As a developer that keeps on learning and is not afraid to go back to basics, I’ve explored many different online courses and online curricula pertaining to web development. From a compilation of experience and outside sources, I wanted to provide you with a run down of how each online paid (or free) service may help you and if it’s worth it.
You’re welcome to read my previous article on How To Start Being A Web Developer quickly in case you want a good rundown of what to learn and when to learn it.
Generally speaking, most of them are worth it, for their specific functions. Anyways, without further ado:
When I first started learning web development, Lynda was one of the most useful resources, mainly for the wide variety of course offerings and the fact that everything was video based with commentary. And also the fact that there were not many competitors at the time. Things were easy to pick up. Lynda is basically a huge repository of learning videos and instruction for variety of subjects.
- It offers a HUGE variety of courses, not just about web development. If you ever want to dive into the world of programming, you’ll have courses available on: web development (variety of languages and techniques), web design, graphic design, SEO, back-end and front-end. And way more. If you ever consider moving to freelancing, there are courses about running a small business, a freelancing business and much more. The courses can go from broad like “Programming Fundamentals” to very specific such as “Building and Monetizing Game Apps for Android”.
- All of the courses are based around videos. That way you get to see the work done right in front of you.
- There are several types of courses from product based (build your first website) to concept based (Getting started with OOP PHP). With such variety, you can tackle issues from wherever you want to.
- Outside of courses, Lynda also has “First Look” on new technology, “Documentaries”, and others.
I’ve personally used Lynda to learn PHP and tackle many of the Adobe programs. It has helped me in many ways and I consider a great starting place.
- The amount of courses can get confusing to browse through. They’re starting to mitigate how overwhelming it can be but it’s still hard to find an entry point for yourself. It’s useful to find a good curriculum or list of courses to take.
- Some of the courses can feel dated. The positive is that they have the updated versions (for example, don’t get stuck with Photoshop CS5 tutorial, check for CS6). You just need to look out and check if you’re watching an old or a new version of the course.
So what now?
Lynda is a great resource, it really is. I think that for beginners and for people that want to dabble in a large variety of technology, Lynda would be the best fit. Same goes for self-starters and people that want to be well rounded in the development world. Being able to tackle the design aspect of design, development, (even SEO) and the business aspect is a huge plus. Plus, being able to jump in and learn about Quickbooks, accounting, 3D Modeling, and whatever else is pretty awesome.
I would compare Lynda to a library: you can find just about everything there, you just need to look well for the best tutorials.
Team Treehouse has risen in popularity in the past year or so due to their modern approach to learning. While Lynda feels a bit more traditional with full courses, breakdowns, practice materials and such, Treehouse focuses on a clear path to a product and badge-based reward system.
- Brand new content based on modern practices.
- Courses based either on “projects” or “deep dives”. Deep dives tackle specific concepts, projects are projects. The clear separation gives you an easy time to either learn theory or practice what you learn.
- Focused courses on web development from learning the language to business. Meaning that it’s specifically geared to get you started as a developer in the professional field.
The positive of Team Treehouse is the fact that you get the feel of making a startup while taking the courses. It feels less academic and more hands-on than the alternatives.
- Limited number of courses. This can be a good thing and a bad thing. Lynda has ten different courses (for example) for Photoshop while Treehouse has one. This is not a quality vs quantity battle, however.
So what now?
If you’re sure you want to be a developer, this is the most clearcut path. By trimming down excess topics, Team Treehouse lets you dive right into creating websites, creating applications, and modeling yourself to create a startup. I’d compare Treehouse to a speed crashcourse into development, design, and little bit of business.
TutsPlus is a great website and their blogs on their own are awesome resources; however, they also offer a premium feature which they often advertise. They have a one month (no sign up) course for learning jQuery in case you want to try out their format. I never personally subscribed to them but I did find their various free courses useful and informative. I’m, of course, subscribed to their blog.
- Articles and courses about specific technology. Want to learn CoffeeScript? There’s a video tutorial for that.
- Courses range various topics of Tutsplus including AfterEffects, 3D modeling, and of course, programming.
