Free Online Classes

Top 11 Free Online Programming Courses

Written by College Cliffs Team At, our team, comprising seasoned educators and counselors, is committed to supporting students on their journey through graduate studies. Our advisors, holding advanced degrees in diverse fields, provide tailored guidance, current program details, and pragmatic tips on navigating application procedures.

Reviewed by Linda Weems I got started researching colleges and universities about 10 years ago while exploring a second career. While my second career ended up being exactly what I’m doing now, and I didn’t end up going to college, I try to put myself in your shoes every step of the way as I build out College Cliffs as a user-friendly resource for prospective students.

Updated: April 1, 2024, Reading time: 17 minutes

In the 21st century, we have seen an accelerating speed in technological advances. Everywhere we look, everything we use—all these have something to do with technological developments.

From cell phones to alarm clocks in the morning, to coffee machines that prepare us coffee with just a single push button, and of course to smart devices that help us live an easier life—all these things take advantage of technology.

But behind all the things we see online—every chart, every word, every picture—there’s a man that’s behind it to make these things so easy for us: the computer programmers. 

11 Excellent Free Online Classes for Programming

Today, numerous in-demand computer programming jobs explain why many programming classes are offered online for free. Meaning, that even if you have no background in computer science, you can still land computer programming with these free online classes.

Below are excellent free online classes for programming. This list is categorized into three: beginner, intermediate, and advanced.


An Introduction to Interactive Programming in Python

1 - 12 Excellent Free Online Classes for Programming

Rice University via Coursera

This is a two-part course that will help students with very little knowledge of computing to learn and understand the basics of creating simple interactive applications.

The computer language used is Python, an easy but high-level language mostly used in computational courses offered by Coursera. For Python to be easy, different online platforms have come up with new browser-based environments for computer programming that make developing interactive Python easy. 

The first part of this course explores the basic elements of computer programming like conditionals, expressions, and functions. From there, you will understand how to use these elements in making interactive applications like a digital stopwatch.

When the course ends, you can build your version of PONG, a classic arcade game. This free online class, spanning five long weeks, is handled by Scot Rixner, Joe Warren, John Greiner, and Stephen Wong.

Students are expected to fully learn the four important elements of programming: programming principles, computer programming, python syntax and semantics, and Python programming. 

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CS50: Introduction to Computer Science

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Harvard University via edX

With or without prior experience, anybody can enroll for free in this course. The CS50X is Harvard University’s introduction to computer science, specifically on the intellectual enterprise side. This course also teaches the art of programming for both majors and non-majors. CS50 is an entry-level course and is taught by David J. Malan via edX. 

The course is created to help students grasp how they should think algorithmically and solve problems effectively. Some of the topics are Data Structures, Algorithms, Abstraction, Resource Management, Encapsulation, Security, Web Development, and Software Engineering. Languages include Python, C, JavaScript, plus CSS, SQL, and HTML.

The problem sets in the course are inspired by real-world domains of cryptography, biology, forensics, finance, and gaming. CS50 is so in demand that its on-campus version is Harvard’s largest course. Upon earning passing scores on all nine problem sets and complying with the final requirements, you will receive a certificate. 

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Computational Social Science Methods

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The University of California, Davis via Coursera 

This is a free online course created by the University of California, Davis Continuing and Professional Education, and is delivered via the Coursera platform.

This class is composed of peer-reviewed and auto-graded assignments, pre-recorded video lectures, and community discussion forums. And since the program is self-paced, you can master your skill in as little as 4-6 months. 

In this course, you will have a broader understanding of Computational Social Science’s opportunities and universal reach. Surprisingly, computational social science is just around us: from the services provided by some of the world’s most valuable companies to the power of political and social movements and even the subtle influence of government agencies.

All these things study basic human behavior. All of these incorporate social science through computational means. 

The course focuses on three primary and relevant questions: Why CSS now? What does CCS cover? And what are the examples of CSS? Upon completing this free online course, students are expected to understand how computer simulation helps untangle some of the mysteries surrounding social emergence. 

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Internet History, Technology, and Security

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University of Michigan via Coursera

This free online course is delivered via Coursera and is perfect for beginners. In a world where technology and networks play a critical role in life, culture, and society, you must understand how networks and technology work.

When you enroll in this free online class, you will further understand how the internet was developed, who was behind it, and how it works. As you go on with your class, you get the chance to meet many innovators who have helped develop web and internet technologies that we are presently enjoying. 

After completing the course, taking the web and internet for granted will be out of the picture. By then, you are better informed about how technology plays an important role in society.

You will learn that the internet is a space for innovation, and you will have a more critical understanding of how you can fit into that innovation.

This course is also a great stepping stone towards the more complicated programs like web development, network administration, and computer programming. 

