Using Cloud9, a Powerful Cloud-Based IDE in the Classroom
HTML and CSS. The environment allows
students to see live changes to their edits
as well as to publish their page for teachers,
friends, and family to see. For the Elements
of Computing Systems course, we use
Cloud9 to code the Assembler module
(Chapter 06) in Python. The Assembler in
this curriculum takes in an Assembly text
file and outputs the resulting machine code
text file. Cloud9 handles files of all types
that can be uploaded to the project directory either by file selection dialog boxes or
simple drag and drop.
Assuming the browser is current
(Chrome and Firefox are the only officially
supported browsers) and the school has
a reliable internet connection, there are
some additional stand-out areas on which
Cloud9 has a strong impact.
• With Cloud9, the IDE stays current without updates needed on school computers. In many K– 12 schools, especially
public education schools, the negative
effects of having minimal technical
support personnel and locked-down accounts and/or profiles are widespread.
Web-based software distribution of
updates vs installation on each machine
can be a life saver.
• It’s a powerful tool for grade school
through college (and beyond).
• It supports project publishing and
• The environment is not a simulation. The
sites are live and can be shared through
a public URL.
• The workspaces allow for real-time collaboration in a way similar to concurrent
editing in Google Docs.
With the free account, comes one
private workspace and unlimited public
workspaces. The IDE handles many base
workspace templates including but not
limited to HTML5, CSS, Python, Node.js,
Django, C++, Rails, PHP, Meteor. It even
allows the use of familiar key mappings
like Vim. When working on HMTL and CSS
content, there’s a live preview window built
right into the IDE through a split screen.
These features allow for an always-up-to-
date IDE that is as full-featured as most
desktop applications, and additionally
allows students to log in to their account
from any computer, thus picking right back
up where they left off. In my classes, each
student has a Cloud9 account, submits a
Google Form to me with a link to their pro-
file, and shares edit permissions with me so
I can help them when needed.
Setup of the accounts is fairly simple.
Although Cloud9 did recently change
their account and pricing models, they
do still offer a free account with the same
feature-set as before. There is one caveat,
however; the free account requires a credit
card. A Cloud9 employee has offered that
the reason for this is “…to help prevent bots,
DDOS attacks, phishing attacks, and to give
them time to improve the IDE.” [ 2] They
also offer a new pricing model for Education that costs $1 per teacher per month. At
the time of this writing, it appears that you
can create your teacher account, have all
students join (without the need for a credit
card), then cancel the teacher account and
students’ free accounts remain intact. Their
price for the Education account started
at $10 per month but has since dropped
to $1 per month. A full description of their
pricing plans and included features can be
found at [ 3].
Once an account is created and set up,
you can store local files for reference in
your code, edit the themes (students love
setting their own UI look and feel), make
text large on your teacher profile so that
your work is clear on a projector, turn on
auto-save, and start writing code!
1. Cloud9; http://c9.io, Accessed 2017 January 23.
2. Cloud9 Community Blog, July 13, 2016; https://
account/7434/3. Accessed 2017 January 23.
3. Cloud9 Pricing; https://c9.io/pricing. Accessed 2017
4. Exploring Computer Science; http://www.
exploringcs.org. Accessed 2017 January 23.
5. GitHub Education; https://education.github.com,
Accessed 2017 January 23.
6. Schocken, Shimon. Taming Complexity in Large-Scale System Projects. SIGCSE ’ 12, Proceedings of
the 43rd ACM technical symposium on Computer
Science Education, (ACM, New York, 2012); 409–414.
Computer Science Department
Albert G. Lane Technical College
Preparatory High School
2501 West Addison Street
Chicago, Illinois 60618
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