The Hour of Code

Nearly everyone in the world uses computers, but not many can actually write their own code. And yet more and more people have their own websites and have ideas for their own apps. Tech not-for-profit, Code.org, created the Hour Of Code in order to give a grounding in computer programming to millions of people worldwide, regardless of age or gender.

The challenge

Even in 2013, too few people were familiar with even the basics of computer programming. There was a gender imbalance: a small proportion of those studying computer science at school or university, or practising in the profession in tech companies and elsewhere, are female.

The initiative

In January 2013, “brothers Ali Partovi and Hadi Partovi launched a new non-profit organisation called Code.org in Seattle. It had a simple mission: to change the perception America has of coding and computer science and make those subjects accessible to the masses.” [1] Now it has extended beyond Americans and is dedicated to expanding global participation in computer science. That means that anyone, wherever they are in the world, can organise an Hour of Code event.

The Hour of Code was launched to teach people in 60 minutes in an enjoyable, simple way. It is an hour-long introduction to computer science, aimed at demystifying code and showing that anybody can learn the basics. One-hour tutorials are available in over 4 languages. No prior experience is needed.

It aims to reach 10 million students. The Partovi brothers believe that every student should have the opportunity to learn computer science as it helps in nurturing problem-solving skills, logic and creativity.

Hour of Code happens every year during the Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek). It can also be done any time of the year. And any school can Sign up to host an Hour of Code.

The public impact

The first Hour of Code themed CSEdWeek in 2013 reached over 15 million students and over 35,000 events across 167 countries.

Over 200 millions have tried the Hour of Code, 49 percent of them female. There have been around 200,000 Hour of Code events around the world. Hundreds of global partners and around 200,000 organisers support the Hour of Code campaign for Computer Science Education Week.

The most important measures of impact were gathered from Hour of Code event surveys taking the views of the event organisers:

  • Nearly all (98 perecent) had a good or great experience.
  • 85 percent of those new to computer science said the Hour of Code increased their interest in teaching computer science.
  • Nearly half (49 percent) said they plan to continue teaching computer science beyond one hour.
  • 18 percent said they began teaching computer science after a previous Hour of Code campaign.
  • 87 percent said their students did more than just one hour of coding.

What did and didn't work

All cases in our Public Impact Observatory have been evaluated for performance against the elements of our Public Impact Fundamentals.

Legitimacy

Public Confidence Good

The high participation rate indicates that the public confidence in this initiative was good.

Stakeholder Engagement Strong

Code.org had external support from various stakeholders such as Computing in the Core, Apple and Microsoft to organise CSEdWeek around the Hour of Code theme.

To help Code.org reach its goals, both Apple and Microsoft signed on and agreed to host an Hour of Code at every one of their retail outlets.

Code.org created the free tutorial in collaboration with engineers from Microsoft, Google, Twitter and Facebook. It uses puzzles featuring characters from popular online games like ‘Angry Birds’ to introduce students to coding concepts.

In addition to the major external stakeholders, it has an enormous number of partners, both in America and internationally, not just in education and computing, but across sectors and countries.

Political Commitment Strong

There has been enthusiastic support from the President Obama and other major politicians. “Using the Code.org learning platform, President Obama wrote his first line of code. Code.org CEO Hadi Partovi commented, ‘We’re thrilled that the President accepted our invitation to try the Hour of Code’". [2]

The political interest was evident across the party divide. “President Obama, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Senator Cory Booker, Newt Gingrich and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan released videos in support of the Hour of Code." [3]

Policy

Clear Objectives Strong

The Hour of Code had a clearly-stated, straightforward objective and also stated specific and measurable outcome.

Code.org stated that it aimed to get 10 million students of all ages and adults to participate in the Hour of Code in December 2013. “Code.org is organising a massive campaign to get 10 million students of all ages (and adults) to participate in the Hour of Code this December.”

It also sought to redress the gender imbalance in computer programming at school, university and in tech firms generally, by giving female students the opportunity to learn about it in the right environment.

Evidence Weak

No evidence could be located to assess that the concept was drawn from existing similar policies and there was no evidence of a pilot phase.

Feasibility Good

Code.org were able by their efforts to make their contributions to CSEdWeek both operationally and financially feasible.

In July of 2013, the Computing in the Core coalition members agreed to allow Code.org to organise that year’s CSEdWeek week around a new idea and theme, the “Hour of Code”. At the time, this fledgling idea showed a lot of promise, and Code.org was willing to provide the operational support and a tenfold increase in funding in order to grow the week from hundreds of events reaching thousands of students to tens of thousands of events reaching millions of students.

Code.org launched a crowdfunding campaign to bring Hour of Code to 100 million students (a funding of US$5 million by December 2014). Also, it built up a large number of prominent Code.org donors, including Bill Gates and Microsoft, Google, and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman who agreed to match donations up to US$2.5 million.

Action

Management Good

Code.org, the organising body of the Hour of Code, has a strong team with clearly defined roles and responsibilities and was able to arrange the required funds. For example, CEO Hadi Partovi had managerial experience Microsoft before becoming a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and co-founding Code.org.

Measurement Strong

The impact on the public was measured by a third party to ensure fairness in great detail. “Code.org partners with Outlier Research & Evaluation at the University of Chicago, a third-party evaluator, to understand our impact and progress towards meeting our mission. In the spirit of transparency.” [4]

The impact was measured by a survey, which recorded data for the Hour of Code as the organisers who participated in Hour of Code 2015 completed a survey and shared their experiences (see Public impact above).

Alignment Strong

Hundreds of global partners have contributed towards making Code.org’s Hour of Code events happen, including Google, Microsoft, Amazon and the UK Department for Education. The 2013 and 2014 events were a successful collaboration with CSEdWeek.

Their success was dependent on the firms and around 200,000 organisers who ran the events and the enthusiasm of the many participants worldwide.