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Divide and Conquer, Sorting and Searching, and Randomized Algorithms

5 - 12 Excellent Free Online Classes for Programming

Stanford University via Coursera

The main topics of this specialization are randomized algorithms (QuickSort), divide and conquer (matrix multiplication, master method, closest pair, and integer), sorting and searching, and notation.

Because this is designed for intermediate-level programmers, it’s ideal to enroll if you have a bit of programming experience and want to learn more about the basics of algorithms. In a normal university computer science on-campus curriculum, this field of specialization is taken during the third year of school. 

Delivered through Coursera, the syllabus of this course is divided into four parts, with one part each week. Week 1 starts with the introduction of asymptomatic analysis and notation, followed by the basics of divide and conquer in the second week, where you will learn to master the methods for conquering algorithms and analyzing divide. 

In the third week, this will cover the QuickSort algorithm and its analysis.

This is where you will learn about linear-time selections like cuts and graphs and the contraction algorithm in the last week.

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CS188.1x: Artificial Intelligence

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The University of California, Berkeley via edX

University of California, Berkeley, offers the CSS188.1x: Artificial Intelligence course through edX. With this free online course, you will learn more about the basic techniques and ideas about the complex design of intelligent computer systems. This course also puts special emphasis on the statistical and decision-theoretic modeling paradigm. 

By the time you’re done with the program, you will have completed an autonomous agent that can effectively make decisions in a partially observable but fully informed adversarial setting. The agent will make inferences in particular environments and boost its actions for arbitrary reward structures.

The machine will also learn to classify photographs and handwritten digits. Learning the techniques from this course will give you many options for dealing with problems in artificial intelligence. This also serves as a solid foundation if you wish to further study in a specialized area you wish to pursue. 

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Applied Quantum Computing 1: Fundamentals

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Purdue University via edX

This is part 1 of a series of quantum computing courses. The fundamental course on applied quantum computing covers several aspects, from the basic to the present hardware platforms, then down to quantum software and programming.

Delivered via edX, the program aims to provide you with the necessary foundations required to fully understand how computing models are built from the basic principles of quantum mechanics. 

Before joining the course, you are required to have a decent set of science and engineering requirements, although, over time, you will develop an intuitive and physical understanding of the topic.

Take note that this program is a prerequisite to Quantum Computing 2: Hardware and Quantum Computing 3: Algorithm and Software.

If you have a long-term plan of enrolling in Algorithm and Software courses or a hardware program in the future, you must complete this fundamental course. 

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Quantum Information Science II:
Efficient Quantum Computing- Fault Tolerance and Complexity

9 - 12 Excellent Free Online Classes for Programming

Massachusetts Institute of Technology via edX 

This advanced online class for programming is the second part of a three-module sequence offered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and delivered via edX. In this program, you will learn advanced topics in quantum information and quantum computation.

This includes efficient quantum computation principles, including fault tolerance, code techniques in quantum error correction, and quantum complexity information theory and complexity theory.

To fully take advantage of this free online class, you need to have a background in elementary quantum algorithms and quantum circuits. 

This course is authored by several members of the Faculty of Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Although the program is delivered via edX, all the educational objectives, assessments, methods, presentation, and selection of content are purely the responsibility of MIT.

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Distributed Programming in Java

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Rice University via Coursera

This free, four-week online course by Rice University will teach both students and industry professionals the basic concepts of Distributed Programming in the Java 8 framework.

In Distributed Programming, developers can utilize several nodes in a data center to increase throughput and minimize the latency of some selected applications. 

After completing the course, you will use the many popular distributed programming frameworks designed for the Java program.

This includes Spark, Hadoop, Sockets, Remote Method Invocation, Kafka, Multicast Sockets, and Message Passing Interface. You will also be adept at choosing several approaches in combining distribution with multithreading. 

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Cyber-Physical Systems Design and Analysis

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Georgia Institute of Technology, via Udacity

This free online course is a part of the Online Master of Science in Computer Science at Georgia Institute of Technology. The advanced level course starts with an introduction to security issues relative to cyber-physical systems, and it includes industrial control systems and those that are considered critical infrastructure systems.

If you are keen on learning the most state-of-the-art designing protections for cyber-physical systems such as industrial control networks, power grids, or autonomous vehicles, then you should take this course. 

Under the foundations of cyber-physical system security, classes include computer networking, industrial networks, and information security.

As with the class on the industrial network, you will learn further about industrial cybersecurity history, industrial network design, architecture and protocols, and industrial control systems and operations.

Finally, under the control system security class, this includes privacy in cyber-physical systems, hacking and securing industrial control systems, and threats to cyber-physical systems in other domains. 

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Applied Machine Learning in Python

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The University of Michigan, via Coursera

Applied Machine Learning in Python is an advanced-level online class for programming offered by the University of Michigan through the Coursera platform. The program will introduce you to applied machine learning, and you will be more focused on the methods and techniques in the field instead of the statistics behind these methods.

