Home Beginners Resources Want to learn Python? Coursera…of course!

Want to learn Python? Coursera…of course!

by Stuart Jamieson

As promised in the last blog post, it’s time to review some of the beginner resource material mentioned previously, aimed at those who want to learn Python.

I’ve decided to start off with the courses provided by Coursera (www.coursera.com). They were my second port of call after www.codecademy.com when I first started learning Python on and off, about a year ago.

Firstly, the courses are free! Call me a cheap skate but when I find quality material, available in all its glory for “nada” dollars…well you’ve caught my attention!

Courses on Coursera are designed and presented by the staff of real, physical, bricks and mortar universities, (usually US based) – in fact most of the courses offered are plucked directly from existing, genuine courses offered to regular students of that particular university as a stand-alone module for their degree course.

When you consider that most US based university students pay upwards of $20,000 per year…getting a seat at the table for nothing more than the cost of a laptop/iPad and the investment of free time seem like a bargain, to me at least.

So there are 2 courses on Coursera that I would particularly like to highlight (although there are many more available, they may not be considered suitable for the novice/beginner).

The 2 I have in mind are:

The blurb for the course reads as follows:

About this Course

“This course aims to teach everyone the basics of programming computers using Python. We cover the basics of how one constructs a program from a series of simple instructions in Python. The course has no pre-requisites and avoids all but the simplest mathematics. Anyone with moderate computer experience should be able to master the materials in this course. This course will cover Chapters 1-5 of the textbook “Python for Informatics”. This course is equivalent to the first half of the 11-week “Programming for Everybody (Python)” course. Once a student completes this course, they will be ready to take more advanced programming courses.”

The blurb for the course reads as follows:

About this Course

“This two-part course is designed to help students with very little or no computing background learn the basics of building simple interactive applications. Our language of choice, Python, is an easy-to learn, high-level computer language that is used in many of the computational courses offered on Coursera. To make learning Python easy, we have developed a new browser-based programming environment that makes developing interactive applications in Python simple. These applications will involve windows whose contents are graphical and respond to buttons, the keyboard and the mouse. In part 1 of this course, we will introduce the basic elements of programming (such as expressions, conditionals, and functions) and then use these elements to create simple interactive applications such as a digital stopwatch. Part 1 of this class will culminate in building a version of the classic arcade game “Pong”. Recommended Background – A knowledge of high school mathematics is required. While the class is designed for students with no prior programming experience, some beginning programmers have viewed the class as being fast-paced. For students interested in some light preparation prior to the start of class, we recommend a self-paced Python learning site such as codecademy.com.”

I have taken both of these course and can highly recommend them to beginner Pythonistas…they cover the basics well and the courses contain interactive quizzes and tests to keep your mind focused to make sure you are absorbing the material in a useful manner, rather than just watching videos like a zombie and forgetting everything that was said as soon as they finish.

In terms of material that is freely available and directly aimed at novice Python students, I have yet to come across much material that is on par with these courses. You can rest assured that time spent on this material is…well…time well spent.

If anyone reading this has taken either of these courses before, or are thinking of doing so and have any questions, please do leave a comment and start the discussion.

Until next time…

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