Learning to Code: Online vs. In-class Courses

Last updated July 13, 2022

Whether you want to learn to code to improve your career opportunities or for recreational purposes, there are generally two paths open to you.

There are plenty of schools and businesses offering lectures and coding bootcamps in a classroom setting. Another option is to sign on for one of the many coding courses available online.

Here are some of the pros and cons of both learning platforms to help you decide which approach you should take.

In-class gets props for face time

Face-to-face interactions with classmates and teachers are the biggest selling point of traditional classroom-based courses. Proponents say the instantaneous exchange of ideas between students and teacher in the classroom creates a more lively and engaging learning environment.

Students get immediate feedback and answers to their questions from instructors in a classroom setting. Such a situation could benefit students tackling a programming problem they have not encountered before. Some studies have also shown that face-to-face instructions in the best approach for providing the level of instructor attention needed by slower learners.

A classroom is also a great place for students to develop or extend their social network and make the sort of introductions that lead to a job in software development. 

Intensive bootcamp-style programs promise you’ll learn to code and be job-ready in five months or less.

Cost and constrictions of the classroom

Tuition fees for in-class courses are likely to be higher than their online counterparts because of the costs associated with running a brick-and-mortar operation.

Typical in-class courses are often tied to a schedule. This could be problematic for working students or those looking for a job. Coding classes that are offered as part of a semester course could also mean that students will be in school for several months to obtain the credits they need to graduate.

There’s also no guarantee that every class you attend will be an engaging, eye-opening session. Remember, just as each student is different not all lecturers are created equal.

Anytime, anywhere learning

Flexibility is a major perk of online learning.

Many online programs are self-paced and allow users to chose their own learning environment. Imagine, you can learn to code watching an instructor’s lecture in a Starbucks, the library, or your bedroom — in your PJs. In many cases, lectures and modules can be saved so that students can go back to them at a later time.  

Since students can take their classes anytime and anywhere, they can go through programs at a faster pace. This is a boon for working students or those seeking to pick up programming skills quickly so that they could use them in their jobs right away.

There’s no need to commute or drive through a winter storm to get to the classroom. Which means no expenses for transportation. Since online colleges don’t have traditional campuses to maintain, the savings are passed on to the students in the form of lower tuition fees.

You snooze, you lose

The freedom and flexibility afforded by online classes is a double-edged sword.

Without the physical presence of instructors and classmates to propel students to study, there’s the danger of slacking off. The onus is on you to muster the self-discipline to concentrate on the online lectures and keep track of assignments deadlines to finish the course.

Interaction with online instructors could be limited and their response to questions may be slower. That’s because they are likely to have more students than those in traditional classrooms. Make sure the class you take provides ample opportunity for discussion, feedback, and assessment.

So which learning platform takes the prize, online or in-class? Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages. The choice will ultimately depend on which way of learning works best for you and your particular situation.

Nestor Arellano

Nestor Arellano is a Toronto-based journalist with more than 10 years of experience in reporting and editing for print, online and social media.

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