Online Computer Programming Courses

June 27, 2022 • 6 Min Read

None of today’s advanced smartphones, sleek tablets or powerful laptops would be around today without the hard work of computer programmers. Online computer programming courses offer individuals the opportunity to learn everything they need to know to create the programs that run today's technology. Different from online degrees, these courses can be taken individually and are designed for budding programmers and professionals alike. For more information about specific online programming courses, use this guide to find online programming classes and learn about the tools necessary to succeed in these online programs.

Search for Online Computer Programming Classes

With so many options for online computer programming courses, it can be difficult to figure out which class will best meet your particular needs and skill level. The following search tool allows prospective students to narrow down a manageable list of potential classes by filtering online course options based on cost, institution and time to complete.

Top Online Programs

Options for Online Computer Programming Courses

Deciding which type of online computer programming course will be a best fit depends on the student’s end goal. Some students want to work their way through a two- or four-year degree, while others want to earn the certificates they need to start in entry-level work. Others want to pursue graduate studies, while there are those who aren’t seeking a degree or diploma, and simply want the information they can garner from computer programming courses. Here’s more detail on the various paths a student might take.

  • Certificate

    Description: A certificate course provides a form of credentials for those who complete it. This is important for computer programming, given how the technology industry places significant emphasis on professional training in addition to formal degrees.

    Who takes this type of course: Professionals looking to add to their areas of expertise, as well as recent graduates looking to improve their marketability in the computer programming field.

  • For-Credit

    Description: For-credit programs can offer a wide range of classes, from vocational to theoretical. Because for-credit courses count toward a degree, they are more likely to be theory and foundation-oriented.

    Who takes this type of course: Students who are currently enrolled in a degree granting program are most likely to take for-credit online courses.

  • Informational

    Description: Information courses are offered purely for the learning experience and can cover any topic. Because no credentials or course credits are obtained, information classes can often be taken for free.

    Who takes this type of course: Informational courses are great to anyone who wants to learn about a subject without enrolling in a formal school or program.

Spotlight: Top 10 Online Computer Programming Courses

With such a variety of computer programming courses available online, it’s important for prospective students to hone in on the best classes out there. The following list is just a small sampling of the many high-quality computer programming classes that are available online from various sources.

  • Programming for Everybody (Getting Started with Python)

    Offered by: Coursera
    Price: $79
    Length: 7 weeks
    Format: Video lectures, quizzes and programming exercises
    Eligible for college credit? No

    As the name implies, Programming for Everybody is an introductory course that requires no prior programming experience. Incoming students should have some general computer knowledge and a basic understanding of mathematics. This course uses the Python programming language to teach students the basics of creating a computer program.

  • How to Make an IOS App

    Offered by: Udacity
    Price: Free
    Length: 12 weeks
    Format: Instructor videos and exercises
    Eligible for college credit? No

    This advanced course teaches students how to create an app for iOS devices. Instruction will cover everything from creative development to selling the app in the Apple App Store. Students interested in this course should have a fundamental understanding of app development before enrolling.

  • Software Testing: How to Make Software Fail

    Offered by: Udacity
    Price: Free
    Length: 4 weeks
    Format: Instructor videos and exercises
    Eligible for college credit? No

    This is an intermediate course for students with some programming experience. The goal is to teach programmers how to design better software by finding methods to break it.

  • Programming in Scratch

    Offered by: Harvey Mudd College via edX
    Price: Free; $49 for optional verified certificate
    Length: 6 weeks
    Format: Video lectures
    Eligible for college credit? No

    An introductory course teaching students with no prior programming experience how to use the Scratch programming language. Scratch provides an ideal learning platform for creating games, animations and interactive stories. Students will also learn basic problem solving.

  • Programming with R for Data Science

    Offered by: Microsoft via edX
    Price: Free; $49 for optional verified certificate
    Length: Six weeks
    Format: Video lectures
    Eligible for college credit? No

    An intermediate programming course that teaches students how to use the statistical programming language “R”. By taking this course, students will learn about basic syntax, how to create functions and analyze data with programming in R. Incoming students are recommended to have a prior background in how R can be utilized in data science.

  • Create Your First Computer Game with Stencyl

    Offered by: Udemy
    Price: $20
    Length: 40 lectures spanning six hours
    Format: Video lectures and quizzes
    Eligible for college credit? No

    This basic level course will teach students how to use Stencyl, a free game creation platform. After completion of this course, students will have the requisite knowledge to share and publish their creation.

  • Face Detection - Master Open CV with Digital Image Processing

    Offered by: Udemy
    Price: $25
    Length: 30 lectures spanning two hours
    Format: Video and article lectures
    Eligible for college credit? No

    An intermediate course designed to teach students about OpenCV, an open source C++ library for digital image processing. OpenCV can be used to teach robots how to recognize faces. A basic understanding of computer programming in C++ and robotics is ideal, but not required.

  • Introduction to C++

    Offered by: MIT OpenCourseWare
    Price: Free
    Length: Self-paced, but originally offered over four weeks
    Format: Lecture notes and assignments in PDF format.
    Eligible for college credit? No

    This course will teach the basics about the C++, a high level programming language with many applications. Although this is an introductory course that teaches students how to program and utilize the language, students are recommended to have at least some programming experience before enrolling.