I personally would not recommend TutsPlus to a beginner but someone who has a grasp on Web Development, it’s valuable. The tutorials are put together well and their programming conventions are up to standards. You can’t go wrong with them if you choose to learn CoffeeScript or whatever technology this way.
- Courses feel incomplete. Tutsplus usually publishes on new technology quickly, especially on their blog but NodeJS, for instance, is not present at all while Team Treehouse and Lynda has those.
So what now?
I think you would draw the best out of the service by going through their course library, finding specific topics and subscribing just to see those. You get good quality courses but, again, it feels somewhat incomplete. I’d compare Tutsplus to a specialty library that will have in-depth tutorials on specific topics but may not have some common topics.
Udemy is an interesting pick because it features a per-course payment system. While the ones above ask you to pay for time (per month, basically), Udemy asks you to pay for what you watch/learn from. The upside is the fact that some courses are entirely free. It all depends on the author. The downside is that you have to read reviews and star rating to determine if you want to watch a course.
- Rigorous single courses. Their how to become a developer course alone has 8 parts, each of which could be their own courses, to be honest. However, at the time of writing, the course is $200, several times over the monthly membership of others.
- No time limit. While Lynda and Team TreeHouse will cut you off after you stop paying your subscription, Udemy offers a “pay for it, watch whenever” system meaning that once you pay those $200 for that course, you’re welcome to come back whenever.
- Review/star system that lets you know which courses are the most helpful. If you can’t decide what to watch first and what to learn first, this can be a great indicator.
I think that Udemy is an awesome alternative to other courses. I’ve used it before to learn more about Laravel and it was extremely useful.
- The per-course payment system can be too much to handle at first. While with Lynda and Team Treehouse, you can just switch courses, Udemy does not allow that. You buy a course, it’s yours.
So what now?
Udemy is an awesome service. If you can front the cash and read reviews carefully, I’d pick Udemy. It’s similar to taking college courses, except the courses are updated and you only need to take what courses appeal to you. It’ll always be there to refer to in case you need to. For the sake of staying consistent, I’d compare Udemy to a bookstore. It’s more expensive to get the book you need but once you buy it, it’s yours and you don’t have to return it. Which is awesome.
I hate having to mention this one but W3Schools can be actually useful. I’ve used it as an intro to several different languages and as a quick reference. However, W3Schools is not an accurate source. It often gets criticized and rightly so. It turns out that a lot of people think that w3schools is affiliated to W3 consortium which is false. Anyways, watch out for those mistakes.
Coursera is a compilation of free online college courses. And it’s pretty awesome in that. It has a course on how to Learn To Program, Algorithms and other topics. It’s pretty great when you want to get into the academic portion of programming and development, basically learning the science. But I would dismiss it as a resource to get you started and programming right away.
What’s great though is that if you want to know the inner workings of some of the fundamentals, Coursera is the best place for it.
CodeAcademy, I’d say is more about coding rather than “developing”. Let me explain the difference. CodeAcademy can quickly familiarize you with whatever programming language you pick. This is great if you know programming fundamentals or want to quickly learn the basics for Ruby or what have. With their interactive interface, it’s pretty easy to follow along.
Worth a try for sure!
My personal preferences?
When I first dove into web development, Lynda was everything. However, there are many more options now, obviously. So if I had to do it all over again, what would I do?
- I would start with Team Treehouse. Lynda can be a pain when it comes to searching it and the alternatives are either incomplete and require me to put down more cash than I’m comfortable with. Team Treehouse will also lead you to your first few products and portfolio pieces.
- If I wanted a broader knowledge of subjects, I’d unsubscribe from Treehouse and get on Lynda. It has a wealth of info.
- For any specific either not covered by Lynda well enough or simply missing, I’d either get a course from Udemy or get a subscription for Tutsplus until I’m done with it.
- Then I’d unsubscribe from everything until the need arose again.
I’m a huge fan of online courses and am still on the fence about resubscribing to Lynda since it has a knack on releasing tutorials on updates (like their new PHP5.5 “First Look”) and whenever I’m doing something super specific, they’re likely to have a guide for it. Why am I on the fence by the way? Because I’m cheap
Got recommendations? I’d love to hear about them!