There’s big money for web developers in South Africa. Just last month Adzuna found that one of the most sought-after categories of employee in South Africa was developers.

However, many South African don’t training on how to code – and crucially, more any avenues to learn – and thus earn an average of R475 488 per annum, which is what a developer gets paid according to Adzuna.

But what if we told you that you could learn to code, online, for free?

Google is the latest firm to offer this opportunity as it launches its Android Basics Nanodegree online in partnership with Udacity.

The Android Developers Blog explains that the new online-course aims to make “Android development accessible and understandable to everyone”.

While we love the idea of getting everybody coding for free, the Android Basics Nanodegree is only free for seven days. After the trial you are billed $199 (R2 900.46 at the current exchange rate) per month which is rather pricey for a “free” course.

But, Google isn’t the only service offering free courses online that teach coding. There are more options out there than you’d think.

Now, before we dive into these free coding sites, we must point out that we cannot verify that all of the courses are accredited with the relevant South African bodies nor can we verify that these courses are recognised by South African employers.

Free Code Camp

After completing a few sign-up activities Free Code Camp lets you choose your web language and gives you a roadmap of the course ahead. Each course also gives you a timeframe for completion.

Unlike a traditional learning course, there is no deadline, the timeframe is just that, a guide for how long you should spend on a section.

That said, be prepared to dedicate a chunk of your time to a course because the Front End Developer for example, asks for just under 500 hours of your time.

Once you’ve made peace with that you’re greeted with a clean and easy-to-navigate user interface. Users also get a number of free resources to call on in times of trouble including the Free Code Camp chat room so they can ask others for help if you get stuck.

Users are also required to create a Github account (we’ll get to that later) so they can draw from the repository should they need to. As mentioned, there is no time limit to completing the challenges and you can log out, track your challenges and even revisit challenges from your profile page at any time.

Listing all the courses available on the site is going to take a while because it covers a lot. From Machine learning to HTML5 to jQuery and even data visualisation, Free Code Camp is a great little resource for budding coders.

Microsoft Virtual Academy

What would you like to develop? Web pages? Games? Cloud services? The Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA) offers training in all of the aforementioned fields and more for budding devs.


The bulk of the training is done via instructional videos though there are some assessments you will need to complete to finish each course. To do this you will need a Microsoft account so if you don’t have one, sign-up beforehand to make completing assessments easier. The videos are lead by Microsoft and other experts in the field that you will be studying in so quality is assured.

Unlike other sites which focus on training at the grass roots level, MVA is also useful for professional developers looking to spruce up their skills or learn something new.


At the core, Codecademy and Free Code Camp look similar, very much so in fact. The difference is that with Codecademy you can switch from a completely free model to a subscription based one.

This opens up extra resources, additional support and bespoke Codecademy content. Honestly speaking though, you can learn every language the site offers without having to spend a cent.

As with Free Code Camp you can start out with basic HTML coding and move up to something more complex like AngularJS, PHP or Ruby on Rails easily and at your own pace.

There is no time limit for any of the courses meaning they can be completed in your own time and you can view what you’re currently working on via the slick dashboard on the homepage.


Rather than thrust you straight into coding, W3Schools assume you know nothing and starts out explaining every element of each language.

This does present a problem if you want to just learn say, PHP, because you may have to go back and read the HTML section. The result is that W3Schools can become quite convoluted after a while if you aren’t paying attention.

For learning, W3Schools is very much a “do what you like, when you like” style of learning.

There are tutorials that you can work through at your own pace and you can get a certification from W3Schools but, it costs $95 just for the HTML Certificate so stick with the free stuff.


This is more of a resource than a “learn to code” site. Github hosts a smorgasbord of repositories created by people. These repositories can hold APIs, tools, and even books that could come in handy when you’re looking for clarification for something.

As a bit of aside to this, looking at another person’s code could help you learn more about problems you might be having with your own code. Github is a great place to pull a JavaScript slide show for example, and see where you’re going wrong.

For the parents and teachers that want to get kids coding, is 100% free with no hidden costs, simply open the web page and kids can start bashing out lines of code.

A bunch of nifty features are available should you choose to create an account like, tracking how many lines of code you’ve done so far and which activities you’ve done.


Videos and colourful activities  form part of the lessons which include making BB-8 from Star Wars collect trash by dragging and dropping JavaScript commands. Alternatively, beginners can opt for a simple video presentation followed by an activity that must be completed afterwards.

This is a really great tool for teachers and parents looking to catapult their kids into the modern age.

Honourable mentions

While all of the above might have some payment options the courses and the material you need to complete them are all free. There are however, some sites which offer a few free courses among the paid ones and we think they deserve a mention.

Just be sure to read the course information carefully, a “free seven day trial” can end sooner than you expect.


Khan Academy


[Image – CC BY/2.0 Adikos]