Grab for the Ruby: Eight places to learn to code

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We have NO idea what this is about, but you could with a little effort! via Facebook

With almost every aspect of life having a web component these days, basic knowledge of how websites and Internet tools work makes you very valuable professionally. More valuable than your ability to make those hand-crafted goat skin flasks that no one’s buying on Etsy, anyway.

More specifically, skill sets in HTML, CSS, Ruby, JavaScript or any combination of these come in handy not only for job searches, but for side projects, like building a personal portfolio or a comprehensive blog of your favorite cat memes.

If you’re a tech noob, however, staring and creating hundreds of lines of web code can be daunting. The challenge is two-fold. First, you have to learn the language and functions of a program. Then you have to put that knowledge into practice by actually writing code, and continually testing and revising of your work.

Learning the language is easy enough, but for absolute beginners the practice of coding is much more difficult. Because of the nuance of code languages, the slightest mistake, one character in the wrong place, could stop you dead in your tracks. It’s possible to work through this with a lot of patience and Google searching, but some guidance can help you come a long way, so we’ve dug up some options for you to learn to code both online and through in-person classes.

The choice of whether to teach yourself for free or pay for an in-person class is up to you. The free in-browser lessons will help you practice basic functions and build usable applications and games, and are of course free. But cheap in-person learning will allow you to ask questions in real time, without having to go through hours of Google searching and YouTube video tutorials, so if you’re the kind of person who learns by asking, you might be better off with paid classes.

Below is a list of education and reference resources you can use—without having to shell out thousands of dollars for formal courses.

Programs: JavaScript, HTML/CSS, PHP, Python, Ruby, APIs

Free online interactive lessons right in your browser that are ideal for people who know absolutely nothing about coding. The platform is easily accessible. I got right into a JavaScript lesson without having to sign up for a free account. The lessons sit next to a text editor that auto-formats for you, and every step is guided by call-outs for what to do next. There are also feel-good motivators, like the “good job!” messages for every little thing you accomplish, from typing your own name to adding numbers together.

There are tiers of learning for each program. You can first get introduced to the program functions then learn “control flow” later on, which is the order that you tell a program to do things. Once you’ve developed some base skills, you can create something, like programming a dragon slaying or “choose your own adventure” game in JavaScript. For practicality, you can also build a cash register or address book.
Programs: Ruby, JavaScript, HTML/CSS, iOS

Similar to Code Academy, this is another service offering free in-browser courses. The platform uses videos followed by interactive code challenges to get to the next level. All functions are completed by typing in the text box. You even have to type “next” to move to the following lesson. They have a very useful online course called “Try Ruby” where you learn all the core executions to get started. You can take one-off lessons, but to better guide your learning the platform also offers “Paths” for each program, which is their recommended course sequence for paced learning. Plus, there’s “Rails for Zombies” with zombie cartoon videos.

W3 Schools
Programs: HTML/CSS, JavaScript, SQL, PHP, JQuery

W3 Schools is a web development information site with free online tutorials, code examples and detailed reference guides—complete with tags, character sets, URL encoding, color names, etc.—across all the major programs. The online tutorials include a text editor where students can experiment, but W3 is better for individuals with a deeper base knowledge and a larger capacity for self-motivation. You don’t get instructions every step of the way; there is a lot more scrolling down and reading before you get to the next chapter (more like an online textbook). The reference guide has a lot of information, but it’s immensely more useful when you know what you’re looking.

Khan Academy
Programs: Web development geared towards drawing and animation

Khan Academy offers free online tutorials across a variety of disciplines, including math, chemistry, history and the like. You can take a general economics class or something more niche like a class about Jackson Pollock. As far as web development, its offering is tailored to drawing and animation basics. For example, Khan offers in-browser JavaScript tutorials for creating graphic animations. It’s good for multimedia artists, and people who just want to make cool art and games with computers. But if you’re after more business-oriented front-end web development, stick with the previous options.


Programs: Offers mostly HTML, CSS, JavaScript and Ruby

Skillshare is a community-based teaching and learning service offering mostly single classes in a variety of things like business, fashion and writing. The cost for a single class usually ranges between $20-25, and you can take web development classes through their Technology section. As examples, there’s a $25 online class called “Ruby on Rails in 30 Days: Build Your First Web App” with 12 self-paced video lessons, and a $20 class titled “Build a Website with HTML, CSS and Javascript”, which has 56 video lessons. You can also research teachers’ effectiveness with reviews from former students.

General Assembly
Programs: HTML/CSS, JavaScript, Ruby

If you’re a better in-person learner, General Assembly offers classroom lessons at their 20th St location in Manhattan. They have single classes on topics such as front end web development and back end web development ($30-150 typically), as well as full immersive courses that last up to 10-12 weeks. These longer courses are not cheap though, ranging from $3,500 up to $11,500.

For those who lack the funds and time, they also offer online lessons and web series. There’s a $30 lesson called “get started with HTML” and beginner-friendly options like the “Programming for Non-Programmers” series. You can also do more in-depth workshops, like the Ruby on Rails weekend course for $195.

Girl Develop It
Programs: HTML, CSS, Ruby, JavaScript, JQuery, PHP, Python,

Girl Develop It is an organization with branches nationwide. They provide affordable classes and mentorship to women who are interested in learning web code, especially with the help of like-minded women who can pass along their skills. You can take a single class for around $25, and the New York City branch recently offered a four-week PHP beginner’s course for $90. The goal is to empower women to contribute to the growing web developer community, despite the heavy male skew within colleges and tech companies.


Once you’ve learned all there is from online platforms and group classes, you may want to take it to the next level by seeking more personal help from a tutor or contact who already has the web development skills you want. That way, you can go over all your uncertainties and questions in more detail, one-on-one, with a real live person.

Sure, we garner hours of entertainment from reading “Missed Connections”, but Craigslist is also a resource for connecting with web development tutors. There are more legit tutor sites, but if you’d like to explore cheaper options Craigslist is more likely to have young design students and other hustling New Yorkers who can give you a run-down for less. A typical rate I’ve seen is $50 per hour, but you may be able to get cheaper by asking around. With everyone and their mom in New York having side creative endeavors, there’s a common barter system that has developed—like creating a logo for someone if they teach you how to do this one thing in After Effects. Just check references, and make sure it’s not one of those deals where you have to walk around the tutor’s apartment in your underwear.

Follow Abby as she cracks all sorts of codes at @Abby_Can and

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