How You Can Get The Most In-Demand Job Skills for Free

Can a few free online courses really put you on a solid career path?

Colleges consider making computer science mandatory for graduation.
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However, to many proponents of making coding education more available, the philosophy of free coding sites is what is important.

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"I wouldn't say that these websites are going to turn people into great coders." says Srini Devadas, professor of computer science at MIT. "It's difficult to do without human beings being in the loop. But I think [users] get through the concepts, they get exposed, they get excited by computer science."

That knowledge may be a necessary basic building block of education, he adds. "I'm starting to think that as everyone needs to know a natural language, people need to know a computer language."

While Codeacademy may tout JavaScript's career-building benefits, Sims agrees that are crucial basic applications of that knowledge.

"I think what we really believe in is that not everyone needs to be a software developer, but you need to understand how code works in order to understand the world around you," he says.

Steinberg believes that coding could round out educational fundamentals, though whether that might happen is up in the air.

"I definitely think it's way more useful than geometry, if you think about it. But so is personal finance, and that's not taught in schools," she says.

"A lot of people who get into MIT don't know how to program, And these are people who want to do computer science," says Devadas. "And this is the U.S. we're talking about, right?"

Because of that slow-motion movement toward more computer courses, those who do learn to code might find that running a coding-education website might be some of the best job security around.

"It's not clear to me that second school education in any given country is going to evolve fast enough to put these websites out of biz in the next five years," says Devadas. "I think they're around for a while."

Danielle Kurtzleben is a business and economics reporter for U.S. News & World Report. Connect with her on Twitter at @titonka or via E-mail at dkurtzleben@usnews.com.



Corrected on 06/01/12: An earlier version of this article reflected incorrect capitalization in the name of Codeacademy.