While studying for my bachelor’s degree in data science and running a blog in college, I had to learn several different programming languages and how they are used, including Java, Python, HTML, CSS, SQL, and several others. One of my most used study resources was the free SoloLearn programming education program, which helped me earn high grades on my exams and better understand the material I was learning in class. Here is how I use the SoloLearn app as a student with low vision and practice valuable programming/coding skills.
Setting up SoloLearn
SoloLearn is available as a web browser application with no downloads needed, as well as a mobile application for iOS and Android. Users are required to create a free account, and the majority of content requires an internet or mobile data connection for access, though previously accessed lessons can also be downloaded for offline studying.
Users can access lessons for the following languages, all for free:
- Algorithms and Data Structures
- Machine Learning
- Design Patterns
SoloLearn lessons are designed for beginners, and I would recommend SoloLearn for high school or college aged students.
- Learn Programming with our Online Courses | Sololearn
- Sololearn: Learn to Code Apps on the App Store (apple.com)
- Sololearn: Learn to Code – Apps on Google Play
Each course for SoloLearn consists of the following elements:
Each course features several lessons broken up into several sections- for the SQL course, there are 3 sections and 28 lessons total. Each lesson takes about 3-5 minutes to complete and consists of text-based explanations, short quizzes, and simple diagrams, as well as code snippets and examples. Each section is paired with a code project that allows users to practice writing syntax and short programs in their target language.
As part of the Learn section, users can complete coding challenges that consist of multiple choice, short answer, and drag and drop questions to demonstrate mastery of the various concepts. There is also an option for a certification, though the certificates are more for personal bragging than they are for listing on a resume as they are not accredited.
A fun part of the SoloLearn app is the option to participate in community coding challenges and practice other coding questions with the code coach in a variety of languages. Other SoloLearn users can add comments or provide feedback on community coding challenges and posts.
Create is a mobile or web-based IDE for writing code, with the option to save files for private use or share them publicly with the SoloLearn community to receive feedback from other users. Users can also browse code from other members of the community and feedback from others.
- Writing Python Code on iPad With Pythonista
- SQLiteStudio and Low Vision
- How I Use Quizlet With Low Vision
- Hour of Code and Low Vision
Using SoloLearn with assistive technology: SoloLearn Accessibility
SoloLearn and large print/high contrast
SoloLearn does not support Dynamic Text on iOS, but system font sizes are supported on Android and on the web application. There are also options for enabling dark mode for high contrast across all applications.
The Create IDE has an option for increasing the font size, though I still found this too small to read.
SoloLearn and screen magnification
I use Zoom magnifier on iOS for screen magnification, and prefer the docked or full screen view, since all of the text in the iOS application is too small for me to read. For the web application, users can use control-+ to increase the font size and display size of SoloLearn content.
In the iOS application, users can enlarge images by long-pressing on an image to display it at full screen, and use pinch-to-zoom for additional magnification.
SoloLearn and text-to-speech
I prefer to use on-demand screen reader tools or text-to-speech for reading content on the SoloLearn app, including features such as Speak Text, Select-to-speak, and Read Aloud. To activate Speak Text on iOS, users will need to highlight/select the text on the page and select Speak Selection. To activate text-to-speech on Android or in the web browser, I use a keyboard shortcut or the Select-to-speak pinned shortcut.
SoloLearn and screen readers
SoloLearn’s text-based explanations and quizzes are accessible for screen reader users, but the code snippets, code practice, and images are not as they do not have alt text. However, the Code Coach and Create IDE environment can be used with a screen reader, though it took me a few tries to get the keyboard to display- personally, I prefer to use Repl.It or another IDE to write my code and then copy/paste into SoloLearn.
- How I Use Repl.it IDE With Low Vision
- A to Z of Assistive Technology For Low Vision
- How To Use Select to Speak on Android
- Ways To Read Webpages Without A Traditional Screen Reader
- How To Create High Resolution Images For Low Vision
More tips for SoloLearn and low vision
- When I was majoring in IT, I primarily studied lessons for Java, basic Python, and SQL. When I switched majors to data science, I took more in-depth Python courses, SQL, Algorithms, and Machine Learning
- For running my website, I found it most helpful to study their web development resources for HTML and CSS
- Another option for displaying SoloLearn content in large print is to use screen mirroring or wireless screencasting tools such as Chromecast with the web application
- SoloLearn lessons are great, but cannot be used to get a course waiver or substitution at most colleges- I talk about this topic more in How To Request a Course Substitution or Course Waiver In College