As we forge deeper into the 21st century, the phrase “learn to code” has become a common catchcry, heard every time someone loses a job or mentions they’re thinking about trying a new career path. Even laid off coal miners have been famously encouraged to make the non sequitur into coding after former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made the mistake of suggesting they wouldn’t be able or willing to (turns out they’re both). No longer the realm of the internet elite, coding is starting to be recognized as a skill that can give entrepreneurs, freelancers in all fields, marketers and even journalists a massive edge over their competition. Learning how to code will help you succeed, there’s just no question about it. What you do need to question is where you’re going to learn, how much it’s going to cost you and whether the academy will work with your learning style. Get it wrong on your first go and you may lose momentum on the idea and give up. Get it right, however, and you could be opening exciting career doors you never even knew existed. To help you on your mission to craft yourself into a coding legend, we’ve hunted down the 12 best websites that offer quality coding courses either for free or for a reasonable cost (you can thank us at the end).
First on the list is CodeAcademy, one of the web’s most popular places to learn to code for free. The site has more than 45 million users, numbers reached in large part due to the engaging educational experience they provide. If you’re worried about how you’re going to fare with a self-paced course, Codecademy would be a good first choice.
Since its inception in 2012, Coursera has flourished into a massive educational-technology company. The site now offers more than 1,000 courses, accredited by 119 reputable institutions. The great thing about Coursera is, you can select a program tailored to suit your needs. Whether you go for one of the paid courses that give you a certificate at the end or one of the free introductory programming courses, you’ll still be getting an educational package created by experts at leading institutions like Stanford, Vanderbilt, the University of Washington, and the University of Toronto. Like Codecademy, Coursera also offers programming courses in a number of specializations.
While Coursera is a for-profit company, EdX is open source and nonprofit. Add to this the fact that it was founded by MIT and Harvard University back in 2012, and you’ll understand why this online education platform has been so wildly popular. At edX, you are guaranteed to be learning from the brightest in the field about the latest, cutting-edge information. The site offers courses from 53 schools and all programs are available for free. The only time you’ll pay is if you require certification. If you want to learn to code from the best, taking an introduction to computer science course from Harvard University seems like a pretty unbeatable place to start.
Founded way back in 2010 (yes, we can say “way back” when talking about 2010 now!), Udemy is an ever-evolving, online learning platform that can help you learn a whole host of career-boosting skills. While most of the courses on Udemy come at a cost, they are generally affordable and the site has regular specials and discounts.
There are also a number of good quality free programming courses, offered in the format of video lessons. Programming for Entrepreneurs, for example, will teach you Django (a Python framework), HTML, CSS and more.
AGupieWare is a clever independent startup that built its curriculum after studying and auditing the computer-science programs currently on offer in America’s leading educational institutions. This means the free courses you’ll find on AGupieWare are of the same standard offered by MIT, Berkeley, Columbia, Stanford, and Carnegie Mellon. The only caveat is, you won’t receive any academic credit, so if certification is essential to your career path, you may wish to consider one of the sites that offer this as a paid option. For those happy to take free, comprehensive courses, the AGupieWare program puts 15 at your disposal, including three intro classes, a suite of seven core essential units and then electives from which you can select five.
GitHub is an online hosting service that is mostly used for source code management (SCM) and version control. However, the platform offers a host of other features including task management, feature requests, bug tracking, and wikis. More than 31 million developers visit the site regularly to manage projects, review code and build software collaboratively. Through its free code camp and learning lab, GitHub offers a great way in for those new to the world of coding, with all the basics covered. GitHub is home to many programming languages and the learning is free, making it a solid choice.
This site is for those of you who already have the basics down and are looking to expand your knowledge and build into a deeper skill set. With MIT OpenCourseWare, you can dig into the theory behind coding, or take a course of programming in Python.
There’s also the introduction to computer science course and other language-specific classes covering MatLab, Java, C, and C++. All of this is offered completely free of charge, making MIT OpenCourseWare definitely worth a look for those with intermediate to advanced knowledge.
The community at Hack.pledge() is always happy to welcome in new developers at any stage in their career, from complete noobs to seasoned professionals. The idea behind the site was to create a pool of knowledge, a mixing ground where developers could come to share what they know and pick up new skills. The site has truly taken off and is home to some pretty high-profile developers, including Bram Cohen (the mind behind BitTorrent). If the idea of having a mentor to guide you along your path is more appealing than pre-recorded video lessons, or even if you’d just like to supplement your learning on other educational platforms with some real human interaction, Hack.pledge() is well worth the effort.
For the young (or the young at heart), the New Zealand-based programming academy, Code Avengers, is perhaps the most fun way to learn how to code. The site offers interactive, engaging and super fun lessons targeted at kids aged from 5 to 14. The Code Avengers curriculum has a strong focus on game design, covering HTML, Python, and C++. This site is fantastic for any school teachers out there who have students keen on learning to code. It’s also a great place for older coders to take a break from serious lessons while still learning. Code Avengers also hosts code camps in the real world, aimed at students up to 17 years old. These one to three-day camps take place in a number of locations across the globe.
One of the longer standing coding schools on the list, the Khan Academy was founded back in 2006. Salman Khan’s creation is, in fact, one of the forerunners in the world of free online learning institutions. The Khan Academy offers a whole raft of quality courses, each comprised of easy to follow video tutorials.
Free Code Camp
A brainchild of Google, Web Fundamentals was launched back in 2010 as a project designed to compete with Apple’s HTML5. Along with the latest HTML5 updates, you will find the site to be an absolute treasure trove of resources and tutorials. Web Fundamentals is open source, meaning developers are able to get their hands dirty with the HTML5 code. One thing to keep in mind with Web Fundamentals is that, like MIT OpenCourseWare, the site is targeted at those with a pre-existing knowledge base. You’ll want to have some coding knowledge already knocking around in your head before tackling the Web Fundamentals content. So, if you’re a beginner, this might be one to bookmark for later. If you have a look now and then check back in after you’ve done some beginner courses, it’ll be an encouraging gauge for you to see how far you’ve come.