Learning how to code is an essential skill for anyone who wants a career in programming and technology. The most in-demand jobs today, such as Java developer, cloud architect, and data scientist, all need to know how to code. To help students build their skills, we've rounded up the best free coding classes for beginners.

In these free coding classes, expert instructors use real-world technology to teach coding languages like Java, SQL, Python, and Scratch. Many of the classes include fun projects, like building an app, developing a website, or creating a game. We also share tips on how to choose a class, so you find the one that's right for you or your student. Let's get started!

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How to evaluate the best free coding classes for beginners

With thousands of coding classes to choose from, it's easy to wind up in a course that's unorganized, unhelpful, or boring. Here's what to look for before enrolling in a class to find the best coding classes for kids:

1. Live vs on-demand classes

Live classes happen on a set day at a set time. Maybe the teacher chooses every Thursday at 4pm, or every day at 6pm for two weeks. These classes can be either online or in-person, but the idea is that the teacher and all students meet at the same time and place. If you miss a class or two, you often can't make them up afterwards. That said, live coding classes are ideal for students who want a consistent schedule and an interactive experience. Teachers are more active in live classes, so they can offer relevant feedback and hands-on learning.

On-demand classes happen at your own pace. The lessons are available once you sign up for the class, so you choose when to start, how often to take a lesson, and when to complete any class projects. This class option is good for students who need a more flexible schedule and are great at self-management. The downside is that without the structure of a live class, students may lack the incentive to show up for class or finish a project. That's why on-demand classes are best for fast, disciplined learners.

2. Online vs in-person classes

Online classes take place on the internet, often through a video platform such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, or Google Hangouts. Classes can also be hosted on the learning platform through pre-recorded videos and lesson plans. When choosing between online coding classes for beginners, consider how students will access the lessons. They'll need a good internet connection, a computer, and any software required by the instructor. The best part? Online classes can be taken almost anywhere, so it's easy to fit them into a busy schedule.

In-person classes take place at a specific location at a set time. Students have to meet the teacher at a local destination, such as a library, museum, or school campus. In-person classes are ideal for students who struggle to learn online or need extra support from instructors. They're also great for hands-on learning, although much of this is possible online due to the technology leaps in video learning during the pandemic.

3. Expert teacher

How long has the instructor been teaching and coding? What kind of projects do they assign? What work experience do they have? What do past students say about their teaching style? All of these questions are important when choosing a coding class, especially for beginners. Some teachers may take a more hands-on approach, while others may encourage students to practice on their own. You can usually find the answers in the course description and instructor bio.

4. Curriculum strength

Picking a beginner coding class for kids is different than choosing one as an adult. Consider whether the course is designed for kids in a certain grade or age group, or if it's designed for a wide range of students. Once you know who will be in the class, you can look at the lesson descriptions to learn more about the skills, homework, projects, technology, and time involved. Look for detailed lesson plans that highlight specifics your child will learn, as well as for curriculums that are designed by experts who have worked in the field.

5. Class size

Evaluating the class size can make it easier to decide whether a coding class is right for you or your student. Some classes limit the number of participants so everyone gets more time with the instructor for hands-on learning, feedback, and specific skill-building. Class sizes can range from 2 students to hundreds of learners, so make sure to check the enrollment before signing up. Typically, the smaller the class, the more time students have to interact with other students and the instructor. A larger class size is often like a lecture, where students listen and learn before doing homework or a project on their own.

6. Homework and projects

Speaking of projects, what kind of work are students doing in class? Learning how to code benefits from assignments, like building an app or creating a game. The class description often shares how much homework will be required and what projects will be assigned. Factor this commitment (and level of fun!) into your decision-making process when choosing a class.

7. Real-world technology used

The technology industry had a $1.9 billion impact on the economy in 2021. In order to contribute to that one day, students need coding classes that use real-world technology. Look for courses that use popular languages like JavaScript, HTML/CSS, Python, SQL, and Java. For kids, this may mean starting with Scratch before jumping into the more complex languages. You can also consider the technologies students will use to build applications, including email functions, game servers, chat applications, websites, and more.

