5 of the Best Free Coding Courses: How to Make the Right Choice

There are many reasons you might be looking for free coding courses.

Maybe you’re thinking of transitioning careers and want to teach yourself to code. Before investing in a coding bootcamp or paid program, you might just want to see if you even like coding. Or maybe some coding skills would help you in your existing field?

Whatever the reason, this article will go through what to look for in a free coding course. While the range out there is very wide, here we’ll focus on web development offerings. Below you’ll find five free courses to help you on your journey. For each course there’s a description of the content and format to help you decide if it’s the right option for you.

If you want to jump straight to our top five, or if there’s a certain section you’d like to skip ahead to, just use the clickable menu:

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Before you start

One important thing to keep in mind when beginning your coding journey is don’t get too caught up in what specific technologies you learn at the very beginning. Oftentimes people can get so focused on deciding where to start, that they never manage to start at all.

There is no perfect first tutorial. In the end, it’s better to just dive in and do it. No matter which course you take, you’ll get a basis and have a better idea for your next steps at the end.

As you gain knowledge and perspective, you can pivot and adjust based on what you’ve learned about the field.

What you should look for in a free coding course

Before we jump in, let’s briefly cover what to look for when choosing a free course. With so much info out there, and everyone promoting their specific way of doing things, it can be hard to pick. Here are some criteria to help you decide:

1. Structure

Is the course video-based? Project-based? Is it more theoretical? Tap into your understanding of yourself and your learning style.

Be honest with yourself. Will that 100-hour course based on theoretical algorithms just make you fall asleep? Do you get frustrated at videos and often want them to talk faster? Or is seeing everything visually in video form helpful? Do you get overwhelmed when a topic isn’t broken down into small, digestible pieces?

Have a look at the structure of the courses you’re considering and make sure it works for you. Also consider the schedule here re: self-paced work vs. assignments with due dates.

2. Does it teach the fundamentals?

Technology changes fast. It’s important a course is teaching you the fundamentals rather than only memorizing syntax. This will ensure your success as technologies change and grow.

3. Support

Is there some type of support for when you get stuck, such as a forum or Slack channel? It’s nice to know you’re not alone when you are stumped on a concept. You’re more likely to succeed learning something new when you have a support network.

4. Who is the teacher?

What credentials and experience does the teacher or creator of the course have? Have they actually worked in the field? They don’t have to have a PhD in the subject or anything. Still, someone who has experienced best practices in the web development field first-hand is helpful.

5. When was the course created?

Again, technology changes fast. Which version of the programming languages and frameworks is the course taught in? Look up the current version of these technologies on their websites. Within a couple years is usually fine, but don’t choose something published 8 years ago.

6. Comments

If the course has comments or reviews, have a browse through them. If you see a lot of questions or uncertainty, it may not be the best tutorial for you.

Five of the best free coding courses

So, now that you know what to look for in a free coding course, here are five of the top ones out there, in no particular order:

1. freeCodeCamp

freeCodeCamp is a free, online, self-paced coding bootcamp. There are many paths you can choose: web development, quality assurance, machine learning, information security, and more. If you’re unsure where to start, best to begin with the first certification in responsive web design.

Their courses are structured around small, digestible amounts of new information. Using that, you immediately solve a small exercise. At the end of each certification, there are five projects. If you build them all and get their tests to pass, you’re eligible for that certification.

The benefit of this is that you are ready with a web development portfolio of your work by the time you finish. They also have very supportive forums when you get stuck. If you want to be more social, most major cities have local freeCodeCamp study groups you can join as well.

Once you’re certified, they also have a course on coding interview prep. This is great as coding interviews are a skill of their own, as you’ll see in our guide to web developer interview questions.

This course is great if you’re interested in coding, or already considering a web development bootcamp. Whether you want to do their whole program on your own, or use freeCodeCamp to see if you like web development before investing in a more structured alternative, it’s a great option.

2. CareerFoundry Web Development Short Course

Looking for a short overview of the field of web development? CareerFoundry covers what developers really do and what the industry is like. They go over HTML, CSS, responsive webpages, and Javascript basics. By the end you’ll code your own website using the concepts you’ve learned.

Maybe you’re trying to understand what coding even is and if the field is a viable option for you. If other programs seem like too big of a time commitment, and you want to first discover if programming is worth your time, this free coding course is a great option.

You can get a peek at the first lesson of the short course in this video, as one of CareerFoundry’s in-house developers Abhishek introduces you to frontend development:

You will receive five 15-minute daily lessons, just like this one. There are also exercises, as well as information about changing careers. If you want a straightforward overview before diving in deeper to see if coding is right for you, give this a try.

3. CS50’s Introduction to Computer Science

Want to learn Computer Science directly from the Ivies? Consider CS50x, Harvard University’s introduction to computer science and the art of programming. It’s a popular online entry-level course. If you want to dip your toes into the field and see if it’s for you, this is a great option.

CS50x teaches students how to think algorithmically and solve problems efficiently. Topics covered are: abstraction, algorithms, data structures, encapsulation, resource management, security, software engineering, and web development. Languages include C, Python, SQL, and JavaScript (plus CSS and HTML). 

The problem sets come from the real-world domains of biology, cryptography, finance, forensics, and gaming. Regardless of which path you go, this course will set a great basis and teach you to think like a software engineer. If you’re unsure which area of programming you’re interested in, you can try lots of different things out here.

The course takes an estimated 12 weeks, though it’s self-paced. You are eligible for a certificate if you pass the nine programming assignments and final project.

4. MongoDB University

Most free coding courses focus on the frontend. If you’re curious about backend development, this is a good place to start. As we explain more in our guide to the differences between the two, “backend” means the data layer of a web application, not what you see in the browser.

MongoDB is a type of NoSQL database that is widely used. They offer a course called MongoDB University on their website. This course covers what a database is and ​​different ways to search, create, and analyze your data. You can also learn more about authentication and authorization, which are great skills and concepts for your CV.

The courses are practical, with video lectures, labs and quizzes. Everything is self-paced. You can earn a certificate of completion at the end if you pass the labs and final exam. The MongoDB Basics course takes eight and a half hours, according to their website.

4. Skillshare Coding for Beginners

This course focuses on complete beginners. If you are thinking about learning a specific coding language, but don’t want to commit to one specific path yet, this may be a good option. Coding for Beginners introduces you to common coding concepts.

You’ll use these concepts in whichever programming language you learn in the future. That way you have an overview before you start mastering a dedicated language and its syntax.

The course includes 30 lectures with seven hours of video, tests, and assignments. At the end, you’ll complete a beginner level project building a simple app in both Scratch and Python.

Final thoughts

There you have it, five free coding courses to get you started on your coding journey. As already mentioned, there’s not one perfect starting point. All of the above courses are great based on your time and interests. More important is just that you begin. Good luck!

If you’re interested in reading more about the world of coding, check out these articles:

What You Should Do Now

  1. Get a hands-on introduction to web development and build your first website from scratch with our free, self-paced Web Development Short Course.

  2. Take part in one of our FREE live online web development events with industry experts.

  3. Talk to a program advisor to discuss career change and how you can become a qualified web developer in 4-7 months—complete with a job guarantee.

  4. Apply for one of 100 Career Change Scholarships before the end of May and get up to $1,295 off the CareerFoundry Full-Stack Web Development Program.

What is CareerFoundry?

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