During the first few classes, discussions will revolve around how machine learning differs from descriptive statistics. A Science toolkit or Scikit is then introduced via a tutorial. You will also learn more about data dimensionality, clustering data, and how you should evaluate those clusters.  

The course ends with a better look at the more advanced methods of applied machine learning. By then, you will be able to pinpoint the difference between unsupervised (clustering) and supervised (classification) techniques, know the method you need to apply for a specific dataset, create features to meet those datasets, and correctly write a Python code so you can carry out your analysis. 

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Free Online Classes_Programming - fact 3

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Computer Programming?

Have you ever wondered how computers, software programs, or applications perform? Thru coding, of course. And how do these codes work? Computer programming is used by professionals to write these codes. In its simplest form, computer programming is a set of instructions to perform specific actions.

So, what do computer programmers do? They create specific instructions for the computer to execute by making and testing codes that allow software programs and applications to operate successfully. 

Computers can perform so many things. A simple laptop can make a basic spreadsheet or word processing function. Supercomputers can create a massive infrastructure that can make modern life possible.

But all these are useless until a computer programmer gets into the picture and ‘tells’ these computers to behave in a specific way. This is what computer programming is about.

Programming is nothing more than a set of instructions created to enable specific actions. Although this depends on the purpose or requirement, computer programming can be as basic as adding numbers or as complicated as reading data to obtain critical reports, sort out data, or adjust a thermostat sensor. 

What Can You Do as a Computer Programmer?

As a computer programmer, you make instructions that you want the computer to execute. You write and test a code that makes a software program and application run smoothly.

As a whole, computer programmers use specific languages to communicate with applications, computers, and other systems so that computers and networks can successfully operate a set of tasks.

According to, most computer programmers use computer languages like Python, Java, and C++. This allows the programmers and the software engineers and developers to build programs that “surf, search, and selfies.” 

Free Online Classes_Programming - fact 2

Today, there are different types of programming languages. However, below are the top 10 programming languages commonly used, based on a survey of 100,000 programmers. These languages include:

O*Net online said the most common tasks every computer programmer must master should include:

How Can You Become a Successful Computer Programmer?

Here’s a fun fact: there are so many programmers out there who started as self-taught enthusiasts. One prominent self-taught gamer, Dr. Ed Laviera, started as a self-taught computer gamer. He even served 25 years in the Navy before he decided to become a full-time technical program facilitator.

This game programming and development teacher said computer programming is fun, especially if you have the fundamental knowledge.  

However, he added that you should not just rest on the knowledge you learned. Getting a degree is a manifestation of your past knowledge. The skills, certifications, and e-portfolios will be advantageous, but it’s best to get a broader range of experience to help you stand out.

Students will study the fundamentals of Computer Programming based on algorithm data foundation, logical engineering, and math. But you should be skilled enough when planning, writing, designing, testing, and managing software.

That’s why it’s crucial that you learn at least three programming languages and that you should be proficient in C++ and JAVA. But beyond the confines of a classroom, you should have ample patience. Writing a program is not only tough, but it can also be time-consuming.

In most cases, it will not work the first time. This programming field entails a lot of patience and competent skills in troubleshooting and detecting errors. You should be self-disciplined. You should be a learning worker. You should have the desire to learn yourself, the open-mindedness to brainstorm with your co-programmers, and lots of hands-on practice. 

As you work your way towards a degree in Computer Programming, it’s highly encouraged that you make a portfolio of your software work. Although this is not graded, in the future, you can show this to potential clients as proof of how capable you are of programming. 

Free Online Classes_Programming - fact 1

Although most computer programming careers usually need a Bachelor’s degree, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics says there are also other advanced degree programs you can enroll in. Plus, aside from the usual academic setting, you can find various professional and non-profit professional certifications. Some of these certifications include:

CISCO – Certified Network Profession Routing and Switching, Certified Network Associate, Certified Network Associate Security Credential

Professional Associations – Comptia’s Security+, Software Development Associate Certification, Comptia’s Linux+, Comptia’s A+ Certification

Microsoft – Certified Solutions Associate Windows Server, Certified Solution Developer for Web Applications

Non-profit – Certified Information Security Manager, Certified Information Systems Security Professional, Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional Credential 

Are Free Online Programming Courses Credible?

Yes, free online programming courses can be credible. Many well-respected institutions offer free courses that cover a variety of programming languages and topics. Depending on the course, the instructor may be a professor or someone with professional industry experience.

It is important to check the credentials of the instructor and make sure the course is from a credible source.

Key Takeaways

The advantages of learning how to program correctly do not stop the moment you learn how to code. You need to improve your technical skills. The more consistent you are with enhancing your coding skills, the better you will improve professionally and personally.

Furthermore, being adept in coding can add a valuable skill to boost your resume. When taking a coding course from a reputable institution you will show your employers how eager and serious you are to learn new skills.