Learn Coding: 7 Best Online Courses For Beginners 2021

Tech jobs are growing at an astronomical rate, with an expected market value of $5 trillion by the end of 2021.

Website development, IT security, data analysis, and many other roles play an integral part in multiple industries as businesses move online. And knowing how these systems function, even if it’s a basic understanding, can benefit you and your work.

It also doesn’t hurt that tech jobs are some of the best-paying jobs around, and learning coding fundamentals opens doors and opportunities for those willing to adapt to this new age of tech. 

If that sounds like you, then welcome to our list of the best intro to coding courses available for beginners.

Whether you’re an aspiring developer or curious passerby, join us as we rank our favorite courses. We’ll provide outlines of what to expect from each course, highlight their strengths, and help you figure out which one is best for you. 

How to Choose a Great Intro to Coding Course

It starts with you figuring out what you want to learn and what projects you want to create. There are tons of programming languages around, best suited for different tasks, projects, and uses — so choose carefully.

  • If you’re more interested in server-side applications, for example, security or back-end work, then Java or PHP is a better language for you.
  • If you’re more interested in client-side work, like developing the web pages people see online and front-end functions, then JavaScript is your best friend.
  • Another great first programming language to learn is Python as it’s so simple and readable.

Second, the best courses offer practical experience. Learning by doing, rather than just watching lectures, is the surest way to develop the practical coding skills you can take with you to jobs and interviews.

Finally, price range. Costs of online courses vary wildly, and while coding can certainly get you a six-figure job, you don’t want to spend six figures getting it. That said, investing in yourself and your education is one of the best investments you can ever make — and we recommend paying for any coding course that will help you land your dream job, pronto.

1. freeCodeCamp – Best Free Beginner Coding Classes

Pros

  • Entire course catalog free
  • All on Youtube for easy access to coding courses

Cons

  • No interactive learning
  • No professional help or resources

They say the best things in life are free, and that’s certainly the case when it comes to freeCodeCamp’s Intro to Programming and Computer Science video course.

This non-profit organization has been publishing free computer science-related classes since 2014 and has helped over 40,000 students secure jobs at tech giants like Amazon and Spotify. However, being free also means being crafty, and that’s where YouTube comes in.

Instead of hosting their courses on their website, they create strictly lecture-based video courses, like the one linked above, for YouTube, where everyone can access them.

freeCodeCamp's YouTube video course

In this class, you’ll learn about the basic concepts that make up programming, like how codes work and manipulating variables, along with arrays, loops, data structures, functions, and recursions. The class finishes by going through the different languages and jobs available and helps you choose the right path for you and your goals.

In a sense, it’s the intro course you take before doing an intro coding course. freeCodeCamp also offers specific introductory courses on HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and others when you’re ready to move on.

The video lasts 2 hours and has 21 “chapters” or sections. You can access each individual chapter from the caption on YouTube. The course was published in 2020, so it’s up to date, and you don’t have to worry about missing out on tech-savvy advancements.

Overall, it’s the perfect course for beginners and those looking to start their journey. However, the lack of practice and experience coding keeps you from developing those hard skills.

2. Qvault — great beginner coding courses

Pros

  • Full range of coding courses that takes you from beginner to computer science graduate level
  • Interactive — learn by coding your own game and other real-life scenarios
  • Very affordable — just $8/month for full access, and all courses are free to audit

Cons

  • Those who prefer lectures may not like the interactive coding

Qvault is up there for the best beginner-friendly coding courses, as their carefully designed computer science takes brand new beginners through each course linearly, and across more than a dozen courses, giving you the equivalent skills of a computer science college graduate.

Qvault strongly emphasizes their “learn by doing” philosophy, and rather than teach via hands-off lectures, implement actionable and interactive coding challenges into every lesson. That way, you write your own code and learn why things work or don’t work, learning practical skills you’ll use for your own projects and in future jobs.

qvault intro to coding course for beginners
A lesson within Qvault’s Intro to Coding with JavaScript course, with an assignment where you reduce a player’s health within the game you’re coding using JavaScript variables.

What’s more, their in-platform job portal even connects you with local recruiters to help you land your first programming job — though this is completely optional and opt-in.

Qvault start beginners with their Intro to JavaScript courses, explaining the complete basics of computer science and how coding works, before introducing their interactive lessons where you start by coding “hello world!”, and take on more complex principles within their gasified course style as you code parts of your own adventure game.

You’ll learn basic elements of JavaScript like variables, comparisons, and loops — these are also used in languages like Python. 

Beyond this intro coding course, Qvault’s linear curriculum takes you through their Go Mastery course, teaching you the principles of Go, one of the most in-demand, fastest-growing and highest-paid ($140,000 median salary!) languages around. You also learn the fundamentals of Python, and then take on more complex areas of coding and computer science in later courses such as functional programming, data structures and algorithms, and cryptography.

The entire course range is free to audit — but to get feedback on your code with diffs that show you where you made errors, you’ll need Qvault Pro. But Pro, with full access to all Qvault’s courses, is just $8 per month, so you can get qualified and hired in a high-paying coding job for less than a meal out per month!

3. Code A Cake – Intro to Coding for Kids!

Pros

  • Free
  • Fun interactive gameplay

Cons

  • Doesn’t teach a specific language

Code a Cake is as introductory as it gets by turning coding fundamentals into an interactive baking game.

Code a Cake's online coding baking game

The goal of the game is to bake a cake using a robotic arm. You can’t control the arm directly, instead, you tell the arm what order to complete steps in to bake the cake. You start by learning sequences or “recipes” and trying out different orders and inputs until you get the correct output.

