RealToughCandy stand in front of door explaining best places for learning How to code

Learn How to Code: Top 4 online platforms for 2020

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2020 is here! For some, it’s just another year. For others, it’s the start of a new and exciting decade. And for others still, 2020 is going to be their year for learning how to code.

It’s crazy to think that only a few years ago, aspiring developers were largely limited in their online learning destinations. Today, there are seemingly endless options – a dizzying buffet of learning resources.

So how do you know which ones are worth your time and money?

Fear not, for today I have 4 worthwhile platforms to share.

This post contains affiliate links. I may receive compensation if you buy something. Read my disclosure for more details.

1. Educative.io

OK, seriously. Why is nobody talking about this platform?

Founded by two brothers who served in software engineer roles at Facebook and Microsoft, Educative’s secret sauce starts with the built-in interactive coding environments. One of the most frustrating things with coding courses is getting your environment set up – invariably, something isn’t working or the instructions are outdated and it’s incredibly tempting to skip it and go into video-consumer mode rather than active participant mode. But with Educative, you can get right into the learning and doing with ZERO configuration time, because the environment is built right in the browser.

Each course usually also comes with coding challenges, quizzes, code snippets and beautiful illustrations to reinforce the well-organized written content.

Screenshot from Educative landing page for JavaScript course


Landing page for a beginner-level JavaScript course

The other thing I like about this platform is the mix of course options.

Whether you need to learn JavaScript from the ground up, are going for the complete front end dev experience or want to dabble in Rust, there is a lot of variety here. For more experienced devs, there is an Ace the JavaScript Interview track that is packed with flavor to include courses on recursion, data structures, Big O notation and a lot more (check out my review on Grokking the Coding Interview). And because that track is geared towards JavaScript developers, all the code examples and environments are also presented in JS (a relief for those who are used to seeing much of that stuff in Java or C++).

Remember, Educative is based on interactive code environments, coding challenges, quizzes and readings rather than video instruction. While you will be immersed in many fun and valuable coding scenarios using Educative, it’s definitely not for those who prefer videos.

Right now they’re doing an extended discount for their subscription plan, so be sure to check that out before they jack the price up again.

JavaScript thumbnail art

2. App Academy Open.

A long-time subscriber asked me to review this platform over a year ago, and I just recently got to it. Why? Because to be totally honest, most of the stuff I come across online is a solid “meh.” I just was not looking forward to it at all, but recently I decided to take the plunge and have a look. And WOAH, was I surprised.

App Academy Open is a free, self-paced version of App Academy’s in-person bootcamp curriculum. With their in-person bootcamp, they’re super choosy; according to some sources their acceptance rate hovers around 5%. Graduates have gone on to work at Google, Amazon, and lots of other respected tech companies. But with the App Academy Open experience, you don’t have to get stressed out about whether you’re accepted or not. Just sign up and start learning for free.

This is a full-stack curriculum where you’ll be expected to dedicate around 1500 hours in order to finish it all (that’ll take 8-9 months if you can dedicate around 40/hrs a week). You’ll start with software engineering foundations, then go on to learn Ruby –– this is a great beginner’s language.

There are a couple of things I love about App Academy Open.

Firstly, the content is high-quality. Much of it is video-based, and the instructors are knowledgable.

Secondly, the projects are diverse and engaging and vary from games (Asteroid, Snake, Minesweeper) to clones (Reddit, Twitter), and even things like an interactive piano written in React and a JavaScript library modeled after jQuery.

JavaScript section screenshot of App Academy Open


JavaScript section of App Academy Open

One thing to keep in mind is that you’re learning Ruby as your first language (eventually they teach you Javascript too) and therefore you’re building some projects with that language –– notably using Ruby on Rails. While used for web development, Rails isn’t nearly as in-demand as it was a few years ago. Keep that in mind if your goal is to learn “hot” web technologies ASAP.

App Academy Open thumbnail art

3. Amazon.

OK, I know what some of you are thinking: “AMAZON?? That’s an ecommerce platform…not a place to learn how to code.”

On the contrary! Amazon has some of the best resources ever published for learning how to code. For example, one of my all-time favorite coding books is A Smarter Way to Learn JavaScript by Mark Myers. That book was a game changer for not only myself, but thousands of other aspiring developers. It’s one of the few JS resources that is truly geared towards “level 0” learners.

A Smarter Way to Learn JavaScript book cover


A modern code newbie classic

Aside from Myers’ book, here are a few others that are outstanding for beginners:

Granted, you don’t get the fancy in-browser coding environments or slick videos with books. But taking this approach forces you to be more active in your learning while prepping you for a very important skill you’ll use at a real-world dev job: reading documentation.

Books are still an excellent, efficient way to absorb information when learning how to code.

4. Udemy

How could I forget the one and only Udemy? This platform is home for web development courses you can score for the price of lunch. If you learn best with video instruction, Udemy is going to be your paradise.

Some of the most comprehensive beginner-level courses can be found on here. The most popular of them is by far Colt Steele’s Web Developer Bootcamp, which completely changed the landscape for those wanting to learn web development on a budget when it was released a few years back. Since then, a few other competitors have come along, and one of my favorite newcomers is Andrei Neagoie. He also has a bootcamp course that largely mirrors what Steele teaches, but has some notable variations. Check out the table here, but my recommendation is the Neagoie course:

Metric/FeatureAndrei Neagoie – Zero to MasteryColt Steele – The Web Developer Bootcamp
Runtime (hours)3446.5
HTML/CSS JavaScriptYes, includes Bootstrap 4, CSS Grid, ES6 through ES9Yes, includes Bootstrap 4 & jQuery
Frontend FrameworkReact + ReduxNone
BackendNode + ExpressNode + Express
DatabasePostgreSQLMongoDB
Capstone ProjectSmartBrain, a face-recognition app that implements ML (machine learning)Yelp Camp, a full-stack Node app featuring CRUD operations on campground info.
Student SupportTA on Udemy + highly active Discord community, instructor often presentTA on Udemy + Discord
Number of Students97,000500,000+

Neagoie’s Discord activity is a huge bonus and the fact that he himself visits regularly is testament to his investment in his students’ success.

This is hardly a complete list, but select any of these platforms and you will be well on your way to learning how to code in 2020.

Let me know if you decide to try any of these and what your experiences are –– your feedback helps immensely in the direction of the RTC network.

What platforms do you recommend for learning how to code this year? Let me know in the comments below!