World class skills with the best online coding courses – both paid-for and free
If you want to learn to code, the best online coding courses are probably the most convenient option. They off the flexibility to allow you to study the aspects of coding that interest you wherever you are, and whenever you’re free to study. This makes them the perfect solution if your location or working hours don’t let you attend a coding course in a physical location. But the best online coding courses are also often a good option when it comes to cost too.
There’s a huge variety of online coding courses available these days, so it’s very unlikely that you won’t be able to find one that suits you, no matter your level or what coding language you wish to study. The quality, materials and support offered by coding courses can vary a lot, however, which can make it difficult to choose the best online coding course for you. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of top providers based on our own experience and research.
You’re likely to recognise the names of some of the coding course providers we list, while others may be new to you. Some of them specialise in coding courses specifically, or even in particular areas of coding, while others are general online education providers with vast catalogues of online courses, including coding courses on different topics and for different levels. We’ve based our ratings based on our overall impression of each provider’s course structures, delivery methods, resources, expert knowledge and community support and on feedback from users. We’ve also endeavoured to include providers that offer online coding courses aimed at both beginners and at those looking to expand their skills.
In our experience, paid-for coding courses almost always offer a more thorough grounding than free coding courses, but we have also included the best free online coding courses that we’ve been able to find. These can offer a very welcome entry point for beginners who aren’t yet ready to commit to a paid course. You can always go deeper with a paid course once you’re sure that you want to take your coding further.
If you’re starting out coding, you might want one of the best monitors for programming to help minimise eye strain while you work. We also have a guide to the best laptops for programming. And if you’re looking to expand your knowledge and skills in other high-demand areas, take a look at our essential online UX design course.
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The best online coding courses to start today
For a well-regarded, academically rigorous coding course, we highly rate Coursera. The site was founded by Stanford professors, and continues to work with universities, colleges and corporations to offer a comprehensive suite of courses, degrees and specialisations. And while it might come as a surprise, Coursera has a good number of free coding courses on offer (though you’ll generally have to pay if you want to receive the final certificate).
The platform has almost 300 online coding courses, from Python and Java to C and C++. There are some good beginner-level coding courses – we’d recommend looking at ‘Web Design for Everybody: Basics of Web Development & Coding’ from the University of Michigan if you’re starting from scratch. More advanced users may want to try something like IBM’s ‘Applied AI with Deep Learning’ course. Wherever you are on your coding journey, we’ve found Coursera to be a superb choice for learning new coding skills.
Of all the providers in our guide to the best online coding courses, Pluralsight may strike you as having the most attractive site. We love the platform’s clear, easy-to-use layout. Course content is also top-notch in our experience. You can set up a ‘path’ through a number of different courses to give yourself a comprehensive grounding in multiple subjects, or just opt for a single course on one topic.
We also rate the videos, which have a kind of quirky charm to them. Some users have compared the experience to watching Bill Nye, which is a solid recommendation in our book. It certainly beats a lot of the quite dry resources offered by many online course providers. The way it works is pretty simple – you view the video, then work on your tasks, checking back in with the video for pointers if needed. There’s also a system whereby you can earn points in classes to ‘buy’ answers, providing a handy lifeline if you get truly stuck.
While the vast number of courses available (over 183,000 at the time of writing) does make it tricky to dig out the good stuff, if you have a little patience and willingness to sift through what’s there, you’re highly likely to find something that fits what you’re looking for. The price range is as broad as the range of courses, running from free to hundreds of dollars, so there’s something for every budget, although of course how much you pay will often show in the completeness of the course.
One of the best resources for those who want to learn to code without spending anything, Free Code Camp is a non-profit interactive learning platform. It offers more than 6,000 tutorials, and the people behind the site claim that it has more than 40,000 graduates working at tech firms, including giants like Microsoft and Google.
Shaw Academy offers a suite of coding courses, and they’re pretty popular – the Web Design course has more than a million graduates. Certified by Austin Peay University, the academy’s courses are mainly pitched at beginners, and they’re well placed for anyone who’s just starting out on their coding journey. There are courses in Python programming and even a coding for kids course.
If you’re looking for something more specific, Skillshare is a subscription-based service that offers thousands of courses in different subjects. Many of its best coding courses are taught by world-class web developers such as Rachel Andrew, Christian Heilmann, and Jenn Lukas. Courses come complete with supplementary materials created by the instructors, and they include projects for you to apply your new skills to. There’s also an iOS(opens in new tab) or Android(opens in new tab) app, which we’ve found to be a convenient option to stream courses on the go.
There are some free courses, and you can get a premium subscription for free for a month, but there’s a monthly fee of $32 after that.
Prefer the idea of live coding workshops? It might sound like an anomaly these days, but General Assembly organises livestreams, ranging from ‘Intro to coding’ to ‘Python Programming Crash Course’. Some of them are free but most are paid for. To access them, you need to buy an e-ticket and then log in to the live stream when it starts (just be aware of timezone differences!).
For those who lack the motivation to learn at their own pace, live workshops offer a good way to ‘force’ yourself to learn. On top of that, having something in the calendar means you’re more likely to find the time to do it. If you do miss the class, however, you’ll usually be able to get hold of a recording later.
Udacity offers solid guides on many different subjects, with a big selection of free courses. It also has a range of ‘nanodegrees’, which cover in-demand skills. One part of the structure that we’ve found very useful is that all of Udacity’s coding courses are summarised before you begin, outlining the difficulty level, why the course is important, any prerequisites for taking it and the project you’ll complete at the end. It’s good knowing exactly what to expect.
Treehouse aims to make learning fun. The structure is simple: learn from the video courses (which are regularly refreshed to reflect industry changes), practise your new skills through quizzes and challenges, and earn badges to reflect the skills you’ve already mastered. We found this gamification is actually very well designed and can really help to motivate learning.
It also has one of the most comprehensive libraries of educational materials on this list. Not only does it offer a large variety of coding courses, but it also includes ‘workspaces’ where you can try out new projects in your own time and a library with videos of talks from industry professionals. It offers an iPad app to continue your learning there, too.