If you want to go pro and become a full-time developer, an intensive and in-person coding bootcamp might help you out, particularly if you learn best in a structured environment with real people to motivate you. However, these types of bootcamps are often the most expensive and time-intensive to attend: You’re looking at upwards of $15,000 for just the tuition, plus living expenses for a few months until you graduate.
EdX is another leading online-learning platform that is open source instead of for-profit. It was founded by Harvard University and MIT in 2012, so you know that you’ll learn about cutting-edge technologies and theories. Today, edX includes 53 schools. You probably can’t go wrong with the free Introduction to Computer Science from Harvard University.
When you reverse-engineer someone else’s code, testing each line to see how it works, you get a better understanding of the big picture. Thanks to the tons and tons of open-source code that’s out there, you can learn just about anything by examining someone else’s (flawless) work. Just remember to share your code back with the community if inspiration strikes and you improve a part of the program you were fiddling with.
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On the other hand, if you’re a mid-career professional looking to transition into a tech career, a short-term coding bootcamp might make more sense than going into debt for a second degree. If all you want to do is build websites or push your Raspberry Pi to its limits, a combination of interactive tutorials and free online courses might be enough to get you going.
Take a few minutes (or a day) to think about the reasons—the real reasons—why you want to learn a programming language. Be honest with yourself. Are you trying to learn the barest minimum to score a promotion? Are you looking to make a big career change? Do you want to create the next greatest app? Thrill your roommates by programming your various smart devices to do something awesome?
Do you have a smarthome device like the Amazon Echo? You can put your coding skills to the test by creating customized mini-programs to get more functionality out of your devices’ digital assistants. Amazon’s Alexa may already know many basic voice-command “skills,” like reading the latest news headlines, but you can teach her more complicated tasks by coding in Node.js, Java, Python, C#, or Go. (Or, if you want to start with something easier, try the simpler Alexa skill blueprints site.)