How to Learn to Code
Computer programs used to be something only the programmers understood. But with the technological revolution, we can all become computer programmers from the comfort of our own home. But should we learn to code?
This guide explains what coding is and why it’s a skill that can be useful for many entrepreneurs. We’ll also provide tips on how to learn to code, whether you want to learn on your own or take a course.
WHAT’S CODING AND WHY SHOULD YOU LEARN IT?
If you are unfamiliar with coding, here’s a short introduction to what it is all about. Code is a language used to write computer programs, apps and websites. Without code, you wouldn’t be able to access websites or use your computer. In fact, coding isn’t limited to just your computer and mobile phone. Almost any device that uses electricity will need code to work. This includes cars, watches and microwaves.
When you are coding, you are creating a set of instructions, which the device can understand. These instructions ensure the program or device runs as it should.
- Visual Basic
Although a computer runs on a binary code (written in 1s and 0s), it can understand a variety of these other languages. Furthermore, many of the above coding languages share similarities and have developed by using the characteristics of different languages.
Here’s a great video about picking the best programming language as a beginner:
The benefits of knowing how to code
Why should you learn how to code? Just like knowing English, as the lingua franca of the world, can help you travel around the world, understanding coding can enhance your understanding of the world of technology. As our lives become increasingly immersed with coding, the importance of understanding it becomes amplified.
Coding is the future. But the ability to code doesn’t just mean you are more equipped of understanding the world around you, it can also have significant benefits for your career. Not only are many IT-related jobs requiring a certain level of coding knowledge becoming more prevalent, your actual earning potential can increase if you learn to code.
The coding world is full of opportunities. Since it’s not yet a mainstream subject to study, coding can open up plenty of business opportunities. Furthermore, coding can be done from anywhere in the world. All you need is a computer and an internet connection. In terms of launching a business, this can be a huge advantage. Areas such as web design or app development can be performed miles away from the actual client.
Even if you don’t want to pursue a career purely involved with coding, learning to code can provide you other transferable skills. Coding teaches you creativity. You’ll need to be able to think outside the box to create innovative programs and solve the problems you might have in your code.
In other words, one of the noticeable benefits of coding is the way it improves your thinking and problem solving skills. Coding is about solving problems and the more you do it the better you become at looking for solutions. Apple’s founder Steve Jobs, once said in an interview, “I think everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think”.
Coding is truly an investment in the future. Whether you turn it into a career or a business, or simply enjoy the benefits of basic coding knowledge, the advantages will be clear.
DO IT YOURSELF OR GET TAUGHT BY PROFESSIONALS
When it comes to learning to code, you have two basic options: you can teach yourself to code or take place in a professional course.
Before we move into looking closely at the costs associated with these different options, you should first determine whether to study alone or not.
Doing it yourself
Whilst coding can seem like a complicated ‘language’, it is possible to learn to code on your own. You just have to go to Google and type in “learning to code alone” and you’ll see hundreds of results of people explaining how they managed to do it.
Learning to code on your own is possible in today’s world, because people are sharing information and tips online. There are coding blogs, videos on YouTube and a number of online forums purely dedicated to coding. Moreover, there are more than enough computer-coding books available. In the following sections, we’ll highlight more options for learning on your own.
The positives of learning coding on your own
Just like with any self-study, learning to code on your own has its benefits. Among the top ones is your ability to decide when to code. You won’t have schedules or deadlines to keep you busy. If you want to practice Java at 3a.m. in the morning you can do the exercises during your lunch break.
For certain types of people this ability to decide the pace of studying can be highly beneficial. If you are a fast-learner, you can learn the basics in a week or if you need time to process everything, it’s OK to learn for a year. If you roll into a course, you often don’t have the luxury of deciding.
Finally, it might be easier to learn to code whilst also working, if you do it on your own. Since you can schedule the studying around your normal routine and work, you’ll have more flexibility.
The downsides of learning to code on your own
But self-study isn’t for everyone, as it can be quite difficult to master a new skill on your own. If you are not computer literate, then coding can seem puzzling.
Whilst self-studying can be flexible, it does require plenty of effort. You’ll need to find all the study materials yourself, which will be more difficult as your skills advance. Browsing through forums just to find an answer can seem frustrating, especially as a teacher might be able to give a proper answer in 10 minutes.
Although certain types of people feel more motivated studying alone, others can find it less motivating. When you are not obliged to study, it can seem more enjoyable to visit the cinema with friends rather than debugging your code.
Taking a professional course
If self-study doesn’t appeal to you, you can enroll in a coding course. There are both online and offline options available, providing you enough flexibility to pick a suitable option.
Whilst professional courses tend to come with a price tag, there are free alternatives. There are online sites offering free courses, but your local community groups might also provide free offline study groups. The below section will talk about these free options in more detail.
You should also note computer coding courses aren’t just for the young people. It’s possible to find dedicated groups for small children as well as older learners.
The positives of learning coding by taking a course
The main benefit of taking a coding course is the level of personal information and guidance you receive. You’ll have someone to answer your code-related questions and guide you through each step of the process. You won’t need to spend hours at a forum trying to understand a problem, but can simply ask and receive instructions.
You’ll also receive constant feedback on how you are doing. This feedback can be important when learning to code, as you will progress faster. Not to mention the motivating impact feedback can have on your studying speed.
The fun side of learning at a course is the other students you have around you. These people will be at a similar level to you in terms of skills and you can get support and encouragement from the group.
The downsides of taking a course
However, enrolling in a course is less flexible than studying on your own. You can’t often choose from many options of timing and this can be difficult in terms of your work and personal life. While online courses can provide bit more flexibility, they still can have specific assignment deadlines or video seminars, you might want to attend.
