Sergei Cherniaev

Sergei Cherniaev

Free Online Courses for Developers to Take in 2021

Navigating with a compass in Yosemite National Park

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

Constant learning is vital for almost every profession, particularly for software developers, so I explore and take online courses to expand my skill set. As a life-work balance fan, I prefer self-paced courses, and here is a list of courses I highly recommend.

1. CS50x

CS50x is an introductory course for the Harvard University students. And it is available for free to everyone. You will learn computer science fundamentals and try a few technologies and programming languages. There are a lot of problems to solve with the help of a large, helpful community. In the end, you will build a final project with a brief video presentation. After that, you will get a free CS50 certificate or buy a verified certificate from edX.

Pros

  • Free online course available for anyone to enroll
  • Self-paced, no hard deadlines
  • Cloud IDE for coding and submitting problems, no setup required
  • University backed, great content and production
  • Great community and alumni network

Cons

  • It can be challenging without prior experience
  • More fundamental, less practical

Why in 2021

  • All videos recorded for season 2021 with better explanations and visual demonstrations
  • New lectures on AI, Security, and Ethics
  • More hands-on experience with weekly labs
  • New Web programming section added with HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and Flask

How to enroll

Start from the course page https://cs50.harvard.edu/x/2021/

Or use edX platform https://cs50.edx.org/

Still in doubt?

Look at the 30 minute summary of the course by Harvard Professor David J. Malan.

2. Full Stack open

Deep Dive Into Modern Web Development by the University of Helsinki is a course on modern web development with JavaScript. It helps you practice building web apps on the MERN stack, which stands for MongoDB, Express, React, Node. You will cover such topics as fetching and storing data, state management, testing, and deploying. The course includes extra modules about GraphQL, TypeScript, React Native, and CI/CD. After completing the course, you can download a free certificate.

Pros

  • Free online course available for anyone to enroll
  • Self-paced, no hard deadlines
  • The course focused on full-stack developers
  • A lot of hands-on experience
  • University backed, good quality of content

Cons

  • Some prior experience in programming required
  • Have to setup a programming environment
  • Text-only content
  • A small community to get help from, only in a group on Telegram

How to enroll

Start from the course page https://fullstackopen.com/en/

Why in 2021

  • New parts about TypeScript, React Native, and CI/CD
  • Tech Stack is modern, even in the frontend world
  • Community contribute on GitHub every day
  • Chinese and Spanish translations added

Still in doubt?

In the end, you will have activity on GitHub, a portfolio of projects, all the buzzwords in your CV, and interest from recruiters on LinkedIn. Sounds good!

3. FreeCodeCamp (🔥)

A non-profit community that helped thousands of people start coding and get their first job as software developers. The curriculum of the platform is comprehensive, so you can start from top to bottom or pick parts you want to learn. For example, if you feel uncomfortable with the regular expressions, you can take only the RegExp section. FreeCodeCamp has a large community and alumni network. People help each other, donate to pay the platform back, and contribute. After completing all the exercises in a certification (about 300 hours each), you will get a free certificate.

Pros

  • Free online course available for anyone to enroll
  • Self-paced, no deadlines
  • No prior experience required
  • Several tracks from Frontend to AI and Data Science
  • Everything in a browser, no setup required
  • Tons of hands-on experience
  • Great community and alumni network

Cons

  • Text-only content
  • Some sections are stale, like jQuery or Bootstrap 3
  • Easy to feel overwhelmed with the number of exercises

How to enroll

Start from here https://www.freecodecamp.org/learn/

Why in 2021

FreeCodeCamp is constantly improving the curriculum. They started with six certifications, then added another four in 2020. In 2021 organization raised $300 000 for the Data Science Curriculum with Advanced Mathematics and Machine Learning. They are working hard on it and plan to release it in two years. I am waiting for this course for the Algorithmic Problem Solving section.

Still in doubt?

Look at the FreeCodeCamp YouTube channel – it is pure gold!

Thoughts about certificates

Knowledge and experience are valuable, but certificates are not. Employers do not care too. I completed paid certification by Google, and it gives me nothing but skill on how to pass the test. More important is the practice I got along the way. The only good reason to buy a certificate is to support an education platform.