Dev

The 7 best ways to learn how to code

Yes, programming can be as cool as you saw in The Social Network

Above: Yes, programming can be as cool as you saw in The Social Network

Image Credit: Columbia Pictures

It’s never been a better time to pick up programming.

No matter your age or experience, a plethora of tools are available to get you started or to help you refine your programming chops. Best of all, many of those resources are free.

You no longer have to spend countless hours trying to deconstruct new programming languages with no help beyond sparsely updated message boards and the good graces of patient IRC chat buddies. (In my day…) Now there are expertly written tutorials, helpful videos, and a wealth of other resources online.

Maybe you’re just curious about what all this programming stuff is about. Maybe you’re just bored. Or maybe, you’ve got the kernel of an idea for the next Facebook. Below, check out seven resources that could help you become a coding genius.

And, if you’ll forgive us for tooting our own horn, you should also check out an eighth resource: our upcoming DevBeat conference, Nov. 12-13 in San Francisco. It’s a hands-on developer event packed with master classes, presentations, Q&As, and hackathons, and you can register right here.

Codecademy

Codecademy

Perhaps the most renowned online training resource — and for good reason, Codecademy offers easy-to-understand interactive tutorials for popular languages like Python and Ruby. Totally green? Codecademy can also help you learn the fundamentals of the web, HTML and CSS, to create your own website from scratch.

You won’t be going it alone either. The site allows you to join up with friends to take programming lessons together (and it’s a helpful way to keep you motivated). Fast learner? You can also build your own lessons as a course creator.

Price: Free
Skill level: Novice

OpenCourseWare Consortium

While the “OpenCourseWare” (OCW) concept was originally popularized by MIT’s 2002 move to put its course materials online, hundreds of other higher education institutions are now doing the same thing. The Consortium’s site lets you easily search for lessons across all of its member schools — and, yes, there’s much more than just programming help here. While you’ll mostly be left on your own with the material, it’s hard to deny the usefulness of having full courses online.

Price: Free
Skill level: Novice to advanced

Coursera founders Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller Read more at http://venturebeat.com/2013/07/10/coursera-nabs-43m-to-bring-online-education-to-emerging-markets/#XfzV6rEk4F42jSGw.99

Above: Coursera founders Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller

Coursera

Like the OpenCourseWare initiative, Coursera aims to bring college courses online — but it’s specifically focused on making the “best” courses available. Here you’ll find a wealth of computer science courses from schools not participating in the OCW program. While the classes themselves are free, you may have to pay if you want certifications from some schools, as well as for proctored exams down the line.

Price: Free (but expect fees for other services)
Skill level:  Novice to intermediate

Khan Academy

One of the most renowned examples of the online learning movement, Khan Academy started out with its creator, Salman Khan, creating video tutorials for math lessons. It’s since branched out to other subjects, including science, economics, and yes, computer science.

Here you’ll find programming lessons in the form of short videos, buoyed by practice lessons and tools for teachers. Khan Academy also supports a wide variety of languages, thanks to translation help from volunteers.

Price: Free (Functions as a non-profit, with support from donors)
Skill level: Novice to intermediate

Treehouse

“No experience, no problem!” While most of the services on this list are free ways to dip your toes into programming, Treehouse claims its premium offerings can prepare you for a developer gig, even if you’ve got no experience. A helpful iPad app also makes it easy to learn on the go.

Treehouse offers training videos, a real-time “Code Challenge Engine,” and a forum for members. Pay a bit more, and you can get even more features, like feedback on your projects and workshops on new technology.

Price: $25 a month for silver; $49 a month for gold
Skill level: Novice to intermediate

Local accelerated training programs

If you need more hands-on and face-to-face interaction with an instructor, consider seeking out an intensive training program like Dev Bootcamp, AppAcademy, or one of the many courses offered by General Assembly. You’ll pay far more than any online training, but in exchange you’ll get dedicated instructors and much-needed inroads to engineering jobs.

Price: Variable, typically starts around $10,000
Expertise: Novice to expert

Local university courses

While it’s not as cool as saying you learned to code on your own using just the web, your local universities or community colleges are still useful resources for programming skills. They’re a good option if you need more structure in your lessons, and having the in-person interaction with a professor and colleagues isn’t something you can easily recreate online. And while they won’t be free, these courses will be far cheaper than an accelerated programming course.

Price: Variable
Expertise: Novice to intermediate


Mobile developer or publisher? VentureBeat is studying mobile marketing automation. Fill out our 5-minute survey, and we'll share the data with you.