Four students at a table taking online coding classes on their laptops learn to code for free in 2021

Learn to Code for Free in 2021

You do not need to be a student at a college or university to learn to code and advance your technology career. The best remote coding bootcamps and massive open online course (MOOC) platforms both feature online coding classes with full curricula. Detailed tutorials are also offered by major tech companies like Google, which directly benefit from boosting your coding skills. 

Given the incentives, tech industry experts are often the ones designing and running free workshops on the most popular programming languages and the fundamental concepts of coding. In this article, we will survey courses, interactive tutorials, and other resources that cover how to code, for beginners and intermediate learners alike. 

Why Learn Coding?

You should learn to code because it will open you up to a slew of employment opportunities. You can become a software engineer, web developer, mobile app developer, or computer programmer. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that jobs for software developers will increase by 22 percent between 2019 and 2029.

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Learning how to code and acquiring Python, JavaScript, SQL, C#, or Java skills will also increase your earning potential. The PayScale estimates below show just how much the average tech worker with skills in one of these programming languages can earn in a year. 

Top Programming Languages for Beginners

Recent advancements in the science and art of computer programming have made it much easier for coding newbies to write simple, fast, and high-quality code. The three highly functional programming languages listed below were developed with these criteria in mind. They are great options for beginners, students, or anyone trying to advance their careers. 

Python

Since Python was designed for use in a variety of application domains, it is an outstanding baseline for any student who wants to eventually code across all platforms. It is also a compelling option for beginners because it allows you to write clear and logical code, regardless of project scale. Python tutorials are readable and easy to follow. 

Kotlin

Kotlin is a general-purpose programming language. Like Python, it can be used across multiple platforms. Kotlin was designed to be easy for beginners to pick up and use as a base for their coding development. Aspiring mobile app developers should learn Kotlin because it is the preferred language for Android. The association with Google is a plus. 

PHP

PHP can also be used across multiple platforms and for various applications. Those who know how to use PHP often focus on web development, but it can also be used to create graphical user interfaces and to develop robotic controls for the management of drone flights. PHP is the subject of many online coding classes. Learning the core concepts of this language will significantly help you in your career.

How to Learn to Code for Free

To find the best free coding tools, you first need to decide what you want to do with your programming skills. For most career paths, the most affordable learning options come straight from the tech giants. For example, Android, Apple, Microsoft, and Oracle all have basic free courses and comprehensive curricula on their online training platforms.  

By using these resources to your advantage, you can learn to code for free. Below is a learning path you can follow, moving from simple to more complex.   

Step 1: Learn Kotlin for Android 

You should start with Kotlin because it is a modern programming language and is known for its accessibility. The only prerequisite is a desire to work with Android. Once you have learned how to code a basic layout using Kotlin, you can create your own Android apps. Best of all, the Google Developers platform offers free Kotlin courses. 

Step 2: Learn to Code with Apple

Apple also has a highly specialized learning platform for developers, which is completely free. After mastering the core concepts of Kotlin, you should be able to learn Swift and Objective-C, the two most relevant languages for Apple users. Both of these iOS coding languages are suitable for complete novices or for anyone just starting out.

Step 3: Learn to Code with Python

Python is suitable for beginners to coding, but it will be even easier if you’ve already learned to code on other platforms. Tech giants like Microsoft will teach you the basics of Python programming for free. From there it’s just a matter of building on that knowledge with an intermediate or advanced online class, which can teach you more complicated tasks.   

At a Glance: Top Platforms to Learn Coding 

PlatformRecommended Free Courses
Android DevelopersKotlin for Java Developers
Kotlin Bootcamp for Programmers
Android Kotlin Fundamentals
Apple DeveloperDevelop in Swift
Concepts in Objective-C Programming
Programming with Objective-C
CodecademyLearn JavaScript
Learn SQL
Learn PHP
CourseraWeb Design for Everybody: Basics of Web Development
Coding for Everyone: C and C++
Python for Everybody
edXCS50’s Introduction to Computer Science
Programming for Everybody (Getting Started with Python)
JavaScript Introduction
freeCodeCampResponsive Web Design
JavaScript Algorithms and Data Structures
Front End Development Libraries
MIT OpenCourseWare Introduction to Computer Science and Programming
Essential Coding Theory
Introduction to MATLAB
The Odin ProjectHTML and CSS
JavaScript
Ruby Programming
PluralsightClean Coding Principles in C#
Provable Code
Visual Studio Code
UpskillThe Essential Web Developer Course
HTML & CSS Syntax Review
JavaScript Basics

Best Platforms with Free Coding Courses

 A smartphone on top of two books about coding learn to code for free in 2021
You don’t need to attend an in-person coding bootcamp to learn how to code a website from scratch. 

