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 (34)
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  • Shelley says:

    But there’s no free lunch, right?

    So how is it “free”?

  • Josh Jones says:

    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.

  • nonapple product user says:

    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.

  • Josh Jones says:

    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.

  • Norman Caldera says:

    This is fan­tas­tic. Def­i­nite­ly a good broad start­ing course.

  • Yazzy says:

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

  • tiptopnz says:

    defi­nate­ly this is a gud course…

  • Prateek says:

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

  • Batttmaan says:

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

  • Brian Hinson says:

    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! :)

  • Rick says:

    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

  • Simon says:

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

  • Ed Smith says:

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

  • Jae R says:

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

  • Atul says:

    Love to code with Har­vard!!


  • Michael says:

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

  • Steven Smith says:

    woooo CAKE

  • Richard Clarke says:


  • Chad Woodhead says:

    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!!

  • Nhick says:

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

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

  • 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

  • kashyap says:

    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

  • SupremeDaMC says:

    WOW!!! