Reviews of Websites with Free Computing Education.

Gorilla learning coding with a laptop
Just having a bit of fun with this image but seriously, have you realised yet that anyone (human) with just an average computer literacy can really self-learn coding and other computing subjects and even get a free certificate with some online education providers? You can start developing websites and web apps based solely on learnings gained from free online courses and better job prospects could open up for you once you build up your portfolio. By the way, you can download this image without the text on my main website.

You know the saying “Why pay when you can get it for free?” but for computing education, there are of course still many benefits of pursuing an academic computing education at a proper college or university. However, once you begin studying some free popular coding courses, you will realise why self-learning has been a viable option for many website developers out there who had improved their tech skills simply by poring through vast amount of online courses and being active in peer-to-peer learning and networking.

Even if you do not possess any formal diploma or degree in computing studies, simply proving to employers that you can do work-level coding could open up new jobs and career opportunities to you, in which case your professional portfolio will carry more weight in showcasing your skills. After all, in the eyes of many modern employers, their interest lie in hiring employees that are capable of doing the job without needing to undergo much training. So, if you can prove to employers that you can start doing a job for them on day one itself, you are already ahead of the pack.

While some of the free education providers listed in this article still require a fee to obtain a certificate of completion but bear in mind that any new knowledge and skills that you gain from free online courses is sufficient to get you coding some relatively interactive websites and apps and it will also lay a solid foundation for more advanced computing studies.

In fact, if you are thinking of joining a popular coding bootcamp, it will not be a surprise at all to meet fellow students there who already know some coding. Therefore, wouldn’t you like to be able to keep up with them by going in with some coding knowledge too rather than give them a blank look when they start chatting “techy”? After all, you may meet nice fellas there whom you can collaborate with on a project.

Even if you are still at the stage of thinking about learning coding, just trying out a couple of free courses might make you realise that coding or anything computing is really not for you, thus you may then direct your focus to other subjects that will better suit your interests and passions. Coding might be a skill that is in-demand now in many companies but it does not rule the entire world and it certainly does not guarantee anyone will get a job as competition can be fierce just like any other well paid jobs in major cities.

So, below are just some brief reviews of websites that offer free computing education which I do not have any affliations with. The list is merely arranged by alphabetical order and my reviews are based on personal experiences of having enrolled in some free courses offered by the websites. There is a chance that some of the information might not be entirely accurate by the time you read this article as market conditions really change very quicky these days but I hope it will help you shortlist your choices anyway to suit your own training needs.