It does not use a specific language, but rather focuses on the core principles that are used in all programming languages.

We had to include this program for its unique approach to teaching kid’s code. This is a fantastic tool to have in your tech and lab classes if you’re a teacher, that said, adults can also find joy in this charming gameplay and have fun practicing code.

4. Skillshare – No Experience Required Coding Courses

Pros

  • Mobile friendly
  • 7-day free trial

Cons

  • Not practice focused
  • Not language-specific

Skillshare hosts classes across a mixture of subjects, from illustration to data science. These classes are created by individuals and then posted on the platform, giving you a useful variety of courses to choose from.

However, we want to point out the Coding for Beginners 1: “You Can Code!” course by Applause Interactive, an extremely popular online educator.

Intro to coding course on Skillshare

You start by going through core programming concepts, like how programs run, pseudo-codes, data types, and functions. Then, you’ll have a chance to try out pseudocode and Python at the end. 

There’s also a part 2 you can complete after this that focuses on web development.

The course consists of 32 lectures and takes approximately 8 hours to complete, but you can do it at your own pace. At the end, you complete a student project where you learn how to plan an app in pseudo-code and make a minimum viable product in Python.

There’s also bonus content you can access on the Applause Interactive site itself.

Skillshare comes with a 7-day free trial, but after that, it costs $32 per month. You could technically complete this course within that time frame, but to take advantage of the part 2 class, you’d need a subscription.

The course offers a great foundation of programming for those wanting to study Python, but the lack of practical training makes it inefficient when it comes to using Python outside of this course.

We also have a ranking of the best Python courses

5. Udemy – Intro to PHP and Web Development

Pros

  • Good for all ranges
  • Learn back-end coding

Cons

  • No practice or interactive challenges using PHP

Udemy is an excellent website for sourcing online classes from industry professionals and is known for its extensive collection of tech courses. Just like their Intro to PHP for Web Development by John Elder, a pioneer in web development and founder of Codemy.

Intro to PHP and Web Development on Udemy

No matter where you are in your programming journey, whether you’re a professional or graduate, PHP is a handy language to know and is highly desired by companies. PHP is a flexible open-source server-side scripting language, which is a fancy way of saying it’s free to use and employed by back-end developers.

It’s also used for WordPress and WordPress plugins – the world’s most popular content management system.

The course has two sections, one covering new updated topics, and the other containing previous videos. It’s 56 lectures in total and takes nearly 6 hours to complete, but you can complete it at your own pace.

This class is geared towards web development, so while you’ll learn PHP code and fundamentals like arrays, loops, and functions, you’ll also learn web development-specific skills, like using GitHub, developing web apps, and setting up your own website.

You’ll pay $59.99 for the course and have lifetime access, as well as a completion certificate when finished.

You won’t get the opportunity to practice using the language or test your understanding within the course, but you can set up a website and practice using PHP there.

6. Coursera – C and C++ Specialization Coding Courses For Beginners

Pros

  • University taught courses
  • Free to enroll

Cons

  • Lecture-based
  • Have to pay for access to interactive features

Coursera lets you take university classes from the comfort of your own home. They offer specializations from prestigious universities like UCL and certifications from tech giants like IBM and Google.

But today, we’re going to highlight the Coding for Everyone: C and C++ Specialization from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Coursera specializations are made up of four or more courses and last a few months. In this case, the specialization lasts 6 months, but you can set yourself flexible deadlines if you opt to pay for graded assignments and interactive activities.

Coursera's C and C++ specialization

The classes include:

  • C for Everyone: Programming Fundamentals
  • C for Everyone: Structured Programming
  • C++ For C Programmers, Part A
  • C++ For C Programmers, Part B

The first two courses revolve around studying the fundamentals of C language. No prior coding is necessary for these, and you’ll cover how the language works in the world, basic concepts, functions, and actions.

The last two courses are specifically for C programmers and require knowledge of C language. Here you’ll learn about algorithms, debugging, and C++ specifics like C++ semantics, syntax, and AI algorithms. 

One of the best features of this specialization is that you can choose which courses you take. So, someone new to C language can complete the specialization beginning to end and leave a pro, or someone who knows C language, but wants C++ classes, can hop right into courses 3 and 4, and gain just as much value without wasting time.

The majority of the specialization is lecture-based, aside from the end-of-course project and graded assignments, but that’s only if you choose to pay for certification.

We also have a ranking of the best C++ courses.

7. Udacity – Java Nanodegree

Pros

  • Become proficient in Java
  • Udacity offers career services

Cons

  • No flexible schedule and large time commitment
  • More expensive than counterparts

Udacity is a place for serious learners looking to break into tech. They specialize in “nanodegrees” which are online, lecture-lead programs that last a few months. You’ll participate in classes alongside other students and study the subject together.

And this is what you can expect with their Java Programmer nanodegree. It’s no secret that Java is a powerhouse in the programming world, and mastering this language will open many career doors.

Udacity's Java programmer nanodegree

It takes place over 3 months and requires 10 hours of work a week. You start with learning Java fundamentals such as encapsulation, classes, exceptions, then move on to more advanced Java techniques, like functional programming and reflections. It finishes with you being able to deploy what you’ve learned and to create Java applications.

It does require you to have basic knowledge of programming concepts such as variables, loops, and conditionals. And you pay for the full degree, so it’s for those looking to participate in the entire program.

Udacity’s nanodegrees are more expensive than the other coding courses on this list, coming in at $399 a month, but once completed, you should be a viable candidate for entry-level tech jobs.  

We also have a ranking of the best Java courses.

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