Or pay a fraction of the price if you want to certificate

Let’s get real — University education can get expensive. Or perhaps you’re contemplating switching careers but don’t want to spend 3 years back in school. You don’t need a degree to get into programming. The minimum pre-requisite is that you have the knowledge to translate ideas into code, and the sticking power to solve and debug issues when things go wrong.

Here is a list of 12 courses from top Universities that you can take.

1. Harvard X: CS50 Introduction to Computer Science

Harvard X is Havard but not Harvard at the same time. It’s an online extension school that costs a fraction of the price and is available to anyone who’s willing to put in the time for their various online offerings.

In addition to this, Harvard X also has more than 100 free versions of their courses CS50 being one of them. In this course, you’ll get to learn the foundations of programming and how to think in code. There’s no route learning involved, only understanding — which in turn, makes a good foundation course.

There are free and paid options for this course. The paid option means that you’ll get course credits to contribute to a certificate if you chose to pursue one. The free option is like a participation certificate that you can still use to show that you’ve done the work and know-how to code.

Here is a link to the OpenCourseWare site if you’re interested.

2. MIT: Introduction to Computer Science and Programming Using Python

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT, is possibly one of the earliest Universities to make their lectures available for free. While there is no participation certificate like Harvard’s CS50, MIT’s open courseware website gives the entire syllabus for their Intro to Computer Science course for free.

Another version of this course is also available for free with EdX — a collaborative platform where universities can offer up their courses for paid and free tracks. The major difference with the paid version is that you have a time limit to complete the course and you get a certificate at the end of it. Currently, the verified track with the certificate is $75. The audit track is free but there’s a time limit on how long you can remain enrolled to access class materials.

3. Princeton: Analysis of Algorithms

Learning to code is one thing. Learning ways to use that code in the most efficient way is another. An algorithm is a pattern that’s repeated to obtain a specific outcome. Some algorithms are better than others. Princeton’s Analysis of Algorithms is a course that teaches you how to make and use algorithms.

This course is available freely on Coursera. It is completely self-paced and you can start at your convenience. It takes about 21 hours to complete and over 60K people have enrolled in the course. According to the description — “All the features of this course are available for free” — but it doesn’t have a completion certificate. Nevertheless, it is still a good one to pick up if you already how to code and want to extend your programming knowledge.

4. Rice University: Principles of Computing

Rice University is ranked in the top 20 Universities in the United States and top 100 universities in the world. Keeping up with their peers, Rice University offers a myriad of free online options of their courses — Principles of Computing being one of them. It is taught through Coursera, takes about 19 hours to complete, and has the option of a shareable certificate on completion. Although, it is good to note that you’ll need to pay Coursera if you want the certificate.

This course is actually part of a set of 7 available that covers the equivalent of first-year computer science at Rice University.

5. Stanford University: CS106A Programming Methodology

Stanford Engineering Everywhere (SEE) is the University’s free open courseware site that has materials from their various courses available online.

CS106A is the course code for their Programming Methodology paper and has 28 lectures available for free. There is no completion certificate for this course but you can watch, download, check out the syllabus, read the handouts and do the assignments in order to get the feel of the University’s curriculum. This course uses Java as its main language and can be great if you want to get into Android mobile (Android uses Java and Kotlin) and backend development.

6. University of Michigan: Introduction to HTML5

This course is the first of 5 introductory courses by the University of Michigan that covers the basics of creating a JavaScript-based website. The curriculum is fantastic for people who are completely new to programming in general and lets you test the waters before hitting a full programming course.

Introduction to HTML5 contains approximately 13 hours of course materials and can be completed in a week if you’re really into it. This course can also be done for free or paid via Coursera. The paid version comes with a certificate. Other than that, it is the standard access to course materials.

7. The Open University: Introduction to Cyber Security

Open University is the largest UK-based university that offers distance learning and adult education. They offer over 100 free courses across 8 different subject areas, with technology being one of them.

Cyber security breaches are rife in the industry and having knowledge of it can help leverage your job prospects. Open University’s Introduction to Cyber Security won’t teach you how to code, not really, but can help fill in the gaps that are not usually part of a traditional computer science course. It can also help you become aware of potential risks you might introduce into your code for the user and how to mitigate it.

8. University of London International Programmes: Creative Programming for Digital Media & mobile Apps

The University of London offers a 5-week course that’s available for free via Coursera. If you’re an artist or someone who has an artistic edge and want to upskill with technology, then it might be worth checking out this course.

It is completely self-paced and will teach you how to write creative and audiovisual programs. You’ll also learn how to use a 2D physics engine to create a basic game. The course content is aimed at people with no programming background but are determined to learn.

9. University of Reading: Begin Programming: Build Your First Mobile Game

If you’re looking for a quick course that will help you learn how to make a game, then this course by the University of Reading may just be it. The course works its way towards helping you complete a game that can be played on an Android phone, tablet, or even your computer.

So if you’re looking to build that Android game you’ve always dreamed about, be sure to check it out. There are over 200K students enrolled in this course so far and the course is completely free and open to anyone who is interested.

10. State University of New York: How To Create A Website in a Weekend!

This course isn’t a programming course but is a good starter course for someone looking to make and launch a website by themselves. It’s delivered through Coursera, has 14 hours worth of content, and will help you boot up a blog over the weekend.

If you have no clue about code and don’t feel that tech-savvy yet, then this is a good starting point for you.

11. Duke University: Programming Fundamentals

While not an Ivy League school, Duke University still sits in the top 10 universities in the United States. Their Programming Fundamentals course is delivered through Coursera and is part of a 4-course series for the Introductory C Programming Specialization on the platform.

Although you will need to pay if you want to certificate, the course itself is completely free and accessible (with time limits). The Programming Fundamentals course is approximately 18 hours long and aimed at complete beginners.

12. The University of British Columbia: Software Engineering: Introduction

This software engineering course is available for free via EdX through the audit option. It is completely self-paced and will teach you how to build software systems using agile. It is also part of a Micro Masters series available on the platform for continuing education and for those who are looking to get some sort of official certification for the knowledge they’ve gained from the course.

While the Micro Masters track is not exactly the cheapest ($832.50), you can still have access to the course content for free. The only difference is that it is completely self-directed with no grading for assignments.

Wrapping up

Just a disclaimer that I’m not affiliated with EdX or Coursera. Some of the free course materials just happen to be on one of these platforms. They both offer free and paid-for options in some format.

When you’re a programmer, the learning never ends. These University courses don’t guarantee a job but they do offer you free knowledge that you can use to help you get one. Tech is also one of the few high-paying industries that you can get in without a degree. What matters the most is that you can complete the job.

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