Online Coding Programs

Programming remains one of the best ways to start or revitalize a career. A beginning computer programmer can make a significant salary right out the gate – and programming itself is only the start. People who earn leadership positions or use their coding experience to found companies can earn enormous amounts of money. Lastly, getting hired for these programs might not require an expensive four-year college degree. Instead, you can learn the fundamentals with a free or low-cost online coding program.

Myth-busting time – you don’t need four years to learn how to code!  Much in the same way that some of the world’s best musicians never went to expensive music schools, some of the world’s best-known programmers never finished their college degrees. Many graduates of online coding programs have gone on to create successful startups (or retired comfortably at very young ages.)

All this being said, attending an online coding program isn’t a sure bet. Some programs are better than others, and different programs will better suit your pre-existing abilities and learning style. Here’s where to start looking.

What do Online Coding Courses Look Like?

There are a lot of online coding programs out there, and they’re all specialized to some degree. Some will teach you about fundamental computing and programming concepts. Others will teach beginner programming languages like Scratch or Basic, which are designed as an introduction to more specialized programming. Others let you dive right into the deep end by learning programming languages such as HTML, C++, and Python.

So, now that we understand what online coding courses cover, let’s also take a look at how these programs present their content.

Essentially, there are four components to any online coding course: image, text, video, and interactivity.

The first three components you’re probably familiar with. The course will contain short textbooks, possibly in the form of a wiki, with images that help break up the text and illustrate some of the more advanced concepts to help learners understand. Video segments will help to summarize each module and offer an alternative format for those that learn better that way. Some courses will be nearly all video, others will be weighted more heavily towards the images plus text format.

The last component is interactivity, and this is the component that really makes the difference in an online course. Some providers will offer their version of an IDE—a specialized development environment that includes tutorials, problems, and interactive instructions that can familiarize a student with the real-life development process.

Coding for Beginners

One of the big myths about programming is that it requires a huge body of knowledge such as advanced math, calculus, binary, and so on. While it’s definitely true that some of the higher frontiers of programming require this knowledge, you don’t need that much of a background to begin—and if you want that background, you can find online coding programs that will teach you.

If you’re a beginner to coding, you can easily find resources to help you out. Let’s say that you’ve rarely used a computer in the past—or that you’ve mostly used macOS as opposed to Windows. You can find prerequisite coding courses that can get as basic as you want, helping you understand what file trees are, how to navigate through folders, how to launch programs, and so on.

If you already have this foundation, you can find programming courses designed to ease you into the world of coding. There are programming courses that can teach you to code by using Excel, for example, which many people are already familiar with. There are also programming courses that can teach you how to code using Scratch, which is a simplified programming language originally designed for children. Yet more classes will teach you the basic terminology of coding, such as strings, classifiers, and variables.

In short, no matter how you want to get established with online code, there’s a course out there that can build you a strong foundation.

Free Coding Courses

Let’s say that you’re on a budget—how much programming can you teach yourself for free? As it turns out, quite a bit.

First, let’s get this out of the way: if you’re not a self-starter, you’re probably better off paying for a course. These courses are designed by experts and educators to give you a complete experience and a working knowledge of programming. Meanwhile, free courses may require you to assemble your own curriculum.

Second, there’s still some good news: most paid online course hubs—such as the ones offered by Skillshare and Udemy—do offer free trials for at least a week. If you’re willing to crunch, you can probably sit through an entire course before you have to pay. In addition, there are some extremely polished free resources available (most notably Khan Academy) that offer resources for free and include courses on JavaScript, HTML, and SQL. Other free resources include Coursera, BitDegree, Code Academy, and more. These resources even offer certifications proving that you’ve done the coursework and can program at a professional level.

Lastly, you can begin to fill in the gaps in any course by looking for educational resources on sites like YouTube. YouTube has an entire community of users who produce hours of tutorials on topics such as Python, C++, web development, game design, and more. Using all the free resources at your disposal, you can assemble a fairly comprehensive course on any programming topic you choose—without paying a dime.

Courses to Learn or Review a Language

Not everyone who wants to attend an online coding program is a total neophyte. These programs often target career professionals who want to expand or reinforce their existing skills. 

Here, it’s important to find a course that dovetails with your career development goals. Learning an entire programming language in just a few weeks or months is a daunting task but learning enough code to specialize in your field is much simpler.

For one example, learning HTML is a task that usually takes months or years to master. If you want to learn “HTML for marketers,” however, then you’ll have to learn a much smaller slice of code—just enough to boost you to another echelon in your career.

Online Coding Bootcamps

If you have the money and free time, online coding bootcamps may be the best online coding programs outside the traditional university system.

It works like this: you will learn to code for anywhere between three to nine months. They’re designed as something that you’ll do either on a sabbatical from work or between jobs, although the longer courses can be completed after work in the manner of night classes. The goal is to cram as much coding knowledge as possible into the shortest amount of time, delivering what amounts to a complete computer science education.

The advantage of these courses is that they involve much more focused personal attention than other online coding programs. They feature classes taught by professors in real-time, whereas most other online coding classes make use of pre-recorded lectures. Therefore, online coding programs give you a much more hands-on experience and can make a bigger impact on your resume once you graduate.

Fun Ways to Test Knowledge

So, you’ve completed some online coding programs—what’s next? You still need to prove to your prospective future employers that your newfound coding skill is more than just academic. With that in mind, why not try some online coding challenges?

These fun exercises take the form of puzzles designed to test a developer’s skill. Sites such as codewars, CodinGame, and exercism feature challenges that will force you to prove your newfound knowledge. Some sites will even offer badges to the fastest and most creative problem-solvers, which you can then use to impress recruiters – and eventually participate in a full fledged coding interview in a tool like CoderPad.

Online coding programs and coding challenges can help lead you into a lucrative future career. Get started today and learn how to put your coolest ideas into code!