Online Courses During COVID-19: Programming Languages, Tech Skills

If you’re trapped inside, you might think about learning a new skill or programming language. Fortunately, it seems that a number of online-learning portals are adjusting their offerings to meet the needs of quarantined (and potentially cash-strapped) students.

JetBrains Academy

For example, JetBrains, which builds developer tools and frameworks (and created the Kotlin programming language), is offering JetBrains Academy as a free way to learn Java, Kotlin, and Python (which additional educational tracks in Android, data science, and front-end development supposedly coming soon). The gist of JetBrains Academy is that you learn by working on applications, broken down into single-concept topics. 

There’s quite a bit of material here, as well. For example, the Kotlin track takes about 25 hours to complete, and includes five separate projects of varying difficulty levels. The Java course also consists of five projects, and takes 82 (!) hours to complete. Then there’s Python, with a projected 34 hours of instruction across—you guessed it—five projects.

On a topic-by-topic basis, these three courses cover everything from code style and basic operations to environment and tools (with the inevitable variations between languages).

Udacity and Coursera

Udacity has long served as an online-learning platform; now it’s launched a program that provides free tech training to American workers who’ve been laid off due to COVID-19. These 5,000 “challenge scholarships,” paired with 1,000 nanodegree scholarships, don’t require prior experience, but require you apply.  

Here’s how Udacity describes the challenge scholarships:

“The first phase of this scholarship provides access to one of Udacity’s challenge courses in the various fields of programming and data. These challenge courses provide rigorous training and typically require a few hours of work per week for 2-3 months. Scholarship recipients in these courses will be trained on job relevant skills in the chosen field, receive a robust community experience with dedicated Community Managers; they will also have a chance to qualify for a full Nanodegree scholarship.”

And here’s the breakdown for the nanodegree scholarships:

“The top 1,000 students in the program will earn a Nanodegree scholarship to one of Udacity’s Nanodegree programs in a field related to the challenge course. The Nanodegree programs typically require several hours of work per week for 3-6 months depending on the chosen Nanodegree. These programs offer world-class curriculum, a groundbreaking classroom experience, industry-leading instructors, expert project reviews, and a full suite of career services.”

Meanwhile, online-learning hub Coursera is also offering free access to thousands of courses to those who are unemployed as a result of COVID-19, albeit through governmental organizations that serve unemployed citizens. That means individuals can’t sign up on their own.

“Coursera for Government is designed for government agencies to provide reskilling and upskilling programs for entire communities,” is how Coursera explained the program. “If your community has been impacted by COVID-19, please ask your government agency to submit their information on the website.”

Unity

As we’ve covered before, Unity (which offers a game-development platform) is making its Unity Learn Premium educational platform free for the next three months. If you’re interested in building games, this is your chance to explore tutorials, projects, and courses without paying a dime (Unity is clearly hoping that people will shell out some cash once the payment structure is reintroduced).

“Additionally, we are delivering Create with Code Live, live virtual classes taught by Unity experts for students, educators, and anyone who wants to learn how to code,” mentioned Unity’s blog posting about the platform.

Online Courses: Do-It-Yourself

Interested in self-learning? Fortunately, there’s a deep grab-bag of online courses and documentation that, when combined, can serve as a good introduction to a particular language.

For example, if you want to learn Python, Python.org should be your first stop, as it offers a handy beginner’s guide to programming and Python. Websites such as CodeacademyCode.org, and Codewars all have free online courses in coding various languages. 

If you’re looking for something a bit more academic in nature when it comes to programming languages, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has created the OpenCourseWare (OCW) initiative, wherein all the study materials of the MIT undergraduate and graduate-level courses are online (and free!).

Interested in Android development? Udacity has one free (basic) course in building Android apps. If iOS is more your style, check out Fundamentals of Computers & Code in iOS and Introduction to iOS app development, Xcode and Interface Builder.

Curious about artificial intelligence? Start with AI for Everyone offered by deeplearning.ai, then move on to Udacity’s free Intro to TensorFlow for Deep Learning (TensorFlow is an increasingly popular machine-learning framework) and Secure and Private A.I. If you’re feeling like it’s time for something a tad more complex, there’s Sequence Models offered by deeplearning.ai with the NVIDIA Deep Learning Institute (DLI), which focuses on building models for natural-language processing (among other modeling lessons).

For more COVID-19 content, check out the COVID-19 Jobs Resource Center.

11 Responses to “Online Courses During COVID-19: Programming Languages, Tech Skills”

      • Ramon Vazquez-Veta

        @Greg Wagner did you get the information you were looking regarding Telecommunication RF Engineering…? I would like to convert my hands on experience on the job training too formal online RF Engineering education.

  1. Wally Weir

    I would like to do this, but I’m not sure an “old Dog” can handle the modern programing languages. I studied and learned to program in 7 old Mainframe languages and taught Compieled Basic, RPG, Cobol and Fortran at the community college and local vocational school. Much of my career has been as a Systems Analyst, having done a couple of $9,000,000 projects at the UN, American Honda’s Intranet, American College of Pathogists Lab QC systems and a bunch of little stuff.

    I worked in machine language for NASA — so I have a pretty good understanding of how computers use programming language. I can talk programming with son-in-laws, grandkids, and their friendsd who are all have programming careers, BUT I am not sure I can learn the new stuff. My last consulting gig ended a short time ago, and I am having trouble finding work right now, so I would really like to learn something that I can do remotely.

    Thank you very much for your article and I will follow up, but I would really like to know anyone-out-there’s opinion about my likelihood of success. I keep thinking that computers still work the same insider, and good programming practices are still around (however, I have met many programmers that do not know good programming or how their programs function insider the machine).

    Any thoughts would be appreciated —

    • Wally,

      Don’t give up! You got this. You are correct, the principles are the same. You probably just need a minor “re-tooling” compared to someone who is a complete newbie. I’d work to identify the similarities between what you know and your target language. For remote consulting work you are probably looking at Python. I do information security consulting and the demand is still there despite the lockdown. Python is just one item in my toolkit.

    • Derek Emrie

      As a grad. student with Syracuse data science program, I will say, yes, you’re certainly correct…programming has and will continue to change. I learned BASIC back in the 80’s as USN avionics tech, yes a dead language but still teaches one “basics of programming”, ten years ago had a class in EET undergrad. called “Logic and Design” all about ensuring you initiated loops correctly, include comments as you write code, using CamelCasing, etc., really a good intro to “best practices” in coding. Now, with the abundant “object oriented” languages, scripting, etc. things are a bit different, and yes, “logic and design” practices are still valid but with AI and machine learning so prevalent, computers now actually program themselves, at least to an extent. Of course you probably knew all this, but the future is for the inquisitive, the innovative and the challenge makers…it is awe inspiring while at the same time can be anxiety building when one sees tech. changing so rapidly, when a programming language from 2018 is out of date in 2022. I guess the positive side, though there are many positives, includes more diversity in businesses, more inclusion for all, whoever has the skills required, and the strength and tenacity to keep learning and at least trying to keep the pace, or beat the machine (ok. Deep Blue beat the chess master, and Watson won Jeopardy, but humans still need to strive to stay ahead, you don’t sound like the type to let some machine beat you, lol (but indeed it is a high mountain, as always most don’t really ‘fail’, they just give up). There is a time to rest as well, good luck and enjoy all your days!

    • bellanoodle

      Echoing the thank you from previous reader. It’s a spark for those willing to dig a little deeper. Thank you for inspo and leading the proverbial horse to water. Now it’s up to us to drink;).