computer in background with text that says learn how to code top 4 online platforms for 2021

Learn How to Code: Top 4 online platforms for 2021

Want to learn how to code?

2021 is the perfect time to start.

I think it’s safe to say that most of us are looking forward to a better year than 2020.

I know I am!

But whether it’s an impulsive New Year’s resolution or a dream you’ve had for years, it’s never been a better time to learn how to code.

It wasn’t always like this.

It’s crazy to think that only a few years ago, aspiring developers were extremely limited in their online learning options.

If you wanted to learn how to code, you had a few random YouTube videos, blog posts that made too many assumptions and cryptic documentation.

Today, there are seemingly endless options – a dizzying buffet of learning resources.

This is great news for aspiring developers, who now have so many excellent choices from which to choose.

But how do you know which learning platforms are worth your time and money?

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

I picked and organized these platforms based on the following traits:

  • quality of curriculum
  • quality of learning environment
  • price
  • my personal experience (I’m a web developer by trade and have literally tried over 100 platforms over the years.)

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

1. Learn how to code on: Educative.io

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

educative logo font with command line

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Invariably, something isn’t working or the instructions are outdated and it’s incredibly tempting to skip it and go into video-consumer mode rather than active participant mode.

Check out my video review of Educative.io:

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++).

JSX code snippet
Interactive coding editor on Educative

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, if you prefer videos you should probably keep reading on for a more suitable platform.

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. Learn how to code on: 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.

App Academy Open thumbnail art

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.

3. Learn how to code on: 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

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. Learn how to code on: 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:

🚀 Andrei Neagoie founded his own platform off of Udemy, ZeroToMastery.io.

💾 ZtM includes a very nicely priced monthly subscription that gets you access to all his courses plus exclusive content. Be sure to check it out and tell him RTC sent you!

Metric/FeatureAndrei Neagoie – Zero to MasteryColt Steele – The Web Developer Bootcamp
Runtime (hours)3463
HTML/CSS JavaScriptYes, includes Bootstrap 4, CSS Grid, and modern JSYes, includes Bootstrap 4 and modern JS
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 Students150,000+600,000+

In addition, 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.

Final Thoughts

Educative, App Academy Open, Amazon and Udemy are all amazing resources if you want to learn how to code.

If you like interactive courses, Educative is your best bet. If you want to learn Ruby while getting a bootcamp-style curriculum, App Academy Open is a good choice.

On the other hand, Amazon has books for every level and coding topic, from JavaScript to React to Python and more.

Finally, if you like videos, check out Udemy. In addition, a popular web developer instructor on Udemy, Andrei Neagoie, has started his own platform for a great monthly price.


Up next: Is Educative Worth It? A Face-Off w/The Other Guys