zyBooks was acquired by Wiley publishing house for a whopping $56M cash deal in 2019. They have a strong market for animated and concise textbook content, perfect for STEM courses such as coding/programming. However, zyBooks position in teaching is troubling for programming teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Using zyBooks reduces the time it takes for teachers to conduct trivial learning management activities such as grading and administering homework. However, it also supplants itself into the teaching ecosystem by effectively taking the teacher out of the process. 

Photo by Steinar Engeland on Unsplash

Without the need for the teacher to come up with homework/ lab problems for programming classes, grade labs by understanding student thinking, or even to create their own presentation slides — the teacher becomes complementary to the platform and less involved in curating a teaching experience based on their students’ needs. 

A great alternative to zyBooks is Coding Rooms because it strengthens interactive learning, collaboration, and teacher-student relationships — especially during distanced-learning. Here are the top 3 reasons why Coding Rooms is better than zyBooks in terms of using it to teach and manage homework for programming classes: 

1. Interactive and all-encompassing instructor dashboard for programming

Coding Rooms’ interactive all-in-one instructor platform allows the teacher to feel that they have control and command of managing their virtual classroom. They can see all their students’ workspaces, the amount of code they wrote, and even playback their coding process to understand where each student is in terms of grasping the material. It allows the teacher to monitor all the key metrics in coding for a student such as run-time errors and last active login time. In comparison, zyBooks is very much catered to an individual experience of completing problems textbook-homework style, and teachers can only see completion rates and scores. 

2. More languages supported with a powerful IDE (Integrated Development Environment)

Coding Rooms’ IDE supports a large variety of languages from the staple C, C++, Python, Java, Javascript to even languages like Perl, Ruby, Clojure, Haskell. It also has multi-file support and multithreading that provide the option for students to use their workspaces to gain a deeper understanding of programming. Despite the complexities surrounding IDE environments, which is why some developers stick with text editors instead, Coding Rooms have developed its IDE in a meaningful way for students. You can experience the benefits of using an IDE without all the unnecessary clutter, which Coding Rooms have purposefully hidden to maintain that they are a teaching tool and not a developer tool. 

zyBooks’ interface IDE is also simplified, perhaps too much. Its IDE is limiting in that it does not support a wide variety of coding languages or key programming capabilities such as multi-file support. Its IDE windows are typically small with their intended use to primarily solve a textbook problem rather than be a platform to really code in for real-life applications. 

3. Supports collaborative exercises or group projects 

Coding Rooms’ classroom can be used creatively to not only support actual real-time classes but also to be left open so students can come back and complete a project or a lab. It can also be used among students for group projects or hackathons. The interactive interface allows students and teachers alike to not only see where someone’s cursor is placed in a workspace but also add comments to specific areas of code in a “Google-doc-like” fashion. Likewise, it allows students to learn from each other in a collaborative online environment as opposed to individualized coursework. Conversely, zyBooks is primarily focused on providing exercises to each individual student with its textbook-style homework platform. 

In the middle of a pandemic, distanced-learning is hard to manage and encourage interactive learning. Coding Rooms aims to solve this problem creatively for programming teachers and students to interact and collaborate online to solve programming problems together. While zyBooks is great for its minimized, concise content and animated problem sets — it lacks in its virtual teaching abilities for programming courses. 

Coding Rooms is the world’s first virtual classroom for teaching programming that finally answers the question of “How do we do labs?” (and more!) in this remote and socially-distanced learning environment. Our unified instructor dashboard enables you to see all your students’ code, answer their questions, and take control of their IDEs — all in real-time. In addition, our administrative features, code playback, and feature-rich IDE enables you to run your entire programming class on a single platform. From an instructor’s perspective, it also provides insightful metrics into your student’s progression in the classroom and how engaged they are in your material.

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