3 Best Online Classes for Women Learning to Code

Hugh McGuire and Belinda Darcey

Having spent many hours researching and trying out various online coding classes, here are my personal recommendations for women interested in learning to code. These classes are aimed at those wanting to learn programming languages used in web design, web development and apps (mobile apps and web apps). I’m assuming you are somewhere on the continuum of Absolute Beginner to Intermediate. If you’re more advanced (computer science degree or 2+ programming languages), you might prefer the iTunes U or Stanford online classes, as most of these require that you have some prior programming experience.

What makes these classes ideal for women?

  • A learning atmosphere that values collaboration and connection over competition;
  • a flat sense of hierarchy between instructors and students;
  • a complete absence of “dominant alpha” posturing;
  • an atmosphere of “no such thing as a stupid question”;
  • minimal use of jargon;
  • maximum use of metaphor to clarify abstract concepts;
  • friendly, approachable tone to the copy;
  • fun and helpful graphics;
  • images of women or mixed groups of people that signal that women are welcome;
  • a clean, elegant interface;
  • harmonious visuals.

Yes, women notice all these things, and gravitate to sites that invest in beautiful design and clear copy. Word-of-mouth via social networks goes a long way too.


Created by women for women and my, is it pretty. Sure to inspire women of all ages to take up coding. Beginner “Create Your Own Website/Portfolio” web design classes (HTML, CSS) offered online for women twice a month, limit of 50 participants per class, and a teacher-to-student ratio of 1:10. “Class lessons are taught via a mix of online interactive & video lessons, challenges, short readings, inspirational stories, and LOTS of collaboration.” In other words, lots of accountability and motivation from others. Sign up for the free 10 Day Skillcrush Bootcamp newsletter and receive a crash course plus a new tech term a week. You’ll soon be speaking like a pro in meetings (and at cocktail parties).

Cost: $125 for 2 weeks.

Codagogy2) CODAGOGY
“Each course, you’ll be teamed up with a small study group of like-minded hungry-for-new-skills women; this isn’t your typical online independent study. Welcome to a no-stupid-questions, intimidation free environment.” Mixed-media courses combine short screencasts with concise explanations, code examples, and exercises. All content is developed and tested in the classroom before it ever makes it online. University level instructing experience. HTML, CSS, WordPress, PHP, Javascript, MySQL, Git. Watch the intro video on YouTube: Codagogy in 60 seconds. Classes average $34 and last 2 weeks.

lynda.com3) LYNDA.COM
Online classes with an emphasis on learning front-end design programs. lynda.com enjoys a long history of excellence in digital instruction, primarily in Adobe (Photoshop, Illustrator, In Design) products, and now offers coding classes in HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP, SQL, Ruby, Objective-C, WordPress  and many more.
Cost: $25/month all-you-can-learn (like a gym membership) with a 7-day free trial.

codeacademy4) CODE ACADEMY
Online classes in Web fundamentals, HTML, CSS, PHP, Javascript,  JQuery, Ruby, Python and API’s (never mind that last one, you’ll soon know what it is). Based out of New York City and flush with cash, this is the school that Mayor Bloomberg famously endorsed. Sign up with your friends and learn together. Earn points and badges (it’s like the Girl Scouts!) as you progress to keep you motivated.
Cost: Free

coursera5) COURSERA
Take classes from top universities for free (time commitment of 5 – 10 hours a week for 6 – 10 weeks). Great structure (10 – 20 minute lectures, assigned reading + lab, group & instructor feedback). Coding courses are more wide-ranging in topic than a basic how-to, but also more enriching. Ideal if you’re feeling apathetic about your career and are looking for a change in field as well as augmenting your skills. Geo-spatial mapping, anyone?
Cost: Free

The rejects? Google University, (too technical for beginners and the course schedule is sporadic) Mozilla Webcraft (dependent on users teaching other users, so there’s no reliable quality standards or trained teachers), CodeSchool (has a distinctly boys club feel and zero info on the teachers).

Take what you can use, discard the rest. Happy coding.


WordCamp Montreal 2013 Book Copyright © 2013 by Hugh McGuire and Belinda Darcey. All Rights Reserved.


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