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Online introduction to Computer Science from Stanford Engineering (for free!)

Lecture photo found on Stanford's SEE website

Lecture photo found on Stanford's SEE website

Standford University is joining the likes of MIT and UC Berkeley, by making some of their courses available (for free!) online (in MIT’s case, that would be all of their courses).

This fall, SEE launches its programming by offering one of Stanford’s most popular engineering sequences: the three-course Introduction to Computer Science taken by the majority of Stanford undergraduates, and seven more advanced courses in artificial intelligence and electrical engineering.

What’s awesome is that the sequence starts out with the very basics. The very basics of Computer Science. If one has zero experience, but is interested in Computer Science, this is it. It’s best put in words of the (actually interesting) professor, teaching the first course of the sequence:

So if you’re worried about how much previous experience you’ve had or your friend who, like, worked their way through high school by programming for Google or whatever, don’t worry about it because all you need to know in here is basically either how to turn a computer on or to recognize a computer that’s on if you were to walk up to it and it were already to be on, all right?

Though what’s even better is that this introduction sequence goes from zero to implementing-a-miniature-webserver (in Python) in just three courses. Recursion, algorithmic analysis, data abstraction, data structures, concurrent programming, memory management…. Using 8 different programming languages (in various capacities) — C, Objective C, C++, C#, Java, LISP, Python, Scheme.

If anyone is in high school with a canceled Computer Science program (and unfortunately there are plenty of such), Stanford’s series of videos will bring one up to speed of the world-class first year University level Computer Science. Having briefly looked over the videos, the professors seemed interesting enough to make those lectures of value even to those who are familiar with the material, but perhaps are interested in refreshing the core basics of their knowledge.

It’s all available from Stanford Engineering Everywhere, in a variety of formats: YouTube, iTunes, Torrents, and text transcripts.

flag / UBC, Canada

flag / UBC, Canada by Ces't June

But where is Canada, when it comes to leading the academic education of Computer Science, in an accessible manner? U Waterloo, U of Toronto, UBC — I’m looking at you guys!

What I’d like to see, is to have some Canadian Universities, that are at least perceived to be the leaders in technological fields, to open up some of their academic material. Lead by example. There’s every reason to — many students look up to those institutions, but not everybody can get in, for a variety of reasons. Current students benefit from the extra availability of the material. Perspective students (if the business of education needs financial convincing) get to preview the top-quality education that they are being promised. It’s simply good for the community.

Though for now, I hope for more online material to come out of Stanford U.

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  1. Posted by Beecher Bowers | September 21, 2008, 7:03 am

    I think it’s pretty funny Stanford would use a promotional picture, where the student in the lower left of the image is obviously sleeping.

    Reply to comment

    Tony replied on: September 21st, 2008 at 8:20 pm

    He does seem awfully comfortable, though I’m not sure if he’s asleep. Another observation would be that half the class is absent. Though I think overall it’s just a realistic photo of a University lecture.

    Reply to comment

  2. Posted by Michael Stubblefield | September 21, 2008, 10:02 am

    I saw information about this on lifehacker. I’m optimistic about this, the classes seem to be more involved resources-wise than the MIT program. I’ll be participating in this and hopefully they’ll add more than the handfull of classes they have right now.

    Reply to comment

  3. Posted by David S | September 26, 2008, 11:58 am

    I’ve gained some programmer basics but something like this would really benefit my learning. A good foundation to start out with is always important.

    …and yes, Canadian Universities should get in the game.

    Reply to comment

  4. Posted by Teren | October 22, 2009, 7:45 am

    Not sure if this has been posted or not but – free Python books?

    1. Dive into Python 3 – http://diveintopython3.org/

    2. Django Book – http://www.djangobook.com/en/2.0/

    There are probably a lot more out there.

    Reply to comment

  5. Posted by Yuguang | February 4, 2011, 10:15 pm

    Stanford isn’t the only university offering classes online. There’s plenty of others for Waterloo courses.

    Reply to comment

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