Learn to Code with Harvard’s Intro to Computer Science Course And Other Free Tech Classes

I’ll confess, when it comes to computers, I’m pretty much strictly a user. And these days, with the potential freedom and creatively afforded by open access software, the endless hacks for virtually everything, and the availability of free online computer classes, that seems like kind of a lame admission. So I’m tempted to rectify my programming ignorance by pushing through what promises to be a rigorous intro to computer science, CS50, Harvard’s introductory course for both majors and non-majors alike. The course offers a broad knowledge base to build on, as you can see from the description below:

Topics include abstraction, algorithms, encapsulation, data structures, databases, memory management, security, software development, virtualization, and websites. Languages include C, PHP, and JavaScript plus SQL, CSS, and HTML. Problem sets inspired by real-world domains of biology, cryptography, finance, forensics, and gaming. Designed for concentrators and non-concentrators alike, with or without prior programming experience.

Harvard has made this course available free to anyone—via YouTubeiTunes, and the course page—with a series of lectures filmed during the Fall 2011 semester. The class is led by David J. Malan, an enthusiastic young professor and Senior Lecturer on Computer Science at Harvard, and himself a product of Harvard’s Computer Science program. Professor Malan has also offered Harvard’s CS50 as a MOOC through edX. In the introductory lecture to CS50 (above), Malan promises that “this is one of those rare courses that actually squeezes your brain so much and your schedule so much that by the end of the semester you actually feel smarter.”

Professor Malan has become something of a hot shot at Harvard. His mission—to make computer science more accessible and far less daunting. He’s done this in part by generously making several of his courses available free online to non-Harvard students. In addition to CS50, Malan offers the following courses for those who want to pursue programming or web design further:

And if you still need some selling on the values and virtues of computer science, watch Malan below deliver an inspiring talk called “And the Geek Shall Inherit the Earth” at Harvard Thinks Big 2010 (Harvard’s version of TED Talks).

We’ve added Harvard’s CS50 to the Computer Science section of our list of 750 Free Online Courses and our list of 150 Free Business Courses.

Related Content:

Computer Science: Free Courses

Codecademy’s Free Courses Democratize Computer Programming

Learn to Build iPhone & iPad Apps with Stanford’s Free Course, Coding Together

Josh Jones is a writer, editor, and musician based in Washington, DC. Follow him @jdmagness


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Comments (31)
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  1. Shelley says . . . | February 26, 2013 / 8:52 am

    But there’s no free lunch, right?

    So how is it “free”?

  2. Josh Jones says . . . | February 26, 2013 / 11:30 am

    Is this a deliberately obtuse question? It’s free in that you don’t have to pay for it. The cost you incur in terms of your time and effort should be an assumed part of any endeavor.

  3. nonapple product user says . . . | February 26, 2013 / 7:13 pm

    If they really want to make it freely available they should post it to some site that everyone can access and in open formats rather than locking it up in itunes.

    A non-apple product user.

  4. Josh Jones says . . . | February 26, 2013 / 7:21 pm

    Sigh. CS50 is not “locked up.” Read the post again carefully. All lectures are on YouTube and all course materials are freely available on the course’s website. All you need is a browser. So relax.

  5. Norman Caldera says . . . | February 26, 2013 / 8:15 pm

    This is fantastic. Definitely a good broad starting course.

  6. Yazzy says . . . | February 27, 2013 / 1:06 am

    Hah, I love this inanely negative comments. This is an awesome scoop. Thanks for sharing!

  7. tiptopnz says . . . | February 27, 2013 / 1:51 am

    definately this is a gud course…

  8. nipnup says . . . | February 27, 2013 / 1:54 am

    Josh, you must be a blast at parties.

  9. Prateek says . . . | February 27, 2013 / 2:06 am

    Visit codejuke.com once. It will give everything regarding programming.