  • Practical Programming in C

    Offered by: MIT OpenCourseWare
    Price: Free
    Length: Self-paced, but originally offered over three weeks
    Format: Lecture, assignments and labs; lecture notes are in PDF format, with course supporting materials in .c and other formats.
    Eligible for college credit? No

    This class introduces students to the C programming language, which is the foundational programming language of the UNIX operating system and widely used with microcontrollers. Various aspects of C will be covered, from the basic syntax all the way to advanced, but practical, programming methods.

  • Parallel Programming

    Offered by: Coursera
    Price: $79
    Length: Four weeks
    Format: Video lectures, reading assignments and programming assignments
    Eligible for college credit? No

    Parallel processors are present in most computers and smart phones. The Parallel Programming course teaches students how to write software for computers using parallel processors. Incoming students should have at least one year of experience using a programming language, such as C# or Java.

Why Take an Online Class in Computer programming?

Online learning allows students to learn independently and with flexibility. Computer programming courses are made for the online classroom due to their use of cutting-edge technology and cloud-based topics. These three reasons indicate just how online computer programming courses provide value to students.

With so many online computer programming classes, students can choose from almost any level of instruction, from introductory to advances courses, and a variety of niche subjects, from programming for servers or mobile phones to different programming languages.

Having a bachelor’s or associate degree in computer programming is helpful, but no degree will replace hands-on programming experience. Unlike other professions that require a specific degree or license in order to legally work in that particular field, the computer programming industry is focused on true knowledge of programming. Online learning is an effective method of delivering these skills.

The computer programming field is similar to other technology disciplines in that there is emphasis on credentials rather than degrees. This means that in order to advance professionally, computer programmers have the option of getting a certificate instead of a degree, which is not only more specialized but often takes less time to earn. Many computer programming certifications are only offered online.

Must-have Apps and Podcasts for Computer Programmers

The computer programming industry changes faster than even the medical industry, which means if you aren't studying new innovations constantly, you are already falling behind. Listening to computer programming podcasts offer an in-depth look at the computer programming industry as a whole, offering insight into niche markets and providing the latest information computer programmers must know to keep ahead of the competition.

Programming Throwdown

Patrick Wheeler and Jason Gauci

Recent Episode to Try: Programming Throwdown is a podcast published roughly every month that discusses all aspects of computer programming. Podcasts cover an array of topics from a “big picture” perspective designed to include even the most novice computer programmers.

Episode 51: Udacity Democratizing Education


Scott Hanselman

Recent Episode to Try: The Hanselminutes podcast is released weekly with most episodes featuring a guest. Each episode focuses on one topic, usually related to advanced computer programming.

Episode 444: “A Dark Room” – What’s it like to have a #1 App? With Amir Rajan

Herding Code

K. Scott Allen, Kevin Dente, Scott Koon and Jon Galloway

Recent Episode to Try: Herding Code is devoted to computer programming topics, but does so with the occasional humorous or lighthearted guest. Topics are usually fairly advanced, but can still be enjoyed by novice computer programmers.

Episode 211: James Mickens on the State of Computer Security and Bitcoin and Thomas Jefferson and Internet of Terrible Things and Prawns and Oslo’s Terrible Secret

The CloudCast

Aaron Delp and Brian Greesley

Recent Episode to Try: CloudCast is an award-winning podcast published roughly every week and covers all things that relate to cloud computing. Topics covered are generally more advanced, and most shows include a guest.

Episode 257: Surviving in a Software-Eating World

Expert Tips for Taking Online Computer Programming Courses

Interview with Phyllis Shapiro

Q. Who is a great candidate for online computer programming courses?

Students who are older, independent learners, self-motivated and possess good time management skills are best suited to online learning. On the technology side, familiarity with a Learning Management System (LMS) is a boon. This allows the student to start from day one on strong footing. Some sort of pre-training or scaffolding is usually offered at the onset of a course of study. Basic computer skills are also needed. For most introductory computer programming courses, coding and HTML are not prerequisites. However, with the speed at which technology changes, having the ability to learn new software programs quickly is important.

Q. Are online courses advantageous to serious students?

A great example of how immersive online learning can be is to think about teaching someone to cook or ride a bicycle. Imagine a student reading each step in order to learn one of these skills. For instance, with bike riding, the lesson would start with how to balance and get on a bicycle, then pedal, then how to turn the handlebars when you want to steer and...well, you get the idea. Now let’s think about a video or animation or virtual world where a student can see what is involved with how to ride a bicycle or properly chop an onion. Sometimes, one picture is worth a thousand words. Online courses offer a range of learning modalities with which to immerse students in a practice, vernacular, profession or to learn a skill by performing an action such as building a website.

Q. Anything else you might like to add about online courses?

I recently finished an online Master’s Program in learning and teaching with technology, and I was not prepared for how much technology I would have to learn on my own. I used social bookmarking, automatic citation software and tutorials on how to find reference material in online libraries. I found YouTube videos to be extraordinarily helpful!

Popular Resources

Whether you’re looking to earn your online degree or you’re a parent looking for answers, you can find all of your questions covered here. Explore these resources to help you make informed decisions and prepare for whatever is thrown your way.

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