Want to Learn JavaScript? Treehouse May be a Place to Start.

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JavaScript (JS) is one of the most used programming languages on the web — on front end and now even the backend.

After acknowledging that I needed to learn JavaScript better, I decided to take action by signing up with Team Treehouse.

In the past, I have heard good things about Treehouse courses. Before signing up I browsed the Treehouse library and noticed they have a wide selection of JavaScript classes. It seemed like a great place to get going.

However, because I had never taken an online JS class before, I wanted to start with the basics. You know, go back to the fundamentals.

So I decided to start with the JavaScript Basics course as part of my recommitment to the JavaScript language.

This Was My First Time Learning with Treehouse

While Treehouse has been around for some time (since 2011), back in October of this year (2014) was the first time I signed up to be a member. I’ve heard good things about their classes in the past, but for some reason I never felt compelled to check out their courses.

To me, Lynda.com seemed like a much more reputable option. (Lynda was the first online learning platform I used.)

But boy was I wrong. While Lynda has many more course offerings, and release new courses basically every day, Treehouse has more offerings relevant to what I am trying to learn: web development/design.

On the other hand, Lynda has a wide spectrum of courses in many areas: design, development, business, photography, animation, video, and so on.

Anyways, I could write a whole article comparing Treehouse with Lynda. I just wanted to explain why it had taken me over a year to sign up with Treehouse.

In any case, let’s continue and look at Treehouse’s JavaScript Basics class.

The Online Learning Experience With Treehouse

All of the Treehouse courses share similar features and components, such as:

  • Workspaces where you can follow along with the instructor by coding right in the browser in a separate window. These workspaces allow you to avoid the hassle of setting up an environment on your machine.
  • Quizzes throughout the course that include multiple choice and fill in the blank question types.
  • Coding Challenges where you are given step-by-step instructions, and code the program right in the browser. Then, your program is checked. (So kind of like a quiz.)
  • Discussion forums where you can post questions and interact with other students taking the course.

Overall, all Team Treehouse courses seem to follow a similar pattern: short video, quiz, code challenge, video, video, quiz, and so on.

Using the Team Treehouse Interface

Treehouse has a modern, easy to use (for the most part) interface.

The only problem I experienced on their interface was that sometimes it could be difficult finding the courses I had already started.

Actually, as I just went back and attempted to find the JavaScript Basics Course, it was not as easy to find as it could have been. I had to go back into the course library and search for it, rather than it still being present on my home screen.

Moreover, some of the navigation setup was a little unclear to me. (At least initially. Not any longer since I have become accustomed to it.)

My Thoughts on The JavaScript Basics Course

This course is taught by Dave McFarland. Dave is an O’Reilly author and has written several books such as “JavaScript & jQuery: The Missing Manual” as well as “CSS3: The Missing Manual”. Not to mention a long list of others. So, I trust him.

The JavaScript Basics course is broken down into five sections. Or “achievements”, as Treehouse calls them:

  1. Introducing JavaScript
  2. Storing and Tracking Information with Variables
  3. Working With Numbers
  4. Making Decisions with Conditional Statements
  5. Creating Reusable Code with Functions

What We Actually Worked On

This course was as basic as one could get. It covered the absolute beginnings of learning JavaScript from how to include it in your website file structure to using the browser console with JS.

Dave talked about variables, strings, numbers, booleans and all the other standard, beginner-level programing material.

The end of the course finally introduced functions. However, Dave only touched the surface with the if statement and return statement.

The In-Class Projects

Unlike other online courses I have done in the past, there wasn’t a single project we worked on throughout the duration of the course. Instead, there were smaller projects in each achievement section.

For instance, there was a Mad Lib Challenge where you wrote a program that put user-submitted words into sentence blanks. (Just like a Mad Lib you’d do on paper.) Fairly simple — achieved using the document.write method and string concatenation.

Later on there was a random number guessing game project, using the Math.random()function.

Again, for total beginners just trying to get a feel for JavaScript, this course is perfect.

Time it Took to Complete Course

From start to finish, it took me about a week to complete the class.

The course was approximately 6 hours in length. Of course, depending how long it took you to get through the quizzes and coding challenges! 

Personally, I worked on the course about an hour a day. Which is an easy time commitment to make.

Who This Course Would Be Good For

This JavaScript Basics class is ideal for newbies with some HTML experience. (Because it’s important to understand HTML to fully grasp how JavaScript works.)

Before going in, I did have prior JS experience. (Not a whole lot, though.) And this class leaned on the easy side for me. There were a few challenges I got stuck on and had to turn to the forum. (But mostly because the wording of the directions left me confused.)

