The best ways to learn code

The explosion in SMAC technologies (social, mobile, analytic, and cloud) in recent years has created unprecedented opportunities for those who can code. Indeed, programmers are the gatekeepers who are on the frontlines of the most momentous technological transformation in our history. Those who can code the mobile apps, the games, or the automation software of our digital world will demand the best jobs and garner the biggest promotions.


There are no lack of opportunities in software programming and development, and more and more folks are jumping on the bandwagon – either refreshing previous skills or changing careers and learning code from scratch. There have never been more channels available for learning code than present.


Let’s walk through some of the most popular outlets currently available for learning code.


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Codecademy is an online interactive platform that offers free coding classes in six different programming languages like Python, PHP, jQuery, JavaScript, and Ruby, as well as markup languages including HTML and CSS. The site is easy to navigate. Just click on the language you want to learn and you’re brought to an interactive window where you enter the practice code for each lesson. To the left of each window are step by step instructions to guide you through each lesson. If you get stuck on a particular issue, just click the “Get a hint” tab and a popup offers some help to move you along.


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Another option for learning code is through any one of a number of MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Course platforms, which have sprung up in the last few years. Udacity is one of the earliest and best known examples of this new educational disruptive space. One of Udacity’s signature courses is Intro to Computer Science, which since its inception in 2012 has introduced over 400,000 students worldwide to Python. The course links theory with practice by having students build an actual search engine using Python; the course was recently revised to also include the addition of a social network component. In addition to Python, Udacity offers a number of computer science and programming related classes.


While Udacity started with free courses, it has shifted to charging a modest fee for a verified certification process on all of its courses. The courses range in price from $150-200 per month depending on level of difficulty. Udacity’s newest innovation is the Nanodegree, which are project-based certificate programs that can be completed in 6-12 months for a fraction of the cost of a 4 year degree, a mere $200/month. They are currently offered in 4 areas: Front-End Web Developer, Full Stack Web Developer, Data Analyst, and iOS Developer.


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General Assembly


General Assembly launched 3 years ago with the idea of disrupting tech education. It has done this successfully by providing a college-like setting without really being one. GA offers a wide range of full-time, part-time, online classes, as well as local workshops. The model is definitely to offer computer programming, innovation, and business classes in as many formats and to accommodate as many schedules as possible, from 90 minute sessions to full courses. All sessions are taught by leading industry experts. For those who are really ambitious and want to make a career change into computer programming and web development, then General Assembly’s lineup of 8-12 week immersion classes may be your ticket.


In addition to all the learning options, for those who just want to learn at their own pace GA offers a free online platform, Dash, which teaches HTML, CSS and JavaScript through fun projects on a simple interface that is accessible from your web browser.


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As a result of breakthroughs in HTML5 technologies and video and audio online capabilities, there have been a flurry of online code bootcamps. One of the best online coding bootcamps out there is Bloc. Through Bloc you can choose one of five tracks: UX Design, iOS Development, Front-end Web Development, Android Development, or Full Stack Development (big focus on Ruby on Rails). The price is $4999 but it seems to be worth it in relation to the course content, mentorship, and guidance that students get. Bloc works on an “apprenticeship” model which means you focus your time on doing projects and then culminate in a “capstone.” Bloc also affords lots of flexibility for completing the courses; you can go with 12 weeks, 18 weeks, or 36 week sprints – depending on how much time you can invest each week. Mentors are assigned to each student and are available each week for guidance and Q&A.


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Tealeaf Academy


Tealeaf Academy is a highly regarded professional online coding bootcamp, but is distinct in that it focuses on Ruby on Rails. The curriculum centers on 3 main courses that are 4 + 4 + 8 weeks and $475 + $610 + $1485 – so the pricing option is cheaper than Bloc. The first 4 week course is called “Intro to Ruby and Web Development,” the second 4 week course is “Rapid Prototyping and Ruby on Rails,” and the last 8 week course is “Build Robust and Production Quality Applications.” Instead of doing multiple projects and a final capstone, Tealeaf students focus on one major project in each of the 3 courses. And instead of mentors, Tealeaf employs a global corp of teaching assistants that are available to answer questions at any time.


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Thinkful is another online coding bootcamps that gets a lot of attention. It offers a Front-End Course, iOS Course, Python Course, Rails Course, and Angular Course. These courses run 3 months and are $500/month for a total of $1500 (except for the Front End course, which is $300/month). Students are expected to allow 10-12 hours a week for learning and are supported along the way with a dedicated mentorship model. Students are also placed in skill groups with other students learning the same subject. One potential drawback is that while Thinkful has done a good job of developing a structured curriculum, most of its lessons are not unique but are curated materials drawn from CodeSchool and CodeCademy.


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