Dash by General Assembly

Dash: Learning To Code by Building Websites

Want to learn to code but have no idea where to start? Interested in what things like HTML, CSS, and jQuery mean? Dash, a new website that teaches people how to build websites, is perfect for you. 

Design websites
Dash lets you design websites for hypothetical clients

Dash is an online tutorial and part of General Assembly. General Assembly is “an educational institution that transforms thinkers into creators through education in technology, business and design at nine campuses across four continents,” according to its website. Unlike many of the other programs offered through General Assembly, Dash is free and accessible online. 

How It Works

Designing for mobile
Dash teaches you how to create responsive web design

Through the course work, you’ll learn to code for hypothetical clients, gathering information about HTML, CSS, and jQuery. You are responsible for building a personal website for Anna, a responsive blog theme for Jeff, a small business website for Esha, and an online robot for Cotter. Dash takes you step by step through the process and by the end, you will have learned 56 coding skills.  

As Dash creator Nathan Bashaw said in an email:

“With Dash, you learn to code by doing fun projects that look like real websites you’d see on the internet. It’s a ton of fun to see good-looking sites come together, and it helps you remember what you’ve learned because everything is in a realistic context.”

What’s great about Dash is with the hypothetical clients, you feel like you are building something real. With many other online coding tutorials, you learn the skills, but don’t necessarily see how the content translates into a website that you would actually build. At the end of each project with Dash, you can easily change the information about each “client” to your own needs, and you’ll find yourself with a pretty good looking website. The clients also give positive feedback at the end!

Easily recall the skills you learned earlier in the course

 Also, unlike some other online coding tutorials, there is a skills section within each project that compiles all the skills you’ve learned up to that point.

If you forget any of the skills, just hover over the skill you need a refresher on, and a pop-up cheat sheet helps you out. Other tutorials require you to leave the project and navigate to a different part of the website to find an answer.

Additionally, there is a Q&A forum within the project. If you get stuck on a task, you can ask a question and someone will help answer it–in many cases, your question may have already been asked. 

Dash is very practical, and completes its purpose well. The step-by-step instructions call out why you need to structure different elements in certain ways. They also call out when something will probably be difficult – like learning jQuery coding structure.

Other Options

There are many other options for learning coding online. Sites like Codeacademy.com have a larger base of coursework, including learning to code for apps, APIs, and more. The tutorials, though, assume a greater grasp of the beginning concepts, and often aren’t as descriptive as Dash. If you are a beginner, Dash is a good place to start. If you already know CSS and HTML well, you might need to go elsewhere, or know that Dash will be a refresher. 

Google just released a web-design beta as well.

Hour of Code

Bashaw stresses: “Learning to code is one of the most important skills of our time,” which he says is a contributing factor to his creation of Dash. Many others feel similarly.

As part of Computer Science Education Week , December 9-15 this year, a nonprofit called Code.org is working to bring education on coding to every K-12 classroom in the country. 

People like Bill Clinton, Will.I.Am, Richard Branson, and Ashton Kutcher have all come out in support of code.org’s initiative. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg not only support code.org, they have each contributed tutorials for use in the “Hour of Code” campaign. 

Tutorials will be available online, but there are also workshops teachers can lead that are offline using physical objects, for when schools don’t have access to enough computers.

There are plenty of coding resources at your fingertips.

Have you used any of them before? How have you found success learning to code? Let us know about it here!

Sam Edelstein

Sam is an alumnus of the iSchool's Information Management and Data Science programs, and works as the City of Syracuse's first Chief Data Officer. Sam loves to talk all things Orange, tech, and travel. Connect with him on Twitter @samedelstein.

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