Alison.com
  • Extensive choices of short courses in programming, coding, computer networking, operating systems, software training, e-Business, etc and the assessments are fairly easy to get a high grade.
  • You can re-enter the courses that you have completed anytime, great when you need a refresher.
  • The website underwent a major revamp not too long ago, so that’s a positive sign.
  • There are Learning Paths that help to give more structure to your self-learning journey.
  • Free study but a fee is required for the certificate.
If you do not possess any computing background at all, this is a good website to start with some less technical computing courses or even try an outdated computing course e.g. eBusiness courses, software training courses or the Microsoft Digital Literacy – Computer Basics course. This will help you ease into a technical computing frame of mind before you advance to actual coding or programming studies.
BookBoon.com
  • This is not a website with courses but there are many free computing eTextBooks here that you may download.
  • The website appears to be legit but do send me a message if you find any evidence that it is not. I will immediately removed any links to websites that illegally distribute copyrighted materials.
  • Fantastic resource for bookworm students.
Serious computing studies should be accompanied with a variety of computing textbooks even if many of the textbooks here are not updated. Some of the textbooks may come along with exercises, so you might learn more simply by following instructions written in plain text because you will be forced to experiment with your codes to get it working rather than have a software pointing out to you where your errors are.
CISCO Networking Academy
  • CISCO is a very well known global corporation with expertise in computer networking technologies.
  • Learn important computer networking topics such as Cybersecurity, Internet of Things, IT Essentials and Linux.
  • Free download of Cisco Packet Tracer software, a powerful networking simulation tool which you will learn how to use when you enrol in the Introduction to Packet Tracer course.
  • Free study and free certificate for some courses.
If you are serious about pursuing any studies in Information Technology, is there any reason not to get a free certificate from CISCO? One of the great things about starting your training journey with web coding is you will naturally pick up a bit of knowledge in computer networking too as both of these subjects go hand in hand.
Coursera.org
  • Wide range of computing courses offered by academic universities, including some by Ivy League universities.
  • Most of the universities seem to be from USA but there are also a few education institutions from other countries.
  • Global corporations such as Autodesk, Cisco, Google, IBM and Microsoft are in there as well.
  • There are some free courses but most of it seem to require enrolment fees. You may apply for financial aid though.
If you find a paid course here that you like but really cannot afford the enrolment fees, then do not hesitate to apply for the financial aid. I applied for it myself with a couple of short courses when I had zero income and they gave me full access to the courses without asking for anything in return. It was a generous gesture indeed considering it was just a very simple online application.
edX.org
  • Wide range of computing subjects to choose from, including some offerings by Ivy League universities and global corporations such as Microsoft and IBM.
  • Mixture of education institutions from USA, Australia, United Kingdom, India, etc but most seem to be from USA.
  • Many computing courses are free to study but the courses are only open for a certain time period. After the deadline, the course will be archived and still be open for audit and exploratory purposes for a limited time but the graded assessments will no longer be accessible.
  • The computing courses take 4 to 6 weeks to complete on average, so the student should be prepared to commit time and brainpower to get the most out of it.
  • Free study for many of the courses but the certificate requires a fee.
The computing education taught here by reputable education institutions are comprehensive and it will get you up to speed with some real coding. With that in mind, mature students who have never studied any computing before or have not worked with Mathematics for a while may find the teachings a bit difficult to understand. If this is the case, try going for less technical computing courses like those offered on Alison.com
Once you are fairly comfortable with basic frontend coding, I would recommend enrolling for the Introduction to Linux. Linux systems are embedded in the majority of web servers around the world as well as in many electronic devices we use everyday (a web server is the computer that makes a website live on the World Wide Web), so it is worthwhile learning a bit about Linux even if you do not aim to be a full-fledged technical IT professional.
FreeCodeCamp.org
  • Great website to start even if you have zero programming knowledge. You learn by doing actual hands-on coding in a virtual web software that points out your mistakes.
  • Topics cover comprehensive frontend programming that go beyond the elementary HTML, CSS3 and JavaScript.
  • Each level requires 300 hours of commitment and the assessments involve building basic web apps.
  • Free study and free certificates once you successfully complete the required projects which are assessed by a computer algorithim.
This is one of the most effective ways to get a totally free coding education with a certificate. With commitment of completing the coding education here combined with a bit of initiative to learn outside of the course, what you will gain in the end should get you to a work-ready level. Even if the certificate is not recognised in your country, you can improve on the web apps built for the assessment projects and then use the apps as part of your portfolio showcase.
Watch a video interview with Quincy Larson, the Creator of FreeCodeCamp.org
FutureLearn.com
  • The education partners on this website seem to be mostly universities from United Kingdom, Europe and Australia.
  • There do not seem to be many technical computing courses but there are some computing courses that cover topics related to eBusiness and digital literacy.
  • Many short courses are free to study within a limited time frame of usually four to six weeks.
  • Most of the short courses are free to study but requires a fee to get a certificate. Every now and then, you may receive a bonus to get a free certificate and unlimited access to selective courses.
  • Fellow online learners are quite active participating in the comments.
This website can supplement the technical computing learnings gained from other courses. This is also a good website to gain insights into the markets in United Kingdom and Australia as many of the courses are taught with videos and include interviews with local professionals.
Grasshopper
  • Developed by Google to help beginners learn JavaScript (JavaScript is one of the base computer languages used in modern websites).
  • You learn by inserting snippets of preformed codes.
  • Game like interface where you advance by completing puzzles.
  • Free study. No option for a certificate.
The learnings here are great for beginners who are not yet comfortable with typing in their own codes as the preformed codes will help you to memorise the syntax of the codes that need to be in place in order for them to work. There are also Android and iOS mobile apps, so you may continue learning even when you are on the road. Perhaps this app could be your company when you have to wait for that friend who is never on time.
Mozilla Development Network
  • Mozilla is behind Firefox, one of the more popular web browsers used around the world.
  • Very detailed web development tutorials mostly taught with simple text, images and examples of codes.
  • Mozilla website also published very detailed documentation that you will definitely come back for reference once you get into more serious coding.
  • Free study. No option for a certificate.
Mozilla understands that learning web development can be challenging for a complete beginner, and this is why their tutorials begin with explaining the basic concepts of computing and how the Web works from a non-technical perspective. As you go down the learning route with Mozilla, some of their tutorials require learners to build a small website from scratch, so absolute non-IT beginners might find that challenging or even frustruating when things do not work. Don’t get discouraged if this happens to you, just take a break and study other simpler tutorials before you come back to it.
OpenLearn – The Open University
  • Many computing related short courses, though the coding and programming courses seem to be at the introductory level only.
  • You can easily improve your digital literacy by poring through twenty to thirty short courses that teach a wide range of digital related topics.
  • Free certificate for many of the short courses.
Even if you do not have any ambition to get serious on coding or programming, improving your digital literacy will still be a valuable asset in any modern urban workforce. For those who aim to be a technical IT professional, this is also a good website to gain some knowledge on how computer systems work underneath the hood. Shifting to studying concepts and theories is a great way to take a break from coding and programming every now and then to keep the ‘computing’ mind fresh and active.
SoloLearn.com
  • Teachings are published in small snippets which is great for absolute beginners who find it stressful to absorb too much new knowledge in one go.
  • Courses can be accessed from desktop computers and mobile devices.
  • All major computer languages are taught here.
  • Free study and free certificate.
If you find it tough to understand the programming concepts from the courses that contain detailed teachings, try coming here to look at the codes again in smaller chunks. Once you are fairly comfortable with JavaScript, you may also come here to get a quick grasp of jQuery (jQuery is like a ‘side dish’ that goes along well with JavaScript and it is widely used by web developers to make websites more interactive across devices).
w3Schools.com
  • Teachings are published in small easy to digest snippets with simple examples.
  • You can also easily try running your own codes in a virtual web software.
  • All main computer languages are taught here including those commonly used on the server side.
  • Free study but a fee is required for the certificate.
This website will probably pop up quite often in the results whenever you search for a coding solution online and their codes examples are very easy to understand. This is also a good website to get a quick refresher and test out codes whenever you are stuck with something.

If you have studied any courses from these websites, feel free to share your experiences in the comments but if it was a negative experience, please try to refrain from publishing any foul language. Feel free to share too if you found a job or gotten a promotion by self-learning coding, so others will be more motivated to continue their self-learning journey.

Evan Multimedia-Programmer

IT Essentials Training for the Non-Techy

© 2019, Evan Multimedia-Programmer. All rights reserved.

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