DataCamp Review: Is It Worth Paying For?

Disclosure: some of the links below may be affiliate links. This means I get paid a commission (with no extra cost to you) if you use that link to make a purchase. However, my views and recommendations are my own personal opinion.

Introduction

In this DataCamp review, I will give you all the information you need to decide whether DataCamp is worth it for you. Included is an overview of what DataCamp is, how much it costs, what you get for your money and my experience with DataCamp. This information may be useful to those who are considering DataCamp to learn a new programming language.

What is DataCamp?

DataCamp is a freemium, interactive, online platform where users can learn data science and programming languages, such as R and Python.

Since it began in 2014, DataCamp has grown to be one of the largest data science educational platforms with over 4 million users and >250 courses available.

Users learn by undertaking online courses to build up their data science knowledge. Once accomplished, you can then deepen your understanding with various practice activities. Finally, DataCamp provides various projects to give you hands-on experience at solving real-world problems.

DataCamp pricing: How much does it cost?

Let me begin this DataCamp review by going straight into the elephant in the room – the cost of the platform.

DataCamp has three price plans available for individuals: Monthly, Yearly and Free.

Monthly – $29 per month

If you pay monthly, the price is slightly higher compared with the Yearly subscription plan. However, you get the added benefit of cancelling your plan at any time.

This plan will suit those who only want to undertake a few courses since you can cram them all into a short space of time.

Yearly – $25 per month

By paying yearly, you will save $48 on the subscription compared with the Monthly plan, if you were to complete the full year. The downside to the Yearly plan is that it has to be paid in full. So, it is best to select this plan if you think you will be a big DataCamp user.

DataCamp various promotions on their Yearly subscription plan now and again. Sales often include 50% off the annual price, which is totally worth it! I always post DataCamp’s latest offers here when they go live.

Free – $0 per month

As the name suggests, the Free plan can be used without any cost. Anyone can create a DataCamp account for free. This will simply give you a flavour of what the platform is all about but is rather limited in features.

How can you pay for DataCamp?

There are two ways to pay for a DataCamp account: PayPal and credit card.

What do you get for your money?

Below is a breakdown of the features included in the DataCamp price plans. This information is correct as of 12th August 2019.

MonthlyYearlyFree
Courses285285All first chapters
Skill tracks
Career tracks
Community chat
Practice challenges500+500+100+
Real-world projects78787
Mobile app coursesAllAllIntroductory only

The features are the same for the Monthly and Yearly plans, the only difference is how you pay for the membership.

For the Free members, you can only get access to the first chapter of each course. Previously, DataCamp offered completely free courses to undertake n their Free plan; however, unfortunately, these have since been removed.

Despite this limitation, the Free plan does give you a feel for the platform without spending a penny. It’s always worth trying before you buy!

How does DataCamp work?

DataCamp is split into three main areas: learn, practice and projects.

Learning

You start off by selecting the programming language you would like to learn. This can be done by browsing their catalogue of over 280 courses or by selecting a skill track.

Skill tracks are a set of related courses that DataCamp recommends. For example, their Importing & Cleaning Data with R track contains 4 courses that are all focussed on data parsing.

Most courses contain a mixture of videos and coding exercises.

The videos are a nice touch to introduce the course content and the concepts involved. They can be viewed in full-screen and even downloaded to your device. The captions settings also worked well, in my experience, so you can watch them without the sound.

The main attraction for using DataCamp is their interactive platform. This is very much a ‘learning by doing approach’ and I love it.

Below is a screenshot of the DataCamp interface for one of their R courses. I have highlighted key regions of the interface that are described in more detail below.

An overview of the DataCamp interface
A screenshot of the DataCamp exercise screen in an R course. I have highlighted regions of interest and described them below.

1. Exercise window

Here you will find a brief overview of the exercise. Usually, this includes a description of the dataset that may relate to a prior video.

2. Instructions window

Underneath the Exercise window you will find the instructions to perform. These are quite self explanatory. All instructions are to be performed in the script window on the right.

Along the learning journey, you will pick up XP after completing videos and exercises. Strangely, XP in DataCamp doesn’t actually count towards anything; it is simply a measure of how well you are engaging with the platform.

DataCamp XP
My stats at the time of writing this DataCamp review.

A feature I would love to see is the ability to spend XP – like a currency – on exclusive access to additional course content, for example. This would add an extra incentive for me to learn more and get more XP.

Another useful feature that I like in the Instructions window is the Take Hint button. You will probably use this a lot when you start learning new programming languages. By sacrificing some XP points you will be provided with a hint to help you through the exercise.

DataCamp Take a Hint
If you are stuggling with an exercise, use the Take a Hint option. You will sacrifice some XP for some insights into the answer.

If you are really struggling, you can go one step further and show the final answer. Note, if you do this, you will no longer receive XP points for the exercise.

3. Script window

In the example screenshot the window to the top-right contains the R script. This is just like working with an R script within R or R Studio.

In the Script window you enter the answers to the instructions. Most of the time these scripts are partly filled for you so you’re not on your own.

4. Submit buttons

Once you have completed the script, you can then either run the code or submit your answer. It’s always best to run the code before submitting the script to test if it actually works.

5. Console

The console is where there script is processed and the output is displayed. More importantly, this is where any errors are displayed!

Finally, once you finish a course, you will be rewarded with a certificate or Statement of Accomplishment. This is a nice touch, if you like that sort of thing, maybe to include in your LinkedIn profile or portfolio.

Practice

Once the course is complete, you can then practice your programming language through daily tasks. This is something I really like.

I wouldn’t consider myself a devoted coder and so having the ability to practice programming on a daily basis reinforces my learning.

Did you know?
There is an official DataCamp app for Android and iOS so you can practice on the go! This is rather limited on the Free plan however.

The app works well for practical tasks. These are mainly multiple-choice questions and fill in the blanks. I found it useful when I had a spare few minutes waiting for the train to keep my mind fresh with R.

Projects

If you want to go one step further, DataCamp also has a number of projects that you can sink your knowledgeable teeth into.

Projects gives you a sense of handling large datasets to solve problems. These are more advanced than the course content and practical tasks.

Have you ever wanted to perform a network analysis of the characters from Game of Thrones in Python? Or wanted to understand what makes a Pokemon legendary in R? hese are just a few examples of the projects you can complee with DataCamp.

Projects makes learning data science fun. Most are delivered via Jupyter notebooks – an open-source online platform to share and store code. This works quite well, however, I felt it difficult at first to understand what to do.

If you’re going to dive into DataCamp projects, I recommend you take their introductory projects that will explain how to go about completing them.

Paid members get access to the Slack community

Premium DataCamp members also get access to the Slack group. At the time of this review, there were over 23,000 members who were in the Slack group!

If you don’t know what Slack is, think of it as a cross between a private Facebook group and a forum.

In the Slack group users can post issues, share code and brainstorm ideas. The area is split into channels;these are: feedback, general, Python, R, SQL, introductions and jobs.

A perfect example of how the Slack community works can be seen in the screenshot below. Here, a member said they got an error in Python and posted their code. Then within 6 minutes, a different user replied with the correct code that seemed to work!

DataCamp Slack group
An example of a thread in the Python channel in DataCamp’s Slack group. I have blocked out their names and images.

Will you become a programming expert with DataCamp?

The short answer is probably not.

DataCamp is excellent for those with little or no programming experience. It is one of the best places to begin your data science journey.

I managed to learn the basic functionalities for R just by using their R courses. This was enough to get me going and I supplemented my learning by using R for work that I was interested in. For example, performing meta-analyses in R.

This experience helped me to understand the R documents that come with packages. Over time, I have become more confident with programming and this initial understanding was made easier by DataCamp, I felt anyway.

Learning progamming is like learning a new language. It comes with a lot of time and practice. So don’t expect DataCamp to be a quick fix; but, it will take you through the baby steps to get you going.

The smart way to benefit from a paid membership

The best (and smart) way to get the most out of a paid DataCamp membership is to take as many courses as possible. The more courses you take, the cheaper the membership works out per course undertaken.

For example, say you completed 1 course a week on DataCamp – which is completely realistic – each course will cost $7.25 (based on a Monthly plan of $29 per month). That is considerably cheaper than alternative e-learning platforms such as Udemy.

I suggest creating a Free account and undertaking the first chapter of each course you wish to complete. This will also give you a feel for how DataCamp works and if the platform is right for your learning experience.

Then, when you have built up a list of courses you like the look of, sign up for a Monthly plan (or Yearly if you are already committed) and finish off the rest of the chapters in each course.

Once you have finished the courses, you are then free to cancel your subscription.

What I like and don’t like about DataCamp

Having used DataCamp for some years on-and-off, including paying for their Monthly plan, I have encountered some likes and dislikes on their premium membership.

I have summarised my own views below.

What I like

👍 The interactive interface
👍 New courses are added weekly
👍 An established community (Slack)
👍 Certificate for course completion

What I dislike

👎 XP has no value
👎 Mobile app is restricted


Conclusion: is it worth paying for?

To finish off this DataCamp review, let’s revisit the main question: it is worth paying for DataCamp?

I believe so, yes!

However, deciding between the Monthly and Yearly membership plans will undoubtedly depend on your personal circumstances.

To help make the decision easier, I have summed up the people each plan will most likely benefit.

Monthly

  • Casual coders/programmers
  • Students
  • Those with little upfront funds
  • Those under time constraints
  • Already identified the courses they want

Yearly

  • Frequent coders/programmers
  • Professionals
  • Those with adequate upfront funds
  • Have more time to learn
  • More open about the courses they want to take

I hope this DataCamp review has been useful for those thinking about joining their platform.

Let me know in the comments below your thoughts on DataCamp and if it has helped you.

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