Top free coding boot camps
Some of the best ways to learn to code for free
Learning to code is one of the most popular ways of getting into the tech industry, but getting started can prove expensive.
There are myriad options available for new starters. For a long time, universities and apprenticeships provided the only viable route, however, these days, coding bootcamps have offered a realistic alternative. Although many of these bootcamps can quite expensive, there are some free bootcamps out there that are worth the look.
It's important to understand the computer science degree vs coding bootcamp debate before making a decision, as each route is designed to cater for different types of learner, however, it's certainly the case that you don't necessarily need an IT degree to get ahead in the tech industry.
Fortunately, free bootcamps offer a way of trying out a fairly intensive way of learning to code, without having to invest financially. The challenge, however, is knowing where to start.
1. App Academy Open
App Academy Open is the free version of the well-known App Academy coding boot camp. The paid, in-person version of App Academy takes 12 weeks, has locations in San Francisco and New York City, and costs $17,000 to attend. If you attend the remote App Academy program, tuition jumps to $20,000.
The free version is virtual and self-paced and gives you online access to App Academy’s entire curriculum. It includes more than 1,500 hours of practical coursework, including reading, videos, and projects; an interactive coding environment; and a community chat feature.
It’s described as a full-stack web development curriculum that prepares you to be an entry-level Ruby on Rails developer.
Codecademy is one of the best-known free boot camps and offers paid and free options. The free option allows you to access 180 hours of basic courses with interactive lessons and daily practice options, making it a good place for beginners.
If you’re unsure where to start, Codecademy’s website has a “sorting quiz” where you can find out which careers, languages, and courses suit your interests and strengths best.
You’d need to upgrade to the pro plan membership to go beyond the basics, but it’s affordable at $39.99 per month or $19.99 per month on a yearly subscription. College students get 35% off.
Coursera is essentially a virtual university with a vast range of free online courses taught by actual university professors. It has a whopping 3,900 courses and specializations. You can stream on-demand video lectures from instructors in various subjects, including computer science, data science, language learning, business, and more.
Although the courses are free, you have the option to pay for a certificate to prove you completed a course. These typically cost $30-$100.
Like Coursera, edX offers hundreds of free online courses across a vast assortment of subjects — all taught by university instructors. It’s an open-course higher-ed programme initially launched by a couple of big-shot universities, Harvard and MIT.
In other words, a business doesn’t own it. “We were founded by and continue to be governed by colleges and universities,” the program’s website says.
The computer science category has over 600 free courses available that you can take at your own pace. But similar to Coursera, if you want credentials to show that you passed the course, you’ll need to pay $30-$100 for a certificate.
5. Free Code Camp
Free Code Camp has an interesting approach that sets it apart from others on this list. After completing 1,200 hours of self-paced learning, you can create actual apps for nonprofits.
Here’s how it’s set up: You start with 1,200 hours of self-paced online coding instruction. Upon completion, Free Code Camp allows you to contribute to its Open Source for Good project, where you’ll get hands-on coding experience building affordable open-source apps for nonprofits. This is a practical way to build a resume and portfolio.
Free Code Camp says that, since 2014, more than 40,000 of its graduates have gotten jobs at tech companies, including Google, Microsoft, and Amazon.
6. GA Dash
GA Dash is the free version of a paid coding boot camp called General Assembly, and its online curriculum is hands-on and practical.
GA Dash is project-based, meaning each lesson has you do the coding for a particular project. This might be the only boot camp on this list that has you build your own Tumblr theme from scratch.
7. Khan Academy
Khan Academy is not exactly a coding boot camp, but it is a free program that offers a huge range of educational videos — quite a few of them about coding.
The nonprofit organization, which started in 2008 as a YouTube channel, is best-known for its short, video-form lessons. Its website acts as a supplement to its videos.
Khan Academy is built to serve students of all ages and skill levels, including kids and beginners.
8. MIT OpenCourseware
MIT is arguably the most prestigious tech university in the country, making it very difficult to get into. The admissions process is super competitive.
However, MIT has put its computer science courses online at MIT OpenCourseware, offering free access to materials from 2,400 courses. A handy way to search for courses is to hover over the “Find Courses” tab and click “Topic” under “Find courses by.”
“The idea is simple: to publish all of our course materials online and make them widely available to everyone,” the program’s website says. It’s not the same as attending the classes in person, but it’s the next best thing.
Languages: Nearly every language
9. The Odin Project
Although it has the toughest-sounding name on this list, the Odin Project is a welcoming place for beginners. Are you looking to start with the basics? You can log on to a free short course called Introduction to Web Development, which is exactly what it sounds like.
You can then move to Web Development 101 and move to more in-depth studies of different programming languages. The Odin Project designed its courses to be flexible and project-based. Plus, there’s an online chat community where you can compare notes with others.
“Not everyone has access to a computer science education or the funds to attend an intensive coding school, and neither of those is right for everyone anyway,” the Odin Project’s website says. “This project is designed to fill in the gap for people who are trying to hack it on their own but still want a high quality education.”
Udemy is a huge platform that offers over 100,000 courses on a wide variety of subjects, including coding. It has a combination of paid and free online courses.
Udemy is a useful site, but heed our advice: Be careful and do a little research before choosing a course. Before committing, make sure to read the course reviews first.
These are “community-created courses,” meaning anyone can create a course on Udemy. While many courses are excellent, some of them inevitably get harsher reviews from users.
Languages: HTML, Python, Java, and many, many more.
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