It’s becoming easier to learn how to code, or build coding skills through a number of online platforms opening themselves up to all students.
Not all of these options are free, but they are committed and readily available for adults and children. There are free options good enough to get started, though, and we’ve got some of those in here, too. If you’re up for trying, here are some of the best platforms currently available.
In a previous article, I noted that Khan Academy offered some entry-level coding courses, but they don’t dig very deep. Skillcrush takes a similar route, only is laid out better and spaces things out in ways that may feel more natural to what you’re learning. It is, for lack of a better term, the baby steps you would need to get started. Skillcrush isn’t for anything comprehensive, which is very much the point.
When you do want something more, consider FreeCodeCamp as a place to go. It’s a non-profit hosting thousands of free tutorials, amounting to tens of thousands of hours. It is a lot on the surface, but you can dig in once you sign up for an account, which is also free. Beyond the beginning stages, you can also go for more advanced certification courses that you can claim once you complete them. They do require a real commitment, but if you finish them, they can look good on your resumé.
That brings us to W3Schools, a long-time learning program dedicated to code. It’s not as flashy as other free platforms, but makes up for that with its sheer breadth. Video tutorials now help visualize what you’re actually doing, filling in an important gap the program previously lacked. You can also use your newly-acquired coding skills to work on your own website without paying a dime for it to start.
While Bento can set you up with an organized curriculum to stay on track, I’m not a fan of it forcing users to sign up either through a Google or Facebook account. The site claims it doesn’t share any data with anyone, but the lack of a simple non-aligned email signup didn’t sit well with me, personally.
If you are willing to spend some money to learn coding at all levels, you could start with Codeacademy. Probably the most popular and preeminent of them all, it actually starts you off with free courses. What I like about it is that it smartly intersperses YouTube videos and tutoring into a pretty engaging experience. You work on exercises that feel very hands-on, like building websites or programming things, and you do it at your pace.
There’s somewhat of a gaming angle based on how you accumulate accolades or the way hints help you figure out the right answer to a coding lesson. When you subscribe to the Pro version, you get additional courses, better projects, and enhanced mobile access. The Codeacademy Go app on iOS and Android is free, and more of a practice tool, but Pro does give you more to do on it.
It’s not particularly cheap at $240 USD per year, or $39.99/month if you want to go monthly. Students can pay as much as 35% less for Pro to make it more affordable.
For a paid alternative, you could also try Treehouse. It lays things out well, using multimedia in a slick way to help you move along in what it calls “Tracks.” These are mini-programs focused on specific skills in a linear way. To break the monotony, you have to pass quizzes and challenges to hone your skills and complete each Track.
It is pricey at $25 USD/month, going up to $49/month if you want extra courses and the ability to work offline. If you’re really serious about certification, you can pay $199/month for the Techdegree subscription. These are acknowledged courses meant to prepare you for a career in the tech industry. If, for whatever reason, you need to hold off on continuing any of these subscriptions, you are able to pause them until you’re ready to come back.
Some platforms are a fusion of free and paid, like Udemy, for instance. It’s anything but exclusive to code learning, but does have a lot devoted to it in its huge library. There are at least 2,000 coding classes available, some of which you do have to pay for. They can range from as low as $20 to $200 per course, depending on what it is. Look for free ones first, though you may find the best come with a price tag. The good thing is you have a 30-day money back guarantee if you don’t like the course you paid for.
Code Avengers isn’t so much free (there is a free 10-day trial) as much as it is a more serious platform. It has plenty for kids, as well as for adults looking to pivot into the world of tech. Even teachers have something ready for them.
Canada Learning Code also offers a number of classes, and emphasizes teaching it to women and girls. Despite that, you don’t have to be female to join up and take part.
Kids may be tougher to get focused, which is why CodeCombat tries to make it into a game. It uses a role-playing game (RPG) to grab their attention and promote progress by making them advance when they input the correct code. It gets progressively more challenging, which is the idea. Keep them engaged and they’ll want to keep improving to reach new levels. There are hundreds of them, so plenty to keep them occupied.
CodeMonkey does it in similar fashion. Levels in a game present challenges kids must solve by way of the right code. The graduated process raises the difficulty level, giving them something to strive for as an achievement.
Several of the options I already listed here offer separate portals for teachers and instructors. In some cases, schools can also buy in to have multiple classes teach kids how to code. Code Avengers offers “Code Camps” for schools to teach and learn in day camp style. They’ve been held in multiple countries, so one in Canada may not be out of the question should COVID-19 restrictions ease.
Something like Codewars pays homage to Far East martial arts as its inspiration. The creators call it “kata,” and there’s a scoreboard where points are equivalent to honor. Think of it along the lines of earning a belt in karate. Unusual as it may be, it is extensive, and you could apply it to teaching code, if you really tried.
I’ve probably only scratched the surface of what’s available for learning to code online. In fact, Skillcrush amassed a list of dozens out there, and that certainly doesn’t cover all of them. Whether you have a cursory or serious interest in learning yourself or for a loved one, there are several avenues to get there. The best thing is to look around and see what suits you visually and practically — not to mention monetarily. Once you find the right fit, you may be surprised at how much you pick it up.