Furthermore, professional courses tend to cost money. Although free options are available, the more you want to study the likelier it is you’ll need to pay. The problem is that not all courses are as effective as others. Therefore, you might end up paying for a course and come out with unsatisfactory understanding of the subject.
LEARN TO CODE FOR FREE
You also have the option to choose between paid and free options. The internet has truly revolutionized the way we obtain, share and use information, providing plenty of opportunities to learn to code without paying a penny.
First, you should find your way to websites, which offer free coding tools. The top ones to check out include:
CodeAcademy – Code Academy is one of the most popular destinations for people wishing to learn to code. It has over 24 million active users and it offers a stunning array of courses and for different level of skill. Some of these free courses focus on coding languages such as:
- HTML + CSS
edX – You might be familiar with the edX-website, as it has a range of courses available from business to history. The site offers students the option to take courses from real universities, studying them at the same time with other online students. (The option to explore the course material outside of the course schedule is often also possible, but there will be limited availability to talk to tutors or other students).
You can even choose to obtain a mark and a diploma for completing your chosen course. The coding courses tend to change, so check the website for current and upcoming programming courses. Some of the options include:
- How to Code – Systematic Program Design
- HTML5 from W3C
MIT Open courseware – The world-renowned university, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), offers some of its programming courses. In addition to being free, you can study the content at your own time. The courses available include topics such as:
- Introduction to Programming in Java
- Practical Programming in C
Khan Academy – Khan Academy is among the frontrunners of free online coding resources. The website offers a range of courses, which come with different materials such as step-by-step video tutorials. You could study courses such as:
- Intro to JS: Drawing & Animation
- Intro to SQL: Querying and managing data
Udemy – Similar to edX, Udemy’s course selection ranges from programming to self-improvement. The free video courses are aimed at beginners, so they are a suitable option for new coders with no previous knowledge. Some of the free coding courses include:
- Learn Ruby on Rails from Scratch
- Programming for Entrepreneurs – HTML & CSS
Aside from the above websites, you should also check out YouTube. YouTube’s introductory videos are a great additional resource for getting started and you can often find answers to some tricky issues on these videos.
The Internet also has a selection of blogs and online forums, which can help you improve your coding skills. Some of the best places to get started with coding include:
Finally, free tools are also available in the offline-world. Different community centers and local libraries might have a range of books available. If you are serious about coding, then language-specific books are definitely a way to gain a deeper insight into your chosen field. Some of the books you should check out include:
SPEND A BIT OF MONEY TO LEARN TO CODE
If you are looking to deepen your coding knowledge, you can also find paid courses and resources online. While the free courses can be a sufficient option for beginners, the in-depth courses often come with a price tag.
However, if you want official recognition of finishing a course or if you are serious about becoming a software developer, for example, you should check out the following paid options.
Again, websites are the best way to find paid coding courses and resources. You can find excellent courses on sites such as:
- Treehouse – The website provides coding courses suited for different needs. It’s a perfect site for business people, as you can also immerse yourself in freelancing skills and business strategies. The site’s fee structure depends on the program you select. You can get the basic courses for $25 per month. If you want to enjoy extra talks and exclusive workshops, you should get the Pro version for $49 per month. Treehouse offers a seven-day free trial for both plans, so check it out!
- App Academy – As well as considering online courses, you could even enroll in a coding bootcamp, such as App Academy. These are two- to three-month training camps, where you’ll learn all the secrets to coding in a fast-paced and fun environment.
App Academy runs a 12-week immersive program. The best part? You’ll need to pay a fee only after you’re hired. The fee is then based on a percentage of your first paycheck.
- Code Avengers – Code Avengers offers hours worth of coding material. The site’s courses teach coding in a fun way, allowing you to test your skills with games and challenges.
You can start all the courses free, to check them out for 14 days. For the later levels, the cost varies depending on the course and the course level. It typically is around $40.
- Learn Python the Hard Way – The course is popular among beginners, as you can get your money back if you don’t find the materials helpful. The fee structure is based on a single payment of $29.95, which provides you access to videos, PDF-files and ePub. This allows you to study at your own pace.
Please note that many of the websites mentioned under the free resources (Code Academy and Udemy, for example) also offer paid courses.
Finally, if your local library doesn’t offer a wide selection of coding books, you could simply invest a bit of money to buy the good ones. As well as the above books, you should also consider buying:
- The Pragmatic Programmer by Andrew Hunt & David Thomas
- Clean Code / The Clean Coder
- The Passionate Programmer
FIND THE RIGHT STRATEGY BASED ON YOUR NEEDS
As the above highlights, there are a number of resources and routes available to learn to code. In order to find the perfect route for you, it’s beneficial to answer these following questions:
- Are you trying to learn to code because you want to become a professional programmer?
- Is it something you are interested in as an additional skill at work or for your business?
- Do you just want to code for fun?
If you are serious about coding and want to turn it into a career or a business, taking a professional course can often be the better route. Furthermore, you shouldn’t be afraid to invest in the course, if this is your passion.
On the other hand, if coding is just something you’d like to learn as a fun hobby or an additional skill, you might want to start by trying to learn it on your own. You can always invest more time and money later on, if you find it interesting and helpful.
You also need to determine what you want to be able to code, in order to pick the right course and coding language. You can define your interest by asking yourself:
- Are you interested in creating an app?
- Do you want to code your own website?
- Are you looking to design a software program?
Find the resources that guide you towards your goals. If you are interested in app development, pick common app languages such as HTML5 and find a course covering this language, for example.
Overall, coding is definitely a skill for the future. If you want to invest in your career prospects or find a business niche in a growing industry, then the ability to code is certainly going to help you. As there are plenty of resources available, there’s nothing to stop you from gaining this skill!