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How to think like a programmer ... without knowing how to program (yet)

How to think like a programmer ... without knowing how to program (yet)

Want a Computer Science certificate from Harvard? Here you go. And you don’t have to go to Massachusetts. What’s more, this is the most popular course on the Harvard campus, with Harvard students calling it ‘the best of the best’. Now it’s online at edX, and enrollment is a snap. The course is known as CS50x: Introduction to Computer Science, and it teaches the essentials of basic computer languages while training students both with and without prior programming experience to think algorithmically and solve problems.


The online version mirrors the hugely popular campus course, with the obvious concessions necessary in its translation from campus to online: lectures are uploaded weekly and students take it at their own pace, but apart from that the course content is the same. It is delivered by four instructors: two Doctoral Candidates, a Professor and a Senior Preceptor of Computer Science. The course is free but it’s $90 for a certificate upon completion.


Learning outcomes include:

  • A broad and robust understanding of computer science and programming
  • How to think algorithmically and solve programming problems efficiently
  • Concepts like abstraction, algorithms, data structures, encapsulation, resource management, security, software engineering, and web development
  • Familiarity in a number of languages, including C, PHP, and JavaScript plus SQL, CSS, and HTML
  • How to engage with a vibrant community of like-minded learners from all levels of experience
  • How to develop and present a final programming project to your peers.


The course is exciting and popular in that it teaches how to think as much as it teaches how to write code, and reviews from people who do have prior coding experience are favourable. The only negative review is from someone who found the away-from-campus experience ‘lonely’. That’s too bad. But the course does offer a good degree of interactivity with tutors and fellow students, albeit online.

For a quicker introduction to programming, try the IOA course Coding for Beginners