So what exactly is code and what does it do?
Code is what tells your computer or phone what to do when viewing a website, app or other software. Think of coding as a recipe — by giving a set of instructions, you can transform a vast amount of elements into a visual form.
People who code for a living (or for fun) are known by many names. The most common are coders, developers, computer scientists, computer programmers, and software engineers. Learning to code doesn’t limit you to these kinds of roles, though. If you’re someone who doesn’t have a highly technical background, you may want to learn to code to create your own blog or online portfolio. By using a few HTML coding commands, I was actually able to change the appearance of this blog post.
where do I begin?
Before you commit to learning code, decide if you’re actually up to the challenge. I won’t lie — you’re not going to learn how to code overnight. It takes an hour or two of practice each day to begin to master various languages. Decide what languages you want to learn and what your end goal is.
You can pay to attend a coding school online or on campus, but there are also many free online tools available. The great thing about this is that you are able to find the best fit depending on your level of commitment and financial ability. Below, I’ll outline two of my personal favorites for learning how to code online for free.
general assembly’s DASH
If you follow my blog, you know I have a love for General Assembly. I discovered this educational community during my summer in Atlanta and have learned a lot from their curriculum. While General Assembly offers classes at 19 campuses around the world, they also have useful online classes, one of which is called “Dash.”
To get started, you create a free account, giving you access to five projects that range from building a personal website, responsive blog theme, to an online game.
Once you choose a project, Dash will walk you through every step of the process. Not only do they teach you the elements of coding, but explain why each element is important and how it can be applied to various projects. Dash charts your progress throughout each lesson and keeps track of the skills you’ve learned in a skills book that you can refer back to in order to find a definition or example .
On the left side of the screen, you’ll be given instruction slides and room to code. On the right, you can view what your code creates in a mobile or desktop version. As you complete goals within each lesson, your screen will light up with green checkmarks and you’ll have the option to share what you’re learning on social media.
My favorite part of Dash is the ability to create your own website or blog project at the end of each lesson. Dash shows you how to complete the assigned project, but also gives you the option to create your own version of the project with the skills you’ve learned. You’re even given a link that you can share with your friends to get feedback.
To sign up and learn more about Dash, click here.
Another commonly known online coding tool is called Codecademy. Pronounced “Code Academy,” this online education tool gives you access to a wider range of coding languages, including jQuery, PHP, Python, Ruby and more. With over 25 million users around the world, this New York-based company is another in-browser tool that you can subscribe to for free.
What I love about Codecademy is the different options given to you based on your goals. Immediately after creating an account, the software will ask you what you’re looking to get out of your experience with Codecademy. Depending on what you choose, you’ll be guided to various courses that will help you get to where you want to go.
Codecademy not only lists out various course options, but groups them by category. You can learn web developer skills, specific coding languages, or access 30-minute special projects by scrolling down the page. I also really like the progress bar that shows you your percentage completed for each course. Similar to Dash, the Codecademy window gives you instructions for how to code, but also shows the results of your code.
Codecademy also includes online resources like blog posts and articles to give you more in-depth information about certain languages and projects. This site is definitely for those looking to explore higher levels of coding language, but is still manageable, user-friendly, and fun to explore.
keep on keepin’ on
Don’t be afraid to share your code with friends or those in the programming field. With additional online tools like GitHub, you can make your experience collaborative by working with others to complete projects and goals. GitHub is definitely more advanced than the two previously mentioned tools, so I would recommend using it once you’ve got a bit of coding practice under your belt.
Like I said, learning code isn’t going to be an easy feat. It will take determination, focus, and a willingness to learn in order to accomplish your coding goals. However, it’s going to be a very marketable skill that will expand your career options and attest to your hard work and willingness to learn.