40,000 sign up for online learning

CHRIS GARDNER
Last updated 14:22 24/07/2012
Wamsley family
CHRIS HILLOCK/Fairfax NZ

FAMILY AFFAIR: Michael Walmsley [left of laptop] has developed online computer programming and web building courses, his siblings testing the product for him.

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Thousands of New Zealand and UK school children are learning to write computer programs and build websites thanks to the efforts of a Waikato University student.

Michael Walmsley, 27, has developed the online Javascript and HTML/CSS courses to follow recently released NCEA standards which will have the discipline taught in New Zealand schools.

He has had 40,000 students sign up since he launched the website, codeavengers.com, in September.

Mr Walmsley, who completed his computer science degree at the university in 2008 and is now near the end of his PhD, developed the courses to encourage his younger siblings, who he tested them on before releasing them for general use.

In the first Javascript lesson, for example, students are shown how to write code to display a pop up box with a greeting.

He tailored them to the New Zealand syllabus because while there were resources available there was little for the New Zealand syllabus.

"Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was taught to program in middle school by his father, and later by a private tutor," Mr Walmsley said. "Code Avengers aim to make it possible for any 12-year-old to learn to make computer games and phone applications even if they don't have parents that are either programmers or have enough money to hire a tutor."

Mr Walmsley said becoming a great software developer took years. "Code Avengers aims to make the teachers job easy, supporting them in making those courses as fun and effective for students as possible."

The courses are free at level 1, for 15-year-olds, but Mr Walmsley plans to charge for level 2 and level 3 courses when they are released next year. For his PhD Mr Walmsley is working on a language learning program which tailors exercises based on the ability of users. A Maori demonstration is available at fern.nzdl.org.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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