8. Real-world examples used

Learning coding is fun, but it's even better when students can put their skills to use! Beginner coders can learn to design their own website, build a mobile application, create Minecraft Mods, and so much more. The course description should share what students can expect to learn and how they'll put their new-found skills to the test.

9. Time commitment

It's important to understand how much time students have to commit to a class before signing up. Some beginner coding classes are only a few hours long, while others last several weeks. Figure out how much time you have to learn how to code, and select a class that fits your schedule. It may be best to start out with a free intro coding class before moving on to a month-long course. You can check the time commitment by looking at the class schedule, number of lessons, and hours per lesson.

10. Fun factor

Coding is fun, and there are plenty of class options for beginners that show how cool coding can be through real-world projects, interactive lessons, exciting homework assignments, and engaging teachers. Factor in fun when deciding on a class by reading student reviews, trying a free intro class, or seeing what interesting projects students will complete.

Best free coding courses for beginners

Learning how to code is a great skill for kids who are interested in technology and may want to pursue a career as a developer, programmer, scientist, or engineer. Help them get started with these best free coding classes for beginners.

1. Minecraft Modding Intro: Code to Save Village

Kids who love playing Minecraft can learn how to code for the game using Minecraft Education technology. This one-hour tutorial from Create & Learn teaches students how to use Minecraft Education before diving into the basics of block coding.

Once they understand key concepts, they can code a series of steps to save a village, prevent the spread of a fire, and revitalize a forest using artificial intelligence. The class is designed as a introduction to Minecraft coding before moving up the Minecraft Coding Quest class that explores more advanced coding concepts.

Pros: The class is a good intro to coding concepts and empowers kids to learn through a favorite game platform.

Cons: All students should learn Scratch coding before taking this course.

Topic: Minecraft Modding

Ages: Grades 3-5

Expert parent review: "My daughter is learning coding through Create & Learn and is having a great time while learning. She continues coding even after the class has ended!" - Eliza M.

2. Intro to JS: Drawing & Animation

In this course from Khan Academy, students learn JavaScript programming concepts and how to use the language with the ProcessingJS library. Students learn with talk-through videos that allow them to pause the lesson, interact with the code in the example, and make their own versions.

After walking through basic concepts, students are guided through step-by-step coding challenges and a project about how to make colors and shapes using code. There are 40 talk-throughs, 35 challenges, and 9 projects in this course, and it takes about 15-40 hours to complete.

Pros: Each lesson has a project or challenge to apply what you learn through a real-world example.

Cons: The course is in-depth for an intro course, so students will need the time and attention span to complete it.

Topic: Basic statement syntax, variables, math operators, assignment operators, strings, functions, logic and conditionals, loops, arrays, objects, and object-oriented JS

Ages: Grade 4+

Expert teacher review: "Several of my students found the computer programming section, and they shared the gaming aspect with my other students. I love that they are exploring that area instead of other games." - Ms. Badger

3. Meta Engineer for the Week

In this Create & Learn class presented in partnership with Meta, students discover the power of STEM, and it provides a pathway for them to create a real impact in their community. Students will have fun learning beginner-friendly coding! Then they'll build a cool final project for a social issue they care about. Plus, they'll get their project reviewed by Meta employees.

Every student that participates will receive a certificate from Meta, and more importantly gain insights into what being an engineer is like and do something meaningful for a social issue they care about. No prior coding experience is needed to have a great time and learn something new.

Pros: There are no more than 12 students per class, so students get attention and interaction from instructors.

Cons: The class is designed for people who are new to Scratch coding.