Depending on your level of JavaScript experience, this course could be too easy for you, too. Personally, I didn’t mind refreshing some of the JavaScript core components. (As I mentioned previously, once upon a time I dreaded JavaScript — and did everything to avoid it.)

Any Downsides to the Course

As I brought up above, there were a few code challenges that had confusing directions. But aside from that, working through the class was easy. There were not too many roadblocks.

And people in the forum are quite helpful, answering questions within 24 hours usually.

BTW, Here is My Treehouse Profile

For those who are interested, here’s my Treehouse profile. (Because it’s all about transparency, right?!) On my profile you can see my total “points”. Treehouse gives out points each time you finish an “achievement”.

You can also see some other stuff I have dabbled with, like Git, CSS and Ruby. (However, at the time of writing, most of my points are in JavaScript.)

In Conclusion: The Course is Good For Beginners

Overall, I think this class is good for those who have had no or little previous JavaScript exposure. Or for people like me who want a brush up.

Before I head out, I also want to mention that Treehouse has a great iPad/iPhone app. (And Android.) So I watched many of these course videos on my iPad, while jogging on the treadmill or using the elliptical. I would then go home, take the quizzes and do the code challenges on my computer. (Since typing code on an iPad while using the elliptical is kind of a struggle … and a recipe for a literal headache.)

In the end, with tons of JavaScript classes to choose form, Treehouse is definitely a good place to start learning.

Let me know if you’ve tried Team Treehouse and if you have a favorite course of theirs.

If you have not taken any courses with Treehouse and are interested in learning more about the platform, continue here to get 3 Months Free on Treehouse’s Basic Annual Plan—a $75 value.


  • Liz

    Another good resource for learning JavaScript is “A Smarter Way to Learn JavaScript” by Mark Myers. Each chapter is very short and covers a concept, then you go to a website and take code challenges that start easy and gradually get more difficult by the end. You learn through repetition and I’ve absorbed more of the information with this method than any other. That being said, I’ve been a member of Treehouse for almost a year and it has been worth every penny.

    • That looks very interesting Liz.

      OH no … ‘another’ training source to consider! :-/

    • Never heard of that one — thanks!

      I always appreciate short chapters. I hate having to stop halfway through a chapter — but do so oftentimes because I see it’s another ten or twenty pages till it’s over!!

      I’ve been doing a lot with Meteor lately — which relies on JS in the front and backend. So as far as tutorials/course/books go, I’ve been mostly sticking with Meteor specific. (Which, unfortunately, there is not a TON of just yet.)

      Anyways — will certainly keep this in mind for the future.

  • Hi Laurence,

    That’s timing for you. I was just starting the exact course this morning! I’d already completed the HTML path with Code School and I am keen to learn more through them. But thought, lets give Treehouse ago as you get the 14 day trial.

    I too had issues with navigation initially. The interface is very swish and polished, but I did get lost! The one thing I really like though about Code School, which is not here, is their downloadable slides.

    I have though found another source of learning JS and that is ‘Javascript.isSexy’ – How to Learn JavaScript Properly. Those words work wonders for me! http://goo.gl/UuCxXw Which then pointed me to this book ‘Beginning Javascript’. That I’m liking.

    Not having any proper language per se in my locker yet, this is a slower more methodical route for me to start with. If coming from perhaps, Python or PHP, diving into Javascript is not so bad.

    As with any of these multitude of online training platforms today, it’s about what you feel comfortable with. In the past, with learning HTML and CSS using different training providers (Code School, Codecademy, Dash) I learned something new every time. I won’t leave Treehouse though, as they all help in their own way.

    “Dave McFarland. Dave is an O’Reilly author and has written several books such as “JavaScript & jQuery: The Missing Manual” ”

    I do like ‘The Missing Manual’ books so will certainly give that a look too. Thanks.

    • Hey Nigel,

      Funny you just started the same course!

      How do you like Code School? I was thinking of trying out some of their courses in the future.

      I typically don’t do well learning from books. I usually get about halfway through and then lose interest. I have seen javascriptissexy mentioned a few places around the web, too.

      And I agree — I always learn something new from every course — no matter how many in the past I have looked to. Every teacher or author has some new to offer.

      Plus, lots of these languages are changing so rapidly — in just one or two years a lot can change.

      • I really think Code School is the bench mark in the paid-for-arena. What’s cool also is there’s a different theme for each tutorial. You can get the first month for $9. http://goo.gl/mqruig .

        I too struggle with book concept, but I’m finding ‘Beginning JavaScript’ a very easy ride (so far!) And it’s free on PDF here: http://goo.gl/fXhnzm . Plus learning it in tandem with Codecademy is working, again, so far!

