Learning coding online – do you really need mentors?


6 min read

Choosing between a self-directed or mentor-led online programming course can be tough. With countless online resources available, and AI able to answer just about any question, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. But at Codecool, we’ve found the perfect balance. We’re incorporating AI into our teaching method, while still prioritizing the human touch. Discover which type of learning suits you best and make a well-balanced decision about your future.

online programming courses

Thinking about learning programming from the comfort of your home? It’s only natural to look for fully online programming courses in today’s world. 

You might be toying with the idea of learning through a self-directed learning path, with the help of some massively open online course (MOOC) platforms like Udemy or Coursera. They are popular and come with a huge menu of courses.

Another route you may be considering is live, mentor-led online programming courses. But is it really for you?

First, we’ll check what you can expect when you’re learning to code on your own online.

Then, we’ll look at the top 3 arguments for and against mentor-led courses to give you a balanced view. And we’ll also talk a bit about ChatGPT and AI models as possible mentor-substitutes.

Table of Contents

Self-directed online programming courses: how effective are they?

Chances are you already have a dusty Udemy or Coursera programming course at the bottom of your drawer, which you’ll never finish. And you’re not the only one. It’s more common than you’d think to invest in MOOCs and never get through them.

The Coursera course awarded with the “highest completion rate” pledge has a – wait for it – 20% completion rate. This data definitely paints a picture.

And this staggering number doesn’t seem that jaw-dropping when compared to a study done on the topic. It shows the average completion rate for Coursera, edX, and Udacity courses, which is approximately 15%. In other words, 85% are never finished.

Another challenge with self-directed learning is that it is rarely hands-on. Even if you fall in the 15%, and you finish it, the knowledge you’ll gather will focus a lot on theory and plain information instead of real life practice and project experience.

Self-directed online learning seems to be a great option. It allows a lot of freedom and is cost-effective. But what’s the use, if you don’t make it in the end? And it seems that most people don’t – it’s plain facts.

remote developer

Mentor-led online programming courses: what's against them

Mentor-led courses require real investment. The main cons that you could line up would be that they’re:

  • More expensive:
    There’s no way to get around it, learning on your own with MOOCs would cost you substantially less than any mentor-led online course. At the same time, the price reflects the service you get. In e-learning, you’d be receiving a lot of theory with very little if any practice or feedback. Also, in a way, a smaller investment is even more expensive if you spend it on nothing – and we have seen that you’d be very likely to never finish a self-instructed course. You do the math.


  • Less flexible:
    When you learn online on your own, you’re 100% free to decide on your schedule, breaks, and pacing. This can seem to be tempting to some, but you might be the person who works better when sticking to a schedule, curriculum, and team structure.

    Without these, you might as well feel lost at times, and you might end up losing time, motivation, or track of your own progress. So this con can actually be a pro for some.

  • Socially engaging: You might enjoy learning on your own and could be less enthusiastic about working with teammates and mentors. MOOCs are also a great option if you tend to feel lost in the crowd of a classroom. They give you the ability to pause and take thorough notes or even re-watch parts.
online programming courses

Mentor-led, online programming courses: the advantages

Now that we’ve checked the cons, let’s see how mentor-led courses can add value contrary to self-directed learning.

1. You’ll get valuable feedback from pro developers

There’s nothing like having someone experienced in a subject guide you through a learning path. Having mentors will help you throughout your online programming journey by providing an opportunity for feedback sessions, deep assessments, and motivating discussions.

In fact, most of our students who’ve tried their hand at self-directed learning say the number one reason they changed to a mentor-led course is that they couldn’t find the answers to some burning, specific questions. All the knowledge in the online world cannot solve random problems that arise while you’re learning a new profession.

2. You’ll actually make time for learning

In a mentor-led setup where you have projects and a community, you’ll likely be able to dodge distractions better. You’ll hop into an online “classroom” where growth, experimentation, and exploration all happen. It’s where you’ll be surrounded by others interested in growing and exploring. It’s where you’ll work, get things done, and share the experience with others.

Sticking to a schedule and working with others will help you manage your time better, which is essential for any programmer.

3. You’ll have fun and find a great community

For online education to be on par with actually going to school, it can’t just focus on information. An online mentor-led programming course comes with a community and a great vibe, too. And a great atmosphere can mean success since having fun supports deep learning.

You’re actually going to learn more if you enjoy what you’re doing. A great vibe, teammates, and the opportunity to discuss whatever hardships come up can be essential for a successful learning experience.

remote developer coding

Can't ChatGPT just help me learn to code?

You probably wonder at this point: “If AI can do so much, why can’t it help me learn to code? It can write code so it could act as a teacher substitute as well, right?”

The truth is, AI is useful as a resource for learning programming concepts or solving specific problems. But ChatGPT and similar AI models will never be able to replace a real mentor.

Mentors provide personalized guidance, emotional support, and real-world experience, which are all invaluable if you want to become a developer.

  1. AI is limited in adapting to personal needs and unable to provide personalized guidance. While human mentors can adjust their teaching style and attitude to each learner, AI cannot.
  2. AI models are useless regarding networking and career advice. Mentors can help students gain valuable insights into these matters based on personal experiences.
  3. Immediate feedback is crucial for effective mentorship, and AI models cannot engage in real-time discussions.
  4. Mentors can support students emotionally and motivate them. AI, on the other hand, is limited in emotional intelligence and cannot provide much support in these matters.
  5. When mentors encounter a challenge, they can find creative solutions. AI models, on the other hand, are limited by their training data and algorithms.

We know that AI is becoming a part of our lives more and more, so it’s crucial to understand how and when to use it effectively. Even though it’s not a suitable tool to use as a teacher-substitute, it can be a great time and energy saver while learning to code.

We want to equip our students with the knowledge to use ChatGPT effectively – so we’re already in the process of making it a part of our curriculum. Check back for more details on the topic soon!

remote developer job

AI models in the Codecool method

We know that AI is becoming a part of our lives more and more, so it’s crucial to understand how and when to use it effectively. Though it’s not a substitute for mentors, but it can be a game changer for coding students.

At Codecool, we’re leading the way by incorporating ChatGPT and similar AI models into our curriculum, and even improving our study materials with it.

We want to equip our students with the knowledge to use them effectively. Since our method is practice-based, AI will only ever play a supporting role in our students lives. But we still want to give Codecoolers the tools and the guidance they need to make the most of AI while they learn.

Beginner coders will dive into an awesome workshop in the first module of our Full Stack Development Course to learn all about AI. We’ll show you how to use it like a pro, saving you time and energy on your coding journey.

Want to start your coding journey?

Check out our full-stack development course. It comes with a job guarantee, possible post-payment options, and an all-encompassing learning experience.

You’ll learn several modern programming languages with the help of experienced mentors at the top of their game.

Work on a kick-ass project portfolio, gather real coding experience, and become a junior developer that companies will love to work with!

All this and more on campus or online from the comfort of your home!

Come to one of our events if you want to learn more – it’s the best way to get to know us, the school and mentors.

Or contact us via mail or chat. We’re happy to answer all your questions!

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