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Online Learning Tips for Beginner Coders

Are you new to coding and not really sure what it’s all about? Learn from Mari Bailey, iRelaunch's Operations Manager and her tips as she considered whether coding was the right path for her relaunch.

If you heard Becca Rosenthal’s podcast about her experience at Hackbright Academy, you know that a coding bootcamp is an intense learning environment for people who are committed to building job-ready coding skills.

But what if you’re new to coding and not really sure what it’s all about? During my career break I got curious about coding. And I liked the idea of learning coding via a structured online class that would teach me the basics and let me work at my own pace. I quickly discovered that there are a lot of good free/inexpensive online resources to learn; honestly, the amount of choices can be overwhelming.

Everyone has a different learning style, so you have to find what type of learning platform works for you. To get you started, here are a couple of online learning platforms that I have enjoyed:

Udemy has video-based courses in topics ranging from home improvement to art to coding. They have a large variety of coding courses so you’ll want to “shop around” for one that you like – be sure to preview any courses you’re interested in so you can get a sense of the instructor’s teaching style.

  • Pro tip! Udemy has frequent sales, so when you find a course you like, wait until it goes on sale when prices often fall to $10-$15 per course (just create an account and then sign up to be notified of sales). I’ve had a lot of fun trying out different coding languages this way.

Each course has a Q&A section; some instructors actively engage in the Q&A and others don’t. The instructors encourage students to help each other with the Q&A because you learn by teaching.

freeCodeCamp uses text-based and video-based instruction, and their curriculum consists of specific areas in which you can earn a certification (e.g., web design or machine learning). For my certification, I worked through a series of text-based tutorials and added my code to an interactive web page; I’d only move forward if I answered the questions correctly. Upon completion of the tutorials, there are several projects that must be completed -- incorporating the concepts you have learned -- in order to earn your certification.

freeCodeCamp also has a community platform where members share advice, feedback, and encouragement, as well as an active blog.

No matter what online learning platform you use, here are some general tips that I found helpful:

Create! Don’t get stuck in permanent tutorial mode. While you pick up concepts by coding along with the tutorial, the real learning comes when you create something of your own from scratch.

Start small – if you try to do something too ambitious from the start, you’ll likely end up getting frustrated. I learned this the hard way; it’s much more satisfying to build up to something rather than the other way around.

Make it meaningful - sometimes it’s hard to come up with a project idea when you have a blank slate in front of you…so try to figure out if you can make something that you’d actually want to use.…or just have fun – one of my assignments was to create a survey form. I decided this was a perfect opportunity to test out my new sushi product ideas...(sushi smoothies, anyone?)

Learn from other sources - supplement your learning by reading coding blogs and listening to coding podcasts. Again, there are so many resources to choose from, many of them with advice and encouragement for beginners and beyond.

Experiment! – Don’t feel like once you start a certain language or framework that you have to stick with it. If you love it, that’s great, but if you’re curious about other languages or frameworks, by all means try them out!

I’ll be honest – I’ve stepped away from my coding hobby since returning to work…but I know that it will be waiting for me whenever I’m ready to get back to it!

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