  10. Batttmaan says . . . | February 27, 2013 / 4:59 am

    MIT already has free classes in place – and not just IT related – also if you complete them you get a certificate i believe

  11. Brian Hinson says . . . | February 27, 2013 / 7:12 am

    What’s the deal with the negative comments? Are they unable to read or are they just republicans?

    Anyway, thanks for the post! Looking forward to learning some more languages! :)

  12. Rick says . . . | February 27, 2013 / 7:20 am

    This is fantastic! Now if only I had the free time to invest myself in something like this…

    I’ve always been a computer afficionado, but mostly on the hardware side. I’ve never been that great at programming.

    Oh, and you forgot to mention in your article that the lecture comes with eye candy ;) haha

  13. Simon says . . . | February 27, 2013 / 8:47 am

    In that 650 course list, are there any computer security sources?

  14. Ed Smith says . . . | February 27, 2013 / 8:52 am

    Experienced programmer here… I wish I would have used this in the beginning. I appreciate that you guys are doing this.

  15. Jae R says . . . | February 27, 2013 / 10:10 am

    Love this ..! Take the courses and perhaps to find a mentor and away ya go ….

    Thanks for sharing this!

  16. Atul says . . . | February 27, 2013 / 12:38 pm

    Love to code with Harvard!!


  17. Michael says . . . | February 27, 2013 / 4:50 pm

    Lol I remember sudoku while during CompSci @ massey last year.

  18. Steven Smith says . . . | February 27, 2013 / 5:15 pm

    woooo CAKE

  19. Richard Clarke says . . . | February 27, 2013 / 7:57 pm


  20. Chad Woodhead says . . . | March 4, 2013 / 10:22 pm

    wow this is amazing! thanks to Philip DeFranco on YouTube i heard about this an i am ecstatic! i’m a high school student looking for an education in programming and this looks amazing! thank you free education and open culture!!

  21. Nhick says . . . | March 8, 2013 / 6:36 am

    650 of free online tech course? Wow, that’s a lot already.. hope to view all the vids here..

  22. Hussein Merza says . . . | March 16, 2013 / 9:30 am

    amazing site, i hope all we find what we need here, good luck :D

  23. jawad khan mohmand says . . . | March 23, 2013 / 11:27 am

    Not only Harvard nowadays there are many universities that free online resources and computer science courses, like MIT etc. Byte-Notes provide free lecture notes of computer science and other IT related fields. for more information visit http://www.byte-notes.com/introduction-computing

  24. kashyap says . . . | May 22, 2013 / 2:35 pm

    sir, m persuing b. tech in computer science so plz suggest me da course that i shhould take on which would help me getting placed in top mnc’s

  25. SupremeDaMC says . . . | July 11, 2013 / 4:35 pm

    WOW!!! Free?? Awesome!

  26. Martin B says . . . | July 22, 2013 / 11:20 am

    Is this free uncertified knowledge or can you apply for a certificate?

  27. Anas says . . . | August 14, 2013 / 6:42 am

    No youtube in Pakistan.

  28. attilavago says . . . | October 14, 2013 / 10:03 am

    The course starts in January on edX: https://www.edx.org/course/harvard-university/cs50x/introduction-computer-science/1022 I’ve done it before on the Harvard page, but I am going to retake it next year on edX too, because this time you get a certificate and truth be told David Malan is an extraordinary professor. Watching his lectures is just as entertaining and interesting as watching Big Bang Theory!

  29. Danyal says . . . | May 15, 2014 / 12:53 am

    Nice… Thanks But I need Java related Course…

  30. Syed S. Hashmi says . . . | May 25, 2014 / 4:14 pm

    It sounds great going thru this important course (cs50x), and I got enrolled, but alas! YouTube has a ban over in Pakistan due to some reasons well to politicians. Have been trying for 3 days to my utter regret. Can anyone guide me any other source other than its own website? Time is short and I have to complete the assignment, but in vain. Any gentleman can guide? Any other information would do fine. Thanks.

  31. Upendra says . . . | October 8, 2014 / 11:18 pm

    use tor browser or hideoxy to open youtube at blocked places

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