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Category: STEM online IDE C-Books

Codio vs. zyBooks

We’re often asked: “what's the difference between zyBooks and Codio?”

In an attempt to differentiate, we’ve decided to offer a comparison based on the following dimensions:

  1. Platform
  2. Content
  3. Assessments
  4. Student Learning Data
  5. Price


Both Codio and zyBooks have IDEs that are integrated with interactive, multimedia content.


While zyBooks offers custom, high-production value animations for examples within the text, the zyBooks IDE is limited in that its window size is small and only allows users to work with one file since it is embedded in the content. It also cannot handle complex programming such as multi-threading. zyBooks focuses on creating minimal text-based, interactive content and the platform is designed to present the content—as opposed to being optimized for coding.

Codio uses a multi-pane approach, much like a traditional IDE, but to help the code and content remain cohesive, a variety of layouts and commands from the content pane that interact with the IDE pane keep the experience tied together. Whether it’s highlighting code, a code visualizer, a debugger or in-content assessments that check the code in the neighboring pane—Codio’s content centers around the code.

Codio’s IDE is fully powered—designed for professional developers it provides syntax highlighting and sudo access terminal allowing you to pull in any library you want. Codio even simplifies the connection to GitHub and BitBucket so your students can quickly learn good version control habits.


Both zyBooks and Codio offer a variety of STEM content primarily focused on Computer Science courses.

zyBooks has a growing portfolio of canned content from introductory programming courses in a variety of languages to mobile app development. You can add-on other titles to mix and match or supplement the material as well as annotate the material with “instructor notes”. Additionally, teachers can configure textbooks into weeks, reorder the sections and chapters, remove unwanted material and mark other material as optional.

Codio has a growing library of resources which include familiar OER titles such as Think Python, Think Java and Think Data Structures completely open for customization and mix and matching. Users are able to bring in or write their own material so they can use existing material they have iterated on.

Codio allows teachers to bundle pages of content into units and modules which make up a course. At schools which have multiple faculty using Codio, they can share their custom content through their organization without making it public.



zyBooks content has two types of assessments: Participation Activities and Challenge Activities. Participation activities have readily available answers like a check your understanding problem where Challenge Activities are used as homework questions. While zyBooks updates their activities to try to prevent posting of answers on the Internet, instructors cannot add or edit activities.

zyBooks also allows students to submit coding assignments when “zyLabs” are used. This added feature allows instructors to auto-grade based on Input/Output cases and unit testing.

Codio supports many kinds of formative assessment types such as multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, and short answer. In addition, instructors have multiple assessment types available for grading code: parson’s puzzles (drag and drop to reorder segments), basic I/O code assessments as well as advanced code assessments ranging from unit tests and style checkers to custom scripts. In all of these, the student programs directly into the Codio IDE and “submitting” is simply clicking a button.

Teachers can configure these auto-graded assessments to allow unlimited submissions, reveal or hide the correct answer upon submission, and share feedback about the question.

Student Learning Data

zyBooks allows instructors to download activity reports which include students’ information, overall score, participation score, challenge score, and individual section scores. This .csv can then be uploaded into an LMS grade book or used externally from ZyBooks to run analytics on student performance.

Codio provides in-product performance metrics both by the student, by unit, or both. Instructors who want to investigate a students performance on a unit can directly click on the unit to be taken into that student’s project—allowing full exploration of the student’s experience.

Codio also tracks the time students spend in a given unit—revealing not just how well students are performing but how efficiently, enabling instructors to identify students who are cruising through the material and need challenges and students who are performing but struggling longer than they should and need support. Additionally, Codio allows instructors to download key-stroke level data for a class to perform analyses on how exactly students are interacting with, creating and iterating on code in the Codio IDE.


zyBooks are priced on a per-title basis. Each title you use to mix and match comes with its own price, which varies from $58 to $90 per student. According to zyBooks, “for students using a zyBook in a college or high school class, we automatically provide a discounted price, typically $58—$90 depending on what content is included (many instructors combine content, use add-ons, etc.). For non-students, most zyBooks have a regular price of about $195.”

Furthermore, access to zyBooks is restricted based on the subscription period. zyBooks says that “zyBook's start date is set by [the] instructor, often a week or so before class starts. The end date is typically two weeks after the class ends. Subscriptions for independent learners last 6 months.” Should learners wish to extend access beyond that time period, they can do so by paying an additional $18 per year. “Extensions are for personal use only, and not for use in any class.”

All Codio users have access to Codio resources. You pay just one flat fee per student on a semester or annual basis. Students can pay themselves or the institution can purchase reusable (transferrable) subscriptions, as opposed to tying a license to a student for a year when they’ll only need a single semester.

Students are able to access all content within Codio, even if it’s not assigned. This includes the entire (growing!) resource library. Furthermore, students are able to use any of Codio’s pre-configured stacks to create an unlimited number of personal projects.

Download our whitepaper to learn more about Codio.

Download: Codio Whitepaper

Elise Deitrick & Joshua Ball

Elise is Codio's Director of Curricula and Education Programs. She has a BS in Computer Science and a PhD in STEM Education.

Joshua is Codio's Director of Marketing. He has a MA in International Relations.

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