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10 Totally Awesome Places to Learn How to Code (+1 More)

The Internet and learning to code is like Oreos and milk – they belong together. I touch on some programming courses and sites from time to time here at Coursemania, but I think it’s time to hit the topic head on. If you are already a programming wiz and want to continue to improve your skills, or you are just interested in making your own web page… Every level of skill is represented here.

 

1. Codecademy

learn-codecademyURL : http://www.codecademy.com/

Cost : FREE

Topics : JavaScript, HTML, CSS, PHP, Python, Ruby, APIs

 

 

Codecademy eschews the traditional “watch this video” approach to teaching, and just dives right into the code. As soon as you choose a programming language to learn, you are presented with a virtual environment in the browser in which to work. Then you are given simple instructions to follow to build a working program. It starts with “Replace the dummy text with your first name” and works it’s way up to a real working program from there.

This mimics the way programmers work out in the real work. Programming is rarely (never) an exercise in writing hundreds of lines of code and then hitting the compile button to see if it works. Instead, you make a few changes to the code, and test it. Change, test, change, test. So Codecademy is very good at driving home that habit.

That said, if you are an absolute beginner, I can see how being thrown right into a programming environment on lesson one can be scary. It’s a matter of personal taste I guess. But if you can accept that programmers make a LOT of mistakes, all day every day, then solving your own problems without help of video instruction is a very powerful way to learn.

 

2. Treehouse

learn-treehouseURL : http://teamtreehouse.com/

Cost : $25 – $49 per month; free trial

Topics : HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, Ruby, Rails, iOS, Android, PHP, WordPress, Business

 

 

I’ve covered Treehouse on this site. Treehouse is an interesting player in this space. They have invested heavily in the design of their site, and user interaction. There is more “gamification” of the site, with badges and other encouragements to continue. The training is aimed more for beginners, and since they charge for access, can afford high-quality instructors and video production. They have forums, and teachers interact with students there. If I was a total beginner and wanted to learn to code, I would start here.

 

3. Code School

learn-codeschoolURL : https://www.codeschool.com/

Cost : $29 per month; some free courses

Topics : Ruby, JavaScript, HTML, CSS, iOS

 

 

I’ve covered CodeSchool on this site. I do love their videos and how the coding/testing interface integrates with them. These guys were innovators in this space. When their Rails for Zombies course was first released, an earthquake hit the online learning space after which others have followed. They’ve always had their subscription model, and seem to release 1-2 new courses per month. Worth taking some of their free courses to see if this is right for you.

 

4. Udacity

learn-udacityURL : https://www.udacity.com/

Cost : FREE, with paid options

Topics : HTML, Python, Java.

 

 

I’ve covered Udacity on this site. Udacity is not focused on particular languages so much as it’s focused on a topic, thus their Introduction to Computer Science course barely even mentions that Python will be used in the course description section. This is more of the University model (although adapted for online). I like their video player and how integrated it is for the programming and testing aspects of each course. It’s not perfect, but it’s free. The course topics can get quite difficult quite quickly – a steep learning curve. So if you truly have no experience in computer science or computer programming, you might find this a difficult route. But they also cover some very advanced topics (like handling big data in Hadoop) which the beginner focused sites do not cover.

 

5. Coursera

learn-courseraURL : https://www.coursera.org/

Cost : FREE, with paid options

Topics : Python, Android, Node.

 

 

I’ve covered Coursera on this site. I’ve long considered Coursera not the best site for learning to program, but several readers have written in or commented to tell me they do have some nice courses. Again, it’s more of the University model so expect the course to be at a higher level faster than some other beginning sites. I’ve taken some nice Python, Android and Node programming courses there that have challenged me. But searching the course catalog for HTML or Javascript returns no results.

 

6. MIT OpenCourseWare

learn-mitocwURL : http://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm

Cost : FREE, with paid options

Topics : C, C++, Java, MATLAB, Scheme, Python.

 

 

I have covered MIT Opencourseware on this site. I almost view MIT OpenCourseWare as the pioneed in online learning. They have been taking some of their in-person in-class courses and putting the material online for anyone (even non-students of MIT) to view since 2002. There is a LOT of material here – over 2,000 highly technical courses. But the trick is, not all of them are complete. In many cases, the class notes, quizzes, exams and assignments have been posted online but that’s it. You have to be diligent enough to go through it and teach yourself based on that printed (PDF) material. In some cases, the classes have been recorded and you can at least listen and watch the professor talk about the topics. This is very similar to being a student I suppose.

