Codecademy launched a Slack community. Here’s their playbook.

Codecademy created a 1,000-member-strong Slack community in just 4 months. Here’s how they create learning opportunities and foster valuable interactions at scale.

Is it possible to recreate the camaraderie of a classroom among a community of online learners? When Community Manager Alyssa Vigil joined Codecademy, which offers coding classes online, she was tasked with answering that very question. “We wanted to create a safe place for people who are beginner coders to help them find their tribe. The business impact is to keep them engaged and feeling connected, not only to one another, but also to Codecademy.”

Alyssa initially seeded a group of 20 learners to utilize Codecademy’s Slack workspace, start conversations, and answer questions for the community. As the community grew, there was a growing need to consistently communicate guidelines and educate new members on how to best utilize the platform. An experienced edtech community manager, Alyssa had a few tricks up her sleeve for super-charging the member experience while they scaled.

Engaging an existing audience on a new platform

To set up a new community for success, Alyssa focused on driving added value–unique reasons for learners to want to come to the community that complemented Codecademy courses. For example, each week Alyssa puts together a “Highlights and News” feature. Learners use the workspace to meet with one another, start conversations, and collaborate on team coding projects.

Codecademy has also curated a series of live, interactive events to encourage ongoing conversation among current users and alumni—even around difficult topics. During their “Weekly Summit,” members respond to thought provoking prompts in a live chat in a Slack channel. Topics thus far have included starting new habits, finding mentors, and giving and receiving critical feedback. Codecademy is able to use this feature as a social listening tool while also encouraging a sense of community among learners.

Maintaining a welcoming and inclusive online community

Aside from interactivity, another hugely important priority in successful community creation is welcoming new members properly. A good community onboarding process invites enthusiasm and healthy participation while setting boundaries and creating a sense of safety. Consistently prepping new members with basic guidelines pays big dividends down the road.

But when hundreds of new members join a community per week, it becomes a logistical impossibility to personally reach out to every single member with a welcome message and guidelines. To create a consistent new member experience, Alyssa turned to Donut. All new members now automatically receive a welcome message and guidelines, ensuring there are no knowledge gaps and that everyone’s expectations are the same from Day 1.

Alyssa Vigil
“Codecademy's community members help one another reach their learning goals.”
Alyssa Vigil
Codecademy, Community Manager

Expectation-setting is important to ensure things go right, but it’s also helpful when things go wrong. Case in point: when a community member violated guidelines around language. Alyssa was able to respond by simply referring back to the first message the member received via Donut. “It wasn’t something I had to go dig up, show them, and ask if they’d read. I know they had the tools. It’s not a question or an opportunity for me to wonder if I’m setting our members up with the right channels. I’ve completely automated the whole thing.”

Leveraging a community for business learnings

Codecademy’s Slack community doesn’t just benefit their members. In the space of weeks, membership grew from 400 to over 1,000 members–and the increased membership meant increased learning opportunities for the Codecademy team. They’ve been able to compare learning engagement between members and non-members, collect valuable feedback, and study how drop off rates map to overall drop-off rates among all users. As more learners continue to join, Codecademy is better able to measure the impact of community efforts on customer success and retention—information that creates a positive feedback loop in the form of higher learner retention.

Even in a busy landscape with competing priorities, the Codecademy community has been a worthwhile investment for the team. These business learnings are possible precisely because the Slack community remains a safe space to learn, to connect, and to ask questions without fear. As Alyssa says, “There is no way I could parade around and say how friendly and inclusive and helpful [our community] was if I just said, ‘Here’s your Slack community, now go figure it out.’”

Alyssa Vigil
“With Donut, each member can start at the same place with the same information.”
Alyssa Vigil

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