The platforms featured in this article are suitable for beginners as well as for more experienced coders. We chose them because they are free and accessible, with curricula that you can easily fit into your schedule. Let’s take a closer look at their relative strengths and weaknesses. 

Android Developers

Android is mainly developed by Google, which means that this is one of the best platforms for your introduction to coding. The curricula are broken up into manageable units, each of which involves a series of interactive tutorials that help you build confidence and competence as you learn to develop basic applications.   

Android Developers Strengths

  • Each course prepares you for the Android certification exam corresponding to that skill.
  • The platform provides access to user-friendly video resources. 
  • The courses are specifically designed to give you practical, hands-on experience. 

Android Developers Weaknesses

  • Most of the online courses focus on Kotlin exclusively. 
  • The limited resources may not be enough to fully master the core concepts of Kotlin.
  • Transitioning from Kotlin to more complex programming languages may be difficult.  

Apple Developer 

The Apple Developer platform is designed for people who want to learn Swift, Objective-C, and Xcode. The courses are organized into a series of chapters, which are followed by exercises that test what you’ve learned. Whichever program you choose, there are resources available to help get you through it.  

The courses will equip you with the knowledge necessary to earn Apple certifications for Swift, Xcode, or Objective-C. For every course you complete, including Swift Playgrounds, you will also get a digital badge.  

Apple Developer Strengths

  • You can earn the App Development with Swift Associate badge which shows proficiency in Swift.
  • You can also earn the App Development with Swift Certified User badge. This credential means you have a solid foundation in Swift programming.
  • Swift Playgrounds is a great way to learn to code. 

Apple Developer Weaknesses

  • It will not be easy to transition from iOS to Android. 
  • Some of the course content is a little outdated.  
  • There is a lack of support for earlier versions of iOS. 

Codecademy

Codecademy courses can take anywhere from just a few hours to several weeks to complete. The courses are very specific, which means you can focus on one topic at a time, and will give you actual programming experience. You can earn a certificate upon completing a course, although not for free. 

Codecademy Strengths

  • Codecademy livestreams some classes. 
  • There are extensive opportunities to collaborate with peers and instructors.
  • Codecademy offers clear guidance on the career path you should take. 

Codecademy Weaknesses

  • You have to pay for a subscription to earn your certificate.
  • The active learning tabs and lessons can be difficult to navigate.
  • You cannot skip any lessons. 

Coursera

This massive open online course (MOOC) platform has been active for about nine years, making it one of the most trusted ways to learn to code online. The courses featured on the platform are designed and endorsed by some of the most influential higher learning institutions and organizations in the world of tech. They have been taken by millions of students around the world.

Depending on the scope, a Coursera course can range in length from a matter of hours and days to a few weeks or even a few months. The course material is free, and so too are the audio and visual resources. However, you will need to pay for your certificate.  

Coursera Strengths

  • The platform has about 77 million users.
  • The platform was built by Stanford University professors, so you know it is top-notch.
  • About 150 universities from around the world are associated with Coursera. 

Coursera Weaknesses

  • To earn your certificate, you will need to pay for it. 
  • Opportunities for collaboration are limited.
  • Its revenue-driven education model isn’t for everyone. 

edX

One of the best online coding platforms around, edX offers courses in partnership with some of the most prestigious tech companies, colleges, and universities in the world. The courses run the gamut of programming skills, from Python fundamentals for beginners right through to full stack development for professionals. The typical course on edX lasts about a month.

edX Strengths

  • The courses prepare you for careers in hardware and software development. 
  • It has partnerships with Harvard, MIT, and other world-renowned universities. 
  • The platform offers a full range of coding courses, from beginner to expert. 

edX Weaknesses

  • Some courses pool from so many sources that they are disorganized. 
  • The free courses don’t always have tangible career benefits. 
  • The platform focuses on hard skills at the expense of soft skills. 

freeCodeCamp

freeCodeCamp has more advanced courses and most require about 300 hours of your time. The platform also offers resources to help you prepare for job applications. Each of the courses is broken up into subjects, and the platform has a simple widget that helps you keep track of your progress. 

freeCodeCamp Strengths

  • If you pass all of your exams, you will walk away with a certificate. 
  • The courses cover all the major programming languages. 
  • The platform provides coaching for coding job interviews. 

freeCodeCamp Weaknesses

  • Even short tutorials require a lot of commitment and effort. 
  • Some of the teachers are underqualified and bad at explaining things. 
  • The online community is not particularly helpful either.