But honestly, with 2,000 courses available, no other online source can compete with the volume of advanced information available. If you are interested in graduate level studies (Masters level) in multi-threaded parallelism, you will find a course on that here.

 

7. iTunes U

learn-itunesuURL : http://www.apple.com/ca/apps/itunes-u/

Cost : FREE

Topics : Many.

 

 

It’s too bad Apple hasn’t really focused it’s marketing and technical attention on iTunes U in a while. When the iPad was first introduced, iTunes U was given heavy fanfare as a key feature. You could take a ton of classes on your iPad – much like MIT OpenCourseWare provided on the desktop. Many universities did indeed video record their in person lectures, combine it with assignments and reading materials, and package it as a free course. And many of those haven’t changed since the launch of the iPad.

I took a Stanford iOS programming class on iTunes U when I first got an iPad. It did feel like a revolution in the way people learn COULD have occurred. But then, people would rather play Candy Crush on their iPads and the idea of sitting down in a quiet spot to learn didn’t really catch on. I wish it did.  But it’s still there if this interests you.

 

8. Lynda.com

learn-lyndaURL : http://www.lynda.com/

Cost : $25 – $37.50 per month; free preview

Topics : All.

 

 

I have covered Lynda.com on this site. Speaking of pioneers in online learning, Lynda.com has teaching programming topics since  the 90’s. They started with in-person classes, and they started making videos and VHS tapes and CDs and DVDs to augment those classes. As online video became more feasible, Lynda.com put those videos online as a subscription service and thus the modern Lynda.com began. Lynda.com has a mixture of longer 20-30 hour courses, with shorter 20-30 minute videos. Their bread and butter is the Adobe Creative Suite of products for graphic designers, but they have topics on iOS programming, Android, Microsoft .NET, PHP, Python, Ruby. They really have something on everything. And if you really wanted to learn Photoshop, you can take the rest of the year watching their 300 Photoshop courses.

 

9. Pluralsight

learn-pluralsightURL : http://www.pluralsight.com/

Cost : $29-$49 per month; free trial

Topics : HTML, JavaScript, .NET, iOS, Ruby, Java, C++, C#, Android.

 

 

I must admit I am not as familiar with  pluralsight as I am with the others up to this point, but their online course list is impressive. Over 1000 online courses in a broad range of topics, from programming to system administration and even business topics like Microsoft Office.

 

10. SnoopCode

URL : http://www.snoopcode.com/

Cost : FREE

Topics : HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery

 

 

SnoopCode is a clever site that is part reference guide, part tutorial, and part development tool. Similar to W3Schools in that it has easy-to-follow reference materials and sample code for the web languages it covers, but it’s also organized in a way that you can step through, page by page, and learn the language too. A course inside a reference material site. Very nice.

 

11. (BONUS) Microsoft Virtual Academy

learn-microsoftvirtualacademyURL : http://www.microsoftvirtualacademy.com/

Cost : FREE

Topics : HTML, .NET, C#, Visual Basic (VB), SQL.

 

 

I would argue that one of the reasons Microsoft succeeded in the early days of the personal computing era (1990’s) over competitors such as Apple is that they have always focused on developer support. Steve Balmer, former CEO, was famous for shouting “Developers! Developers! Developers!” on stage at one conference. They have given away free programming tools for many years, had free events, and done everything they could to support the developers who created software for Windows.

As you would expect, the Microsoft Virtual Academy focuses on Microsoft technologies, but can be counted on to deliver accurate and advanced training on the topics covered. I don’t really view this as a great place for absolute beginners to start unless you’re trying to learn .NET. But they do a good job of labeling all of their courses and training to identify what level it is good for.

Note: Commissions made from Treehouse affiliate links go towards the operation of the site, and help me bring you fresh content every day.

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6 comments

  1. I love all the online learning. I would also like to point out that I have a site specifically suited to teaching beginners SQL.

  2. I would also recommend new SQL courses at Vertabelo Academy. They are completely web-based, free and interactive. Each course provides users with the appropriate theoretical background explained with interactive examples, and allows to test their knowledge in a comprehensive final quiz. In my opinion, currently it’s one of the best SQL courses available online.

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