        Knowing Javascript basics really is a must as it’s built into every browser. Then top it of with Bootstrap and jQuery.

  • Jessica Nedved

    Hi Laurence, I love reading your posts. I am really keen for you to write about rewriting your website etc as today I got a traineeship and they want me to write a website using a 1/2 completed project (the other guy dropped out or something) and I’m really scared about doing this, as I personally don’t think I’m good enough for that kind of stuff (I mean, I’m the girl who emailed you about not being able to display the image links in my portfolio on jessicanedved.com!)
    Keep coding! :D

    • Jessica,

      Great news on your traineeship. If a company has taken you on, they will have confidence you can do it, so follow Amy Cuddy’s example. Check out her lecture on TED: http://goo.gl/2Tmg06

      Best of luck.

      • Nigel,

        Thank you so much for that encouragement, you have no idea how overwhelmed I’ve been feeling about it all, but hopefully even if I’m not able to complete what they want me to do they’ll still give me a reference of some sort. Checking out Amy’s video now. :)

        • I second Nigel — Amy Cuddy’s TED talk is one of the best out there. It’s eye-opening!

    • Haha Jess — I just laughed at the end bit. (In a good way!)

      Don’t worry!! There’s been a few times I’ve been given tasks from a company I do work for (sidenote: I mostly do contract work for small web dev companies) and had no idea what was going on! Either Google till you find an answer or … if worse comes to worse, use an online help site like Codementor or Hackhands (which does cost some money.)

      Only once I had to rely on a site like Codementor for actual work-work. Typically I figure it out on my own.

      Point is — THERE IS ALWAYS A SOLUTION :)

      And sometimes it’s totally worth asking for help instead of staying stuck.

      As far as redoing the website goes — I am looking forward to it, too have been planning it out!! As I said in one of my emails, I don’t expect to get a solid go on it until January. (However, perhaps one of the first posts on it will be out in the next week or 2!)

      Anyways — good luck on your new project :) (Best way to learn is on the job, BTW.)

      • I notice that I learn best on the job as well, that’s one of the reasons I’m so excited for it. Yeah, I will probably have to troll stackoverflow or something, I don’t care how much trouble I have, as long as I actually GET through it. (I think I should be able to plough my way through the web design side of it, but i’m not so sure that I’ll be able to do the server jobs they’ve asked of me ) *sigh* I would be really down and upset if they laid me off… :/
        Anyway, I’m just gonna keep checking out your twitter and stuff in my spare time, as I find it encouraging. :)

        • You’ll be fine :)

          And yes, please do. Also if I don’t talk to you before the holidays — have a happy holiday!!

  • Rebecca Patrick

    Just found your site yesterday, and have to be honest, I read through most of your posts already :) I love the stories you feature of how people got into developing. I was also looking into Treehouse, and I’m really glad you just featured this article. I’m on their Front End Web Development track as a total newbie to all things coding – so far so good. Anyways, I’m so glad that your blog is here and that you’re sharing your experiences. Looking forward to more of your stories and articles.

    • Hi Rebecca,

      Awesome! Glad to hear from you :)

      I hope to have some more stories of others coming up in January, after the holidays. Already have one in the works ^-^

      Anyways, good luck on the front end web development track!! I like how Treehouse has the tracks with suggested courses. I unfortunately haven’t been very dedicated to following JUST one … hehe.

      – Laurence

  • Puran

    Am a noob and joined Treehouse in October ’14 myself. Love it and have been using it in conjunction with CodeAcademy for more hands-on practice. Signed up for Thinkful for 3 months in October as well but felt the quality of the curriculum was lacking however the mentorship based project approach was definitely valuable and I may return to it having developed a more solid foundation with Treehouse/CodeAcademy. Your articles are great/motivating/inspiring etc. I’m contemplating getting started on a WP site to document my learning experience myself. I look forward to keeping up with you on your redesign journey. Thanks for all the great content!

    • Hi Puran,

      I’d love to hear your thoughts about thinkful. I’ve been hearing about it a lot lately from others asking if they should give it a try.

      I agree that the mentorship aspect is very important. It can be difficult finding mentors.

      Best of luck to you and let me know if you get a WP site started :-)
      -Laurence

  • Kevin Fitzhenry

    Hi there,

    Huge fan of your site, and HUGE fan of Treehouse. However, what’s this iPhone app you speak of? I’ve searched the App Store and can’t seem to find it. I also tweeted Treehouse about it and they said they were still developing an iPhone app. If you could post a link to the app I’d really appreciate it. Thanks and look forward to reading more of your posts.