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Choosing a Programming Course Matching Your Purposes

selawsky profile image John Selawsky ・9 min read

Do you know someone willing to spend time and money on things that might not even work? So don’t I.

The same approach applies to programming courses. The truth is that there is no perfect educational program — when one student finds the course best suited and efficient, another one doesn’t take it seriously. It all depends on the goals and personal preference you set when starting to learn programming. So, how can you find the lesson that would meet your particular needs?

In this post, I am going to ease your pain and share a few tips that will help you determine what course is ideal for you. You’ll get to know what things to consider when choosing the learning website. Apart from that, to save you the hassle of searching for the best-suited course all over the Internet, I’ve made a whole list of penny-worth educational platforms.

Why do You Want to Learn Programming?

So, you’ve decided to become a developer, but don’t know what to start with? If I were you, I would identify the type of programmer I want to be.

Your intention to create websites and web apps will lead you to web programming, whereas making client software, like Microsoft Office, or graphics editor, like Adobe Ps, requires the skills of a desktop application developer. Provided that you want to deliver high-load enterprise software, consider choosing a distributed apps or system programming for your future career. Finally, creating mobile apps and games will require you to master the skills of mobile or game developer correspondingly.

Sure, having particular ideas makes your choice easier. However, I also know many newbies who are interested in programming, yet still have no idea of what kind. This is where I recommend starting with a brainstorm to make an informed decision. Ask yourself:

  • What do I want to learn programming for — career or general knowledge?
  • If a career is your choice, decide what kind of company you want to work for.
  • What coding language is in use in this kind of company?
  • How popular is it in other fields?
  • Are there enough resources to learn that language?
  • How long has the language been around? How many well-known projects have been built on it?

Answering these questions will give you a better idea of where to go next, while the following list of programming languages used for different areas is likely to sort out the details.

  • Enterprise-level server apps — Java.
  • Mobile apps — Java/Kotlin/Swift.
  • Games — C++ and Unreal Engine, C# with Unity Engine.
  • Drivers, Operation systems — C language.
  • Websites — JavaScript or TypeScript for front-end, Python or Ruby for the back-end.
  • Big Data, finance, trading — Java.

Things to Consider when Picking a Programming Course

So, you’ve determined the type of programmer you want to become and picked up the appropriate coding language. What’s next? Stick to the following checklist when choosing a perfect learning course.

Balance Between Theory and Practice

The theory is vital when learning to code, yet, is not that effective without the subsequent practice. Although many courses go one or another way, I highly recommend making an effort to find the program with an ideal 20/80 ratio, where theory takes 20% and practice takes 80%. What it means for you is that you will spend 20% of your time reading books, listening to podcasts, or watching videos on YouTube. The remaining 80% of your time will be spent coding.

When picking the right course, also make sure that it allows problem-solving and practical experience. Without practical skills in coding and problem-solving, you may experience difficulties when it comes to working on real projects. The ability to solve the problems lets you analyze cause and effect, understand hierarchy, debug, and refactor, which are important in the world of programming. So, when selecting the programming class, make sure it enables you to solve the problem on your own.

My other personal recommendation is to keep up programming 3 to 6 times per week. Choose a particular time during the day for that and stick to the schedule. This way, you can avoid burnout and won’t lose motivation while teaching yourself to code.

Course Structure

A good course is a well-structured course. It should be logically built, sorted by sections, and provide a benchmark aka curriculum map. The latter will help you keep track of your progress and see how many sections are left to complete the program. Other than that, make sure the course structure is in the public domain and everyone can access it without a hassle. If not, this should alert you — turn to the customer care agent for clarification.

Who are the Creators?

The best way to learn programming is to learn from practitioners. Except for the acquired knowledge, they have a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t, or what might work better for you than anything else. They have wisdom and you can gain insight from it. Thus, make sure the programming course you’ve found is created by professional developers so that you can become who you aspire to be.

This kind of information is not always available, but if it is available — this adds to a course value. The details about the creators can most likely be found on ‘About Us’ page or in the course description.

Additional Features to Put on List

While the course structure and its creators are important criteria to consider, there are also some optional features you should keep in mind when looking for educational resources.

  • Code validation. Every time you write code it needs to be checked to avoid any mistake or identify them in time. This way, you can learn from the mistakes and make your code cleaner next time. The most frequently-used ways to validate the code include checking by a robotic machine or by a mentor assigned to you.
  • Mobile application. Everyone who is on the move and doesn’t always have access to a computer will appreciate the ability to complete the course using their phones.
  • Development environment integration. Not many educational projects implement integrated development environments into their courses. However, it combines common activities, like editing source code, building executable code, and debugging into a single application, thereby improving programmers’ productivity.
  • Certification. Check if the course of your choice enables you to gain a certificate after completion so that you can add it to your LinkedIn profile or provide it to a recruiter during the interview.

