
To date, the lessons on Codecademy have been supplied by the startup and other individuals who want to contribute to the peer-to-peer platform. But for the first time, with this launch, other companies have the chance to add their lessons to the site. There isn’t any kind of financial agreement with these companies — Codecademy gets to expand their offerings to students and the companies get a bit of extra promotion — but it will be interesting to see if these partnerships lead to more premium lessons in the future.
As we recently noted when Codecademy launched its code-your-own-holiday-cards feature, the startup’s focus on project-based learning is a smart one. As learn-to-code sites proliferate, successful ones will need to quickly show students some results (even if they’re just perceived results) so that they stick around. As evidence of interest in its project-based approach, Sims said that in a week of launching the holiday CodeCards, students created tens of thousands of online cards.
Image by ra2studio via Shutterstock.