Leon Othenin-Girard is a Swiss freelance tech writer who specializes in gaming reviews. His reviews, roundups, news, and op-eds also appeared on Cultured Vultures.
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Best Overall: HarvardX CS50 Introduction to Computer Science
"Check if your code is up to scratch using a cloud-based IDE, and there's a large community to interact with if you’re having trouble."
Best Intro: Codecademy
"Codecademy is perfect for beginners thanks to the sheer amount of choices you have to choose from."
Runner Up, Best Intro: Khan Academy
"If you ever have any questions or even want to get feedback on a project you’ve just coded, the community is always here to help."
Best University Course: MITx Introduction to Computer Science and Programming Using Python
"While rigorous, it’s intended to still be doable for students without prior knowledge, so all you need to do is put in the work."
Best Splurge: Pluralsight
"Each course comes with videos, assessments, and exercise files, so you can really make the most of your learning experience."
Runner Up, Best Splurge: LinkedIn Learning
"They really have something for everyone, no matter what language you want to get into."
Best for Schools: Code Avengers
"It’s structured into different levels so you can teach programming concepts to everyone, regardless of age or skill."
Best Variety: Udemy
"Gives you the freedom to choose the specialization that you want, and learn how to program what interests you."
An extensive introduction to coding
The same course as Harvard students
If you’re looking to dive into coding, this course stands out from the rest. Harvard has put its most-visited course, CS50 Introduction to Computer Science, online, and it’s completely free unless you want a certificate of completion. Not only does the course offer video recordings of each lecture, as well as additional videos explaining certain concepts, but it also has an assignment for each block of content. You can check if your code is up to snuff before you hand it in using the cloud-based IDE that complements this course, and there’s a large community to interact with if you’re having trouble.
CS50 Introduction to Computer Science is built in a way that the problem sets get more difficult enough every week that they can be challenging, but never in a way that you feel completely left on your own. This course stands out from the rest because instead of simply teaching you how to code, it tries to teach you how it works.
Interactive learning interface
Courses for everyone
Codecademy is perfect for beginners thanks to the sheer amount of choices you have to choose from. You can find something for everyone here, with an extensive category ranging from HTML to C#, and more, if you sign up for Codecademy Pro. Every course that doesn’t require a subscription to Pro is completely free, so you can learn to your heart's content. If you choose to sign up for Codecademy Pro, you’ll even have a range of so-called career and skill paths to choose from, guiding you towards specific goals.
Having such a wide range of intro-level courses for free is great because it means that not only can you start learning how to code, you can also learn the differences between programming languages and find out which ones are best for what you want to do. Not to mention there’s a smartphone app, too, letting you practice what you’ve learned on the go.
Great for beginners
Some complex topics
Each course is structured so that you have an info block and then a challenge that builds upon the things you just learned. This type of project-based learning is a great way to start coding, as applying what you’ve learned helps you remember key concepts.
Khan Academy is completely free, and it has a whole community around it, too. If you ever have any questions or even want to get feedback on a project you’ve just coded, they’re always here to help.
The same level of depth as MIT students
Needs a lot of time and dedication
Although MIT has a lot of old courses on their website for free, they also have a new one for free on edX. MITx Introduction to Computer Science and Programming Using Python is a version of the on-campus course that has been built specifically for edX, and that means it’s no walk in the park. However, it’s intended to still be doable for students without prior knowledge, meaning that if you put the work into it and take this course seriously, then it’ll be more than worth it.
Besides talking with the other students taking this course, you’ll also be able to ask questions to the staff behind the course as well as the community TAs. They won’t tell you any answers, but they’ll nudge you in the right direction and clarify any misunderstandings you might have. If you want to learn coding and more, understand what you’re doing, then this course is right for you.
Interactive guided courses
Hefty price tag
If you want to learn to code so you can look more up-to-date on your resume, or if you’re looking to get your team up to scratch, then Pluralsight is the service for you. It’s a bit costly at $29 monthly or $299 yearly, but with the extensive course library, it can be worth it if you use it properly. Not only is there a wide variety of guided courses in different programming languages, but there are even specific courses for further learning in game development or data management for example.
Each course comes with videos, assessments, and exercise files, so you can really make the most of your learning experience. You can even measure how well you stack up against others in the same field. On top of that, some courses have interactive lessons, which can be especially helpful for trying to learn new concepts in a specific language.
Large variety of courses
Countless programming languages
The experience isn’t guided, picking the wrong course can lead to wasting time
LinkedIn Learning, formerly known as Lynda.com, is filled to the brim with courses on coding and otherwise. Although the experience isn’t quite as streamlined as some of the other courses listed, it makes up for it by the number of available courses. LinkedIn Learning has more than just what you need to get started, as it even has courses for people with prior experience. You can really dive into the depths of different languages, see what makes them tick, and why they’re fit for certain tasks more than others.
It might be a bit overwhelming to know where to start, but if you search for the programming language you’re looking for, or the keywords “essential training”, you’ll be sure to find a course that’s right for you. They really have something for everyone, no matter what language you want to get into.
Built for kids and teens
Heavily discounted for schools
Different paths for different interests
Pricey for a service meant for kids
Code Avengers is perfect for schools and kids or teens who want to learn how to code. It’s structured into different complexity levels so it can be used to teach programming concepts to every school level. Using the online programming environment to work on different projects, Code Avengers aims to teach children programming, computational thinking, and data representation. There are also three guided paths available for teenagers, focused on becoming either a web developer, web designer, or software engineer.
The platform also has a series of resources for teachers, with lesson plans and course overviews, as well as being able to see how far into the course each student has come so far, and how well they’ve done along the way. Code Avengers is a great way to get children and teenagers into coding.
Massive amount of courses and teachers
Detailed reviews to read before you buy
Some courses are quite expensive, especially for coding
When it comes to variety, you can’t beat Udemy. You can find over 100,000 online courses in different subjects, and a large fraction of those is about coding. Unlike some of the other options on this list, Udemy isn’t subscription-based, instead, you pay only for the courses you actually choose. Each of them is a different price, and you can see how long each one is before you purchase it. This gives you the freedom to choose the specialization that you want, and learn how to program what interests you.
The courses are uploaded by individuals all over the world, and you can tell by their ranking how good they are. Different instructors have different specialties and picking out the courses that feel relevant to you from a broad spectrum will mean that you see different styles of programming and teaching, helping you find what’s best for you.
Our writers spent 6 hours researching the most popular online coding courses on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 9 different online coding courses overall read over 10 user reviews (both positive and negative), and tested 3 of the online coding courses themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.