Should you learn to code with paid or free content

This question is widespread, and everyone has already wondered that.

I thought a long time about it and reviewed my habits to understand why someone can be more interested in paid content rather than a free one.

Most of the time paid content is qualified by:

  • All-in-one content. You pay to get all the information at the same place (for example, on Udemy).
  • More details. When I pay for a book or a course, I expect from the creator a bunch of information. Understand why and how to use something.
  • A warranty on knowledge. You have the guarantee to know all the necessary things on a subject when you finish the course. Indeed, when I take a course on "Learn Flutter and Firebase with concrete examples", I know I will have seen the critical concepts of these two technologies. I already able to develop a small application using these technologies. Sometimes, when I use YouTube for this kind of search, I didn't get all the necessary details, and I need to find another video to complete.
  • A time saving. You don't have to search for other online resources. You can focus on the course only.
  • Quality. Usually, you pay for content, the sound quality and camera is much better.
  • Community support. People can pay content to support a creator or to contribute to the development of a community. If you buy a course on new technology, you encourage the creator to create more on this technology.

My recommendations to learners

All types of content are great. I use personally free and paid content at the same time.

I think we can define profiles that are likely to choose one type of content over another.

Paid content:

  • You are a beginner in programming, and you know what you want to learn.
  • You are a beginner, and you don't want to lose time by searching content or looking at many tutorials and videos to find a solution to your problem. DISCLAIMER: Being able to search for a solution to a problem in programming is a crucial concept. It will happen, one day you're going to have to look for content to solve a specific problem. If you use a paid content, take care of searching potentials errors by yourself.
  • You are a beginner, and you don’t know how to search for the right resources.
  • You want to learn a subject quickly and globally to accomplish a task (for example, I watched a course on Instagram to launch HereWeCode on the social network) .
  • You don't have a lot of time (for example, you need to learn a new technology for your company in one week).
  • You like to read books and understand all the details of the technology.

Be careful; these profiles are only examples of people who may be inclined to pay for paid content. It's up to you to do what you want. I wrote it to help people to decide what kind of content they are going to use.

Free content:

  • You are a beginner in programming, and you have a lot of time. In my opinion, this solution is the best one to learn how to code. For example, if it's as a hobby or if you know you have 1-2 years to retrain yourself and find work. Nothing is better than taking time to learn programming. I took almost 3 years to be comfortable in computer development and I still have a lot to learn. You'll feel like you're taking a long time, but I guarantee it's worth it. Searching, testing, failing, retrying, and so on is the key to success.
  • You are a developer for a certain amount of time, and you know how to search efficiently on Google.

If you don't know what kind of content to choose, I hope these examples help you to understand the possibilities.

A learner use-case

To show you that this subject is complex and very personal, I will give you my example.

I'm Gaël Thomas. I have been coding for more than three years. It's my hobby, and I like to share my knowledge to help people to learn how to code. These reasons pushed me to create HereWeCode.

Period with only free content

The goal of this period: Learn programming and critical concepts to be able to switch quickly from one language to another.

When I started to code three years ago, I was in a school with a project pedagogy. I learned by myself as a self-taught with online resources such as StackOverflow, YouTube, FreeCodeCamp, and other blogs.

This period was hard for me but exciting and maybe an essential part of my developer’s life. By learning with free content, I was forced to search a lot and understand where I can easily find answers to my questions. Nowadays, I'm able to explore everything efficiently on the internet.

It doesn't look like that, but a search on the internet is not easy for everyone. I can tell you because I'm teaching students on a french platform, and most of the time, the beginners don't know how to find the answer to an error.

Period with free and paid content

For one year now, I'm using both types of content; it depends on my goals with technology.

I like to use paid courses on Udemy when I want to learn quickly and have a showcase of new technology. For example, my Instagram course allowed me to be able to understand a new social network, define a strategy, and deploy a professional account in a few weeks. I reached my goal with this course, share as soon as possible a new type of content.

When I want to learn technology deeply, I like to read books. Most of the time, it exists books with lots of details you can't find in any other content.

I still use free content daily to answer a question, find a code example, understand a specific concept in a few minutes, etc.

Bonus: The PAID but FREE content

In my opinion, there is a last type of content called the paid but free content.

It's the name I give to a platform offering free content with a premium paid quality.

There are very few of them, and the most famous is FreeCodeCamp.

It's quite incredible to imagine that so many hours of training are free. You can even get certified!

I know people who have changed their lives thanks to FreeCodeCamp and all that for free.

I'm writing this last paragraph to thank the work done by the whole team and contributors to the platform.

If you want to do a kind act and help develop free content, you can support FreeCodeCamp.

"When you donate to freeCodeCamp, you help people learn new skills and provide for their families. You also help us create new resources for you to use to expand your technology skills." - FreeCodeCamp Donate Page

Conclusion

This topic is not easy to answer, and it's the first time I discuss something like this. I'm honest with you; I was scared when I hit the publish button. It's quite engaging, but I'm waiting for your opinions.

I think nowadays it exists so many ways to learn a new thing. This diversity is due to all requests from different types of learners.

It's like in school, some people learn by reading, others by drawing, reading aloud, answering quizzes, etc.

Choose the content that best suits your situation and goals.

What type of content do you use? Do you sometimes vary between paid and free content, and why?

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