MIT OpenCourseWare

The courses here are available through audio and video lectures, delivered by real MIT professors. The coding courses start with programming concepts before moving on to language-specific sections. Although they are self-paced, you should keep in mind that they are based on courses that, in their original form, took a semester to complete. 

These courses are a great way to simulate the experience of completing an undergraduate computer science program at MIT. The only difference is that all of the materials can be downloaded at your leisure.  

MIT OpenCourseWare Strengths

  • The platform gives access to material from over 2,500 courses.
  • Most of the material is from the MIT School of Engineering 
  • Collectively, the resources have been consulted over 500 million times. 

MIT OpenCourseWare Weaknesses

  • There is very little collaboration or interaction.  
  • You will have no real-time access to faculty. 
  • The certificate programs are not free. 

The Odin Project

The Odin Project is geared toward students who want to learn web development. It is essentially a one-stop shop for all things related to coding. The learning process is structured as a series of tutorials, blogs, and courses. 

The Odin Project Strengths

  • Projects are geared toward putting your learning into practice.
  • Despite being online, the platform gives you ample opportunities for collaboration.
  • The course programs are regularly updated.  

The Odin Project Weaknesses

  • There are no certificates for completing courses. 
  • It will take about 1,000 hours programming to learn a new coding skill. 
  • The courses are designed for absolute beginners. 

Pluralsight

The vast majority of Pluralsight courses are created and delivered by experienced professionals. Typically, courses range from a few minutes to several weeks or months. There are courses for beginners, intermediate learners, and experts. Most of the courses come with a 10-day free trial, which is enough time to complete many of the coding classes.

Pluralsight Strengths

  • The platform conducts a skills assessment to establish how much you need to learn.
  • The recently introduced online labs provide opportunities for hands-on experience.
  • It prepares you for coding certifications, which will help you get ahead in tech. 

Pluralsight Weaknesses

  • The search tool is hard to use. 
  • The customer service is not great. 
  • It is not easy to form social and professional networks on the platform. 

Upskill

All Upskill courses are centered on web development and programming, and they are designed to be completed sequentially. The courses are instructor-led, and you will have full access to the audio and video resources once you sign up for a free account. 

Upskill Strengths

  • There are more than 200 free lessons on the platform. 
  • Lessons are regularly updated to keep pace with the latest industry trends. 
  • The instructors are highly recommended by former students. 

Upskill Weaknesses

  • There are no coding games on the platform to put your learning into practice.
  • There are not a lot of opportunities for collaboration. 
  • The heavy focus on a science education may limit your development in other areas. 

Best Free Coding Resources

While the platforms listed above are free most of the time, many of them come with hidden costs. Online resources, on the other hand, are more reliably free. Reserve a bookmark on your browser for the following free coding resources, and return to them whenever you wish. 

Python Institute 

The Python Institute offers a manageable pathway to Python certification for anyone looking to advance their careers. For each of its three Python certifications, there are study resources and other important pieces of information available on the website. The Python Institute is associated with Pearson VUE, Cisco Systems, and Fundacja IT.  

Cisco Networking Academy

The Cisco Networking Academy provides a wide range of courses for IT professionals. While Cisco’s core business is networking, the online platform also features a number of programming courses. Along with coding education and guidance, it also offers pathways to several badges and certifications.

Python.org

The downloadable resources on Python’s own platform cover a broad range of technology. There are audio and visual talks, guides and essays for beginners, and an active online community, which promotes information-sharing and extensive collaboration. 

Is Coding Right for You?

Coding is right for you if you’re comfortable with math, good with computers, and equipped with problem-solving skills. The programming skills you can learn with the help of free online coding resources can take your career in any number of directions. If vocational versatility and high pay sound enticing to you, learning to code might just be the perfect next step. 

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