Are you interested in entering the exciting world of technology as a programmer or developer? Maybe you want to write the code to a ground-breaking new app or to a website that drives a successful online business?
Whether you want to code for fun or plan a career in the world of programming... to learn to code basics can be tricky, especially if you don’t know where to start. It’s also quite an expensive undertaking to complete a degree in computer science if you still have doubts whether this is the right career for you.
Are you keen to try your hand at coding to just see whether you are a natural?
Superprof did all the browsing to get you started and the great news is you can learn coding for beginners, for free. This article will explore MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), give you a variety of options where you can explore various programming languages and we touch on how you can further your studies towards a comprehensive computer science qualification.
MOOCs and Getting Started
The terms programmer, coder or developer are used interchangeably, but these are all slightly different. Coding is the binary language used to ask a program, software or computer to perform specific actions. Developers will look at the overall scope of the project including testing, design optimisation and requirements as they manage how everything fits into each other to create a customer-friendly user-flow and interface, while programmers only work on the code of a specific step of a program and platform.
If you choose to become a coding expert, you’ll probably work as part of a team where you do programming under the guidance of a senior developer. Regardless of the route you choose, you have to learn to code basics while you delve into the ever-evolving world of programming.
Just knowing your reasons for wanting to code will also help with your selection of the coding languages you need to learn. Various industries use different code and the code for a website, as example, is different to the code required for a new software programme.
Covid-19 has influenced our lives across the globe, but it also made online studies and qualifications a lot more prominent and accessible. Multiple international MOOCs offer short single courses where you can learn to code for free.
Here are five of the most popular MOOCs with programming and coding courses:
MOOCs will host and sell courses created by universities or topic experts and a short ‘trial’ course will allow you to test the quality before enrolling in a more advanced, paid course.
You'll be able to find a solution to almost any coding challenge online with websites, tutorial videos, articles and resources abound. We recommend that you first start with the basics and by having a clear goal in mind you can research and find short, medium or long-term courses that’s suited to any student's needs.
Read about some of the best websites for learning to code in this article.
Different Coding Languages to Learn
A software application or platform will operate by using a specific programming language. Learning to speak the language of the applications or industry you plan to enter will thus ensure you study a code that will be beneficial for your future plans.
The most common programming language is Java and most online education platforms will offer a course in this. It is the language used for internet-based applications and is considered as ‘easy’ in the world of development and coding.
Python is a more ‘general’ coding language which makes it useful in the development of programs and coding that might be removed from web development. It’s also considered less complicated than other programming languages and considered to be easier for beginners to learn. Python will be useful to people who plan to further their study in data science, back-end development or software development. It’s used for online business start-ups, general web development, and even in the Fintech industry.
Lastly, understanding data is part of any data science program and any programmer who wants to learn to code will by default develop a basic understanding of programs like MySQL.
Free Short-Term Courses: Learn Coding for Beginners
Finding a shorter, free course on one of the recommended MOOC’s is the easiest way to start your coding journey. This will allow you to try it out and test whether you actually enjoy the experience of learning to code.
A short term course is really helpful in exploring the various types of code as they generally provide an overview on how the code will be used. Here are some of our favourite options:
- Code Yourself! An Introduction to Programming (Coursera)
- Build Your First Web Pages with HTML and CSS (OpenClassrooms)
- Python Basics for Data Science by IBM (EdX)
- Introduction to Programming with Python and Java Specialisation by Penn University (Coursera)
These courses are free, but if you require a certificate to proof your compliance you’ll sometimes have to pay to get this, a useful addition to your LinkedIn profile. In doing a free course you can establish the following:
- Whether you like the course content, instructors and how courses are laid out
- Whether it's suited to your level of experience
- Whether you like coding and if so migrate to a specific coding language
- It’ll provide you with clues to establish whether you enjoy and are more suited for general programming, Data Science, Artificial Intelligence or development
Course Programs: Learn Programming in a Specific Code
Maybe you have already done a bit of research and know exactly which coding language you want to learn? Doing a course or program that specialises in your selected field, like some of the below examples, will allow you to delve deeper and slowly become a specialist.
- Java Programming: Complete Beginner to Advanced (Udemy)
- Intro to iOS App Development with Swift (Udacity)
- Data Science with Python – University of Cape Town (GetSmarter.com)
- Learn Python 3 (Codecademy)
Unfortunately, you get what you pay for … The best courses are usually offered by respected universities and comes at a cost.
If you are more of a ‘local is lekker’ person, then you can browse getsmarter.com for great data analysis, data science and programming courses from our own University of Cape Town.
Long-Term Coding: A Career in Programming or Development
Are you ready to commit to a career in Technology?
International degree programs are now also available for South Africans online. If you have a stable internet connection, English proficiency, the necessary funds and time you can walk away with a degree from one of the following international Universities (to mention a few):
- Computer Science by The University of London (Coursera)
- Master of Applied Data Science by Arizona State University (Coursera)
- Bachelor of Science in Full Stack Development by the European Leadership University
If you prefer to study at one of South Africa’s universities, you can do a correspondence degree through Unisa, a Computer Science degree with the University of Pretoria or enrol at one of Mzanzi’s universities that is ranked among the top 500 of the world.
Practice Code with a Private Tutor
You can have the best qualification in the world, unfortunately this will go to waste if you don’t know how to apply your ‘academic’ knowledge to real life programming problems. This is what separates a graduate from a successful employee, their ability to implement their learning and solve problems or create solutions through their coding.
Fortunately, a lot of tertiary institutions have adapted their learning curriculums to include practical application for their students, but be sure you evaluate this aspect carefully before investing time and money in a coding course.
If you are, however, already enrolled in a program or trying to find ways to apply your skills or solve glitches in your coding, a personal tutor can not only help you with relevant exercises and tutorials. They can also work-out a study plan that can supplement your current studies or create a personal customised course for the programming language you want to learn.
You can book regular check-ins at a time that suits both of you, allowing you to work at your own pace and study schedules. Face-to-face tutorials, online classes or group classes are all different ways to get the tutorials you need.
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