Community

The path gets easier when you know there is someone you can rely on in moments of desperation or when facing problems. That is why it is important to choose courses with a strong and supportive community that brings students together. Check also if the platform has a forum, where you can get your questions answered promptly and seek help if needed.

Passing on a Couple of Recommendations

When you are just starting your path to learning programming, it is always a good idea to have someone with a lot of experience who will recommend a course to you. Today, I will be this someone for you and share some extremely useful courses that will take you from zero to hero.

Before getting to the overview, have a look at the table.

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CodeGym

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Meet CodeGym, an online Java programming course that will force you to write tons of code from the earliest lessons. CodeGym has an IntelliJ IDEA plugin designed to help you complete the tasks. It is one of the most sought-after integrated development environments used by many Java coders. When applying for a job, you will most likely code using this type of IDE developed to improve your productivity and help to establish a good coding style.

  • Course structure/ balance of theory and practice. The Java course is divided into 40 levels. As soon as you complete the assignments in the previous level, you can advance to the next one. After registering to CodeGym, you’ll access over 1200 hands-on tasks that need to be accomplished to upgrade your skills. This means you will dedicate 80% of your time spent on this website to practice and the rest 20% — theory.

Learn JavaScript

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  • Learn JavaScript is an educational platform created to show you how to learn programming in an interactive environment. It is suitable for beginners with basic experience in any coding language.

  • Course structure/ balance of theory and practice. The program is well-structured — you first read the lessons and get to solving the challenges after. Additionally, you will access 11 real projects, practical examples, and use cases to consolidate learning through practice.

Codewars

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Codewars seemed to set a goal to remind the specialists that programming may be fun and exciting. This is where you can master any programming language by training with peers on real-code challenges called kata.

  • Course structure/ balance of theory and practice. The site forces students to challenge themselves through katas. Only after you complete one kata, you get to a higher-ranked one. As long as you progress through ranks, the system matches you with the relevant assignments. This course is more focused on practical work, so is suitable for programmers with basic skills.

Codecademy

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Give Codecademy a try if you’ve been looking for a programming education resource for a long time. Here, you will find a vast number of certified courses, most of which are free.

  • Course structure/ balance of theory and practice. The courses delivered to the platform are well-structured and allow you to apply your learning with real-world projects. Apart from that, it enables you to test your knowledge gained at lectures with custom-made quizzes and challenges.

Treehouse

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Treehouse learning website enables you to learn programming, design, and other subjects on your own time. This is where you can master the skills needed for implementing different designs, be it applications or CMS-based blogs.

  • Course structure/ balance of theory and practice. The platform provides over a thousand shortened and practice-focused videos that keep you busy and motivated. To strengthen your knowledge, you get to accomplish quizzes and other code challenges.

freeCodeCamp

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The mission of freeCodeCamp project is to help people gain programming skills without paying a penny. Thousands of videos, articles, and interactive coding tasks are all freely available to the public. However, I would not recommend this resource to beginners without any previous tech experience — it is likely to be challenging for them to handle hands-on and project-based assignments.

  • Course structure/ balance of theory and practice. The practice is a word associated with this website. Here, you’ll teach yourself to code by accomplishing coding challenges and establishing real-world projects.

SitePoint

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SitePoint is a library of tech books, articles, and courses developed by web professionals, including designers, programmers, and product creators, for web professionals who start learning to code. The site is also known for its easy to use the search bar that quickly shows up all the relevant materials to your query.

  • Course structure/ balance of theory and practice. The platform is more focused on theory providing a vast library of books on frameworks, languages, and other tech projects.

Udemy: The Complete Web Developer Course 2.0

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The author finds it the most profound and relevant course on the web. No matter if you are at the beginning of your journey or already have experience in tech, it will suit you equally well.

  • Course structure/ balance of theory and practice. Starting with fundamentals, the course then takes you to building responsive websites using more advanced technologies, developing blogs and eCommerce sites with WordPress, and adding dynamic content. Like many other courses, this one sticks to the principle “learning by doing”, so you’ll complete website challenges at every section.

Final Word

When starting to learn to program, newbies often get stuck on choosing an ideal course. Given the fact that I have also started somewhere, I’ve decided to write this post to help you. I do hope my tips on how to choose the best programming course and recommendations of a few of them have brought you much value. If you find something not mentioned in the post or have additional questions, feel free to leave your comment in the corresponding field.

First published on Quick Code.

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