Topic: Scratch coding, game design, social impact, engineering concepts, sequence, loop, conditional, variables, messaging, critical thinking, and problem solving skills

Ages: 11-18 years old

Expert review: "We had never used Scratch before, which was the platform we had to make the game...Seeing the growth in me and my team members and being able to witness such a change in a short period of time was really, really astronomical for me." Miriam

4. Intro to Scratch Coding

This free Scratch class teaches students how to use the Scratch interface to build a custom game. The class is taught by an expert instructor and held live online, with multiple timeslots. Students can see the programs other students create and collaborate to build their own game. It's an exciting intro to coding!

Pros: The class covers coding basics, with many students creating their very first program.

Cons: As a short intro class, students who want to continue learning will have to move up to the paid Scratch Ninja class.

Topic: Scratch coding, game design, collaboration, basic coding concepts

Ages: Grades 2-5

Expert parent review: "My son tried out the free class and he loved it. So, we signed up for the full Scratch Ninja class. I have been really impressed with my son's instructor. She goes above and beyond to ensure that my son and the other students in the class get a good understanding of the materials and concepts covered in each class." - Richard A.

5. Intro to Python

In this free Python coding class for beginners, students will learn the fundamentals of coding with Python. They'll use the block coding skills they developed in Scratch to develop text-based coding and use it to animate and draw with Python.

Everyone in the class create their own story project with an animation, which will be shared with the class and evaluated by an expert teacher. The class is 50 minutes long, so it's a low time commitment for students who are interested in learning more about a popular coding language.

Pros: This small group class has an average of 5 students per class and is led by an experienced teacher.

Cons: The class introduces students to foundational Python concepts, with more advanced skills learned in the paid Python for AI class.

Topic: Python coding, animation, drawing

Ages: Grades 5-9

Expert parent review: "The teacher was very clear in his expression and provided help when the students needed it. The content of this Python class series looks attracting to me. After the class I asked my kid's feeling about the class, who told me it was so much fun. I will consider registering for a camp or another online course." - Yuan Z.

Check here for ideas on free online coding courses for adult beginners.

Best coding courses for beginners

Once you learn coding basics through free intro classes, you're ready for a beginner coding course to step up your skills. While all of the following classes are paid, they offer in-depth curriculums, real-world projects, expert instruction and feedback, and interactive lessons.

1. Scratch Junior

Is your kindergartner a smartphone savant who may have a knack for coding? Help them learn how computing works with ScratchJr, a series of classes that teach a foundational coding language. Your kid will discover basic Scratch coding concepts and use them to create interactive stories and games, solve problems, and design fun animations. The live online introductory class is semi-private (2 students max), and the following classes are small group classes (2-6 students).

Pros: Your child will get to apply their artistic skills to create their own sprites, tell stories, and develop their math and science knowledge.

Cons: The classes are paid, and students need an iPad or Android tablet to participate.

Topic: Scratch coding, storytelling, problem solving, and animation design

Ages: Grades K-2

Expert parent review: "My girls have loved the Scratch Junior class. The teacher is very patient and the girls are really enjoying it. I can see their curiosity into coding growing." - Cassie H.

2. Programming for Kids and Beginners: Learn to Code in Scratch

Kids learn to code by creating fun games and cool visual animations in this online on-demand class. The course covers complex computer science concepts, such as variables and scripts, through games like Flappy Bird, Pong, and Pac-Man. It's broken down into six sections, with 38 total lessons that take 7.5 hours to complete. Since the course is pre-recorded, students have lifetime access to the videos and downloadable resources. All participants receive a certificate after completing the course.

Pros: Students can take the class at their own pace.

Cons: It's a self-directed course, so there aren't many opportunities to ask questions or interact with other students.

Topic: Core computer programming concepts, Scratch, variable, scripts, game design, and problem solving

Ages: 6-18 years old

Expert parent review: "Good group of projects to learn just about everything you could want to know. It moves pretty quickly so younger children will probably need some help." - Jim F.

3. Scratch Ninja

Developed by MIT, Scratch coding is a great way to introduce kids to computer programming because it uses simple drag-and-drop blocks rather than complex syntax. That means kids can focus on learning core coding concepts and logic, without getting frustrated with typing errors. In this series of courses, students develop computational thinking, critical thinking, and creativity skills as they learn how to code.

The small group classes and live video chat sessions let students interact with instructors and other students. Enroll students in Unit 1- 3 to learn all the core programming skills Scratch has to offer. If your kid wants to create advanced Scratch games, try Unit 4 as well.

Pros: After students complete the Scratch program, they can join the Scratch coding club to try out their skills and tackle new fun challenges.

Cons: This class is not on-demand so you can't reference it later, but you can email your teacher any questions you might have.

Topic: Scratch coding, critical thinking, problem solving, computational thinking, core coding concepts, and game design

Ages: Grades 2-5

Expert parent review: "My son is currently taking Scratch Ninja 2 and he is really enjoying every session. I love how every session makes his creative juices flowing. The instructor is an amazing teacher too. She is very helpful and very patient too which is a total bonus. I highly recommend this to every kid who enjoys computers and games and of course for those who like to think through creativity." - Charmain A.

4. Accelerated Scratch

In this live online class, students will learn how to use Scratch, practice core coding concepts, and build impressive projects. The class covers foundational computer science and coding concepts, such as loops, conditional, variables, and sensing. Using those skills, students create a project in each session—ranging from animations and games to graphic designs and storytelling. Students will be challenged to be creative and solve tough problems, while learning more advanced computer science concepts.

Pros: It's great for both middle schoolers and high schoolers who want to tackle more advanced Sratch coding concepts.

Cons: Each course builds on the previous sessions, so students will have to take the first units before moving on to more advanced work.

Topic: Scratch coding, storytelling, animation, game design, problem solving, critical thinking, and collaboration

Ages: Grades 5-9

Expert parent review: "My daughter is loving her Scratch lessons. The instructor does an amazing job teaching the concepts, checking for understanding and making sure the kids are using their creativity. She goes the extra mile by emailing us after each class with an optional assignment to take on a bit more challenging coding exercise and a great recap of the key concepts learned during the class." - Sandra L.

5. Programming for Everybody (Getting Started with Python)

Students learn the basics of computer programming with Python, from constructing a program to designing custom applications. The curriculum teaches how to install Python and write your first program, describe the basics of the Python language, use variable to store, retrieve, and calculate information, and use programming tools such as functions and loops. There are no pre-requisites, so older kids with basic coding experience should be able to complete this course.

Pros: Expert instruction from a professor at the University of Michigan, who has thousands of 5-star ratings.

Cons: The course is designed for university students and professionals, so it's best for advanced high schoolers.

Topic: Python syntax and semantics, basic programming language, critical thinking, and problem solving

Ages: 13+

Expert parent review: "Extremely basic but Dr. Chuck is so interesting that you never get bored. You can pass the course in a few days with minimum or even no programming knowledge. It's a good starting point for beginners." - SK

6. Coding for Kids: Learn to program with a Dad & Son

Join a father and son duo to learn the fundamentals of programming with Scratch. You'll learn about sprites, the code blocks that control them, and useful elements like sounds, randomization, sensing, and more.

Put your new skills to the test by building a fun game, with help from both Craig, an education technology PhD with over 30 years of teaching experience, and his son, Joshua, who's writing apps at 12 years old. The course is broken down into 33 lessons that total 2.5 hours and is designed for children, teenagers, and everyone else looking to learn the basics of programming.

Pros: A father-son duo provide a unique learning environment for children.

Cons: The class is on-demand, so students need the discipline to walk through the lessons on their own.

Topic: Scratch programming, game design, problem solving, animation, variables, randomization, and core coding concepts

Ages: Approx 8+

Expert parent review: "I liked the approach with the a real child having fun and co-working with parent. Also the whole structure were quite organised! Well done." - Ioannis G.

Try the best free coding classes for beginners

Ready to move beyond a beginner level? Parents can explore more free coding classes for kids, and teachers can help students put their skills to use with a free Hour of Code session. Before you know it, your coders will be itching to learn advanced languages and develop their own applications.

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