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Guide

SoloLearn and low vision

Tips for using the free SoloLearn app with assistive technology to study for intro programming and coding classes in college.

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:

SoloLearn lessons are designed for beginners, and I would recommend SoloLearn for high school or college aged students.

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SoloLearn components

Each course for SoloLearn consists of the following elements:

Learn

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.

Challenge

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.

Community

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

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.

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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.

Related links

More tips for SoloLearn and low vision

By Veronica Lewis/Veronica With Four Eyes, www.veroniiiica.com

Updated October 2023; original post published December 2018.

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