How to Learn to Code With a Buddy

Better learning through collaboration

Coding can be stressful.

Things go wrong, lines break, and you’re not sure why.

Just when you’ve cracked it, other problems arise. Life gets in the way. You lose focus. There’s so much to learn and you feel like you’re drowning in a sea of semicolons.

Your coding dreams drift into the distance.

At least, this can happen. Some might say it will happen if you’re learning on your own.

Udemy reports the average student enrolled in one of their courses completes just 30% of the content. An average of 70% never even start! Another report suggests the number of people who quit online coding programs could be as high as 94%.

Collaborative learning offers a solution.

Instead of facing these challenges alone, pairing with a buddy helps you stay on track. You’re held to account. You can share your feelings of overwhelm with someone who understands.

Learning through collaboration can help you code.

Let’s dig deeper.

Benefits of Collaborative-Based Learning

Collaborative learning involves people working together on activities, often in pairs.

Two people may work on separate tasks contributing to a common goal, or work together on a shared task. This is what separates it from unstructured group work.

There are many benefits of collaborative learning. According to a 2009 study by Johnson & Johnson, collaborative learning can result in higher group achievement, higher self-esteem, and higher motivation for all people involved - even if people have different socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds.

One reason for this is collaborative learning deepens learning. Two people at the same level of understanding learn from each other. Sometimes, peers will be able to explain concepts or ideas to their fellow partner better than a lecturer or teacher.

As Monique DeVane (Head of School at The College Preparatory School, Oakland, CA) puts it,

“Individual work can be a great way to master content, but group work empowers people to cultivate resilience."

“How do you look to your neighbour as a resource? How do you cast your own theories? How do you understand if you’re on the right track?"

“Collaborative learning answers these questions.”

Learning Through Collaboration - Challenges to Be Aware of

Collaborative learning can be helpful for everyone.

However, there are challenges that need to be managed. The main one is this: people learn at different speeds. For this reason, collaboration can sometimes take longer than individual learning.

But this can be a benefit. A partner has the opportunity to teach their buddy something that a teacher or lecturer has struggled to explain.

The second challenge is to do with personality types.

For example, introverts may find the process of partnering with someone just as challenging as the coding itself.

This is why finding out people’s preferences and learning styles (just like we do at Codum) is crucial for successful buddying up.

Learning to Code With a Buddy - Practical Examples

Weekly check-ins

One you’ve partnered with a buddy, agree to weekly check-ins. These will hold you accountable. You can do this in person or over Zoom, and the meetings can be as long as you like.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • What did you work on this week?
  • Did you complete your goal (defined in a previous check-in)?
  • What was the biggest challenge you faced?

For the latter, your partner can help. Perhaps they’ve faced a similar challenge in the past? Or maybe they know a resource that can point you to a solution?

If you haven’t got time for meetings, consider voice notes. For example, you could send your coding buddy a WhatsApp every Monday, detailing three goals for the week and one worry.

The worry can be big or small.

You can also reflect back on your partner’s goals from the past week. Did they complete X, Y, and Z? If not, why not? They can reply with their goals and worries, and check you completed last week’s goals.

It’s a simple practice that’ll help you realise 90% of worries are ignorable. If they’re not worth sharing, they’re not worth having.

If voice notes aren’t your thing, you could send your buddy a picture of you with your laptop as you’re working.

You can also contact your buddy through Slack.

Whiteboard goal-tracking

Here’s how a whiteboard can change your life:

  1. Define your daily coding tasks.
  2. For each task, draw a column on your whiteboard. The rows will be the days of the week. Write the tasks along the top.
  3. Mark an X in the task column once it’s complete.
  4. Send a picture of your whiteboard to your coding buddy at the end of the week.
  5. Repeat.

Your aim is simple. You want to get as many Xs on the whiteboard as possible. If you don’t complete a task, don’t beat yourself up. Just do your best not to go two days in a row.

“You don’t need a unanimous vote to win an election; you just need a majority.

“It doesn’t matter if you cast a few votes for bad behaviour or an unproductive habit. Your goal is to win the majority of the time.”

— James Clear, Author of Atomic Habits

At the end of the week, if you’ve got over X amount of crosses, reward yourself. It can be your own loyalty program.

For example, you could buy a book or transfer $10 into a “reward bucket”. This reward bucket could help you save for something bigger, like a holiday abroad.


Working alone can be scary.

When learning to code, you’ll have so many questions. Am I on the right track? Will this break? Where do I start?

The answer? Learning through collaboration. It offers a ton of benefits, such as being held accountable, and working with a buddy makes you less likely to give up.

As someone wise once said:

“Friendship improves happiness and abates misery by the doubling of our joy and the dividing of our grief.”

Want to work with a coding buddy? We can help. Contact Codum and let us find your perfect partner :)

Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash