A platform for beginners to learn programming in Python


This is a platform/course for people to teach themselves programming in Python, especially complete beginners at programming.

You can try a demo here:

Currently this is a work in progress. While most of the groundwork is in place, there is a lot to do to make this a complete course ready for users. All kinds of help are needed and greatly appreciated - please consider contributing!


The course is a fully interactive 'book' which requires the user to run code in the provided editor or shell to advance:


The code at each step is checked automatically. Common mistakes can be caught and pointed out to the student. If needed, the student can get small hints to gradually guide them to the solution:


If they're still really stuck, they can reveal the solution bit by bit:


Tracebacks are more helpful than usual, highlighting the exact operation which failed and ensuring that the right amount of context is visible for multiline statements:


Several debuggers are provided, including snoop:




and Python Tutor:


Running locally

  1. Fork the repository, and clone your fork.
  2. If you want to run the system using Docker, which may be easier and will more closely resemble the production environment:
    1. Ensure you have docker and docker-compose installed.
    2. Create an empty file called .env in the repo root.
    3. Run docker-compose up.
    4. Skip the following two steps, everything should be running now.
  3. In the backend folder:
    1. Ensure the python command points to Python 3.8.
    2. Run ./ This will:
      1. Install poetry if needed.
      2. Create a virtualenv and install Python dependencies.
      3. Create a sqlite database, run migrations, and create a user.
    3. Activate the virtualenv with poetry shell.
    4. Run the backend development server with ./ runserver.
  4. In the frontend folder:
    1. Ensure you have recent versions of node and npm.
    2. Run npm install to download dependencies.
    3. Run npm start to start the frontend development server.
  5. Go to http://localhost:3000/accounts/login/ and login with the email "[email protected]" and the password "admin".
  6. You should be redirected to http://localhost:3000/course/ and see the start of the course: "Introducing The Shell".


The course consists of pages and each page consists of steps. Each step requires that the user runs some code that satisfies the requirements of that step. Once they succeed, they are shown the next step. Once they complete all the steps in a page, they are shown the "Next page" button to move forward. They can click "Previous" if they want to review completed pages, but it doesn't affect their progress - any code they submit is still evaluated against the current step, and refreshing the page returns to the last page. Hopefully these basics (without the formal details) should become intuitively clear to the user as they try to use the site.

To explore the course more freely:

  1. Click the hamburger menu icon in the top left.
  2. Click Settings.
  3. Turn Developer mode on.
  4. This should give you two red buttons floating at the bottom of the screen. They change the currently active step, so you can move forward without having to complete exercises or backwards to test a step again.

At the beginning of the course only the shell is available to encourage quick exploration. After a few pages an editor is introduced to allow running full programs.

The course provides three debuggers to specially run code: snoop, PythonTutor, and birdseye. Each should only become available starting from a specific page which introduces that tool. No such page has been written yet for birdseye, so for now it's immediately available when the editor is introduced.

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