5 Ways You Can Learn to Code for Free

At New Relic, we have a passion for helping developers build truly incredibly technology. The right app can not only solve a pressing community need, but it can fundamentally change the way we interact with technology and pave the way for future innovation. There’s so much potential, but some say the tech sector hasn’t quite fulfilled it. We need more makers, from more diverse backgrounds, solving more important problems.

Our president seems to think so too. To kick off the Hour of Code for Computer Science Education Week this Monday, Obama called on every American to learn code. That’s all well and good, you say, but how am I going to do that? Free time is hard to find, and there isn’t much left over for tuition fees once the bills are payed.

Luckily for you, the free internet and code are two peas in a pod. There are so many resources out there if you’d like to dip your toe into programming, no matter what learning style suits you best. Here are a few paths to consider, with some of our favorite resources for each.

1. Take an online tutorial

codeacademyNo idea where to begin? Terrified of diving right in when you have no idea what you’re doing? Try a tutorial that wont overwhelm you right out of the gates. Codeacademy lets you write and run code right in your web browser, and have fun doing it. There are tutorials in six programming languages, and also in HTML and CSS for those learning web basics. The platform is extremely interactive, and also includes plenty of review checkpoints and manageable projects where you can put new skills to work. A favorite for people just starting out.

2. Read a free e-Book

IHbOHIf you’ve been wanting to dive deep into a particular language and find yourself unchallenged by tutorials that hold back on practical context, try Zed Shaw’s Learn Code the Hard Way books. They’re all available for free if you stick to the HTML versions. (Hint: Before you start, it’s worth going through his Command Line Crashcourse.) It’s not called “the hard way” for nothing, but with discipline (and an appreciation for offbeat humor) you’ll go far.

3. Take an online course

mit-open-coursewareIf you always learned your best in school, there are still a lot of online options in more tradition formats. Many university courses have been made available for free on for-profit sites like Udacity and Coursera. Another killer resource is MIT’s OpenCourseWare, where you can find detailed programming coursework, and even join study groups online.

4. Attend a local mentorship event

Girls-Who-CodeSometimes immersion works best to kick yourself into gear. If you live in an area with a rich developer community, chances are there will be a nearby event or program where volunteers help teach newcomers the ropes. Many are geared towards getting underrepresented demographics into computer science. Girls Who Code, as well as language-specific PyLadies and Rails Girls, are excellent programs for women. Oftentimes meetups with code workshops will have plenty of people willing to help you out if you’re new to programming. These events are great for those who learn best with some extra social support.

5. Hit up an online developer community

Mozilla-Developer-NetworkOftentimes developers themselves will aggregate the best demos, tutorials and guides out there. The Mozilla Developer Network is particularly full of excellent learning resources. Once you’re further along and have begun to to write working code, places like exercism.io will let you put solutions to programming exercises up for feedback and peer review.

Get involved!

If you’re serious about breaking into tech and want to meet a bunch of people, take a look at nearby conferences to see if they have scholarships that will cover your ticket. Our scholarship recipients at FutureStack13, our recent user conference, had a blast and were able to connect with professionals from every corner of the tech industry.

The most important thing to remember while you learn to code is to have fun. Build things that you find interesting or useful, and forge relationships with fellow students and developers along the way. Now what are you waiting for?

Thea is New Relic's Online Community and Developer Relations Manager View posts by .

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