Should You Learn to Code Online or In-Person?

By: Flatiron School
Last Updated: December 12, 2016

So you've decided you want to learn how to code. Congratulations! Now you've got an even bigger decision ahead of you: how to go about learning. We get a lot of questions around this at Flatiron School. Should I attend Flatiron's in-person immersive or the online program? Should I start off with a smaller certificate course? Should I keep on exploring free online coding resources before even thinking about this decision? Do I need a coding bootcamp or not?

There's no right or wrong answer to these questions. There are a number of factors at play, but the most fundamental one is you—your goals, how you learn most effectively, where you are in your life right now. Do you want a rigid schedule or to learn at your own pace? Do you do better in a quiet environment or surrounded by people? Do you want to focus on this full time or not?

Here's a short guide to help orient your decision, whether you're interested in Flatiron School or any other coding bootcamp. Read on to get a feel for what will fit you best.


Think of learning to code like getting fit. There are a million ways to do it. You don't need to join a gym to get in shape, but for some people, being surrounded by other people going through the same thing can be a huge motivator to keep you on track. If that's how you thrive, an in-person coding bootcamp may be the best option for you. That's not to say that some online coding bootcamps (including Flatiron School's Online Web Developer Program and Community-Powered Bootcamp) don't offer features that allow you to interact and collaborate with other online students. But still, you have to be self-motivated. You need to find the drive to power up your computer and do the work.


While more bootcamps are opening up every day, they are generally located in major urban centers. Do you live in one? If not, are you willing to relocate or make the commute every day for the duration of the program? On the other hand, you can attend an online coding program anywhere you have an internet connection.


Do you prefer to immerse yourself in a flood of information, or take things at your own pace? In-person programs progress very quickly (though often with robust pre-work to help you come in prepared to tackle the new challenges). You may need to work additional hours on weekends and burn the midnight oil to keep pace with the program. Online coding bootcamps take a few different approaches, from full-time to part-time to self-paced, like Flatiron's Online Software Engineering Program, which lets you go as fast or as slowly as you want to make the most of your learning. It's important to note that self-paced online programs also allow you to learn to code without quitting your job (or to test the waters first and later on decide to scale back on work and put more time into your studies). This isn't the case with an in-person bootcamp, where your whole life will be code for three months.


Coding bootcamp tuition can be expensive—especially when you factor in the opportunity cost of not having income for the duration of the program. Online options are generally less expensive. And if keeping costs low are your top priority, there are essentially unlimited free resources out there (that can, of course, vary in quality; Flatiron's Bootcamp Prep is a great one) as well as lower investment programs like Community-Powered Bootcamp or subscription learning platforms. The flexibility of self-paced programs like our Online Software Engineering Program also mean that if you do have the determination to finish the program faster, you'll spend less than if you had attended an in-person program.


Are you looking to develop a new skill or to learn enough to guarantee a career change? Find the program and format that aligns best with both your goal and your learning style. For example, if you're seeking a career change, you can attend an in-person coding bootcamp knowing it will be both efficient and effective, especially if it has verified job placement rates and a job guarantee. You're going to be surrounded by code and you will learn it. That said, if you're self-driven, you don't need a bootcamp, an immersive environment, a teacher, or anything to learn the skills you need—it just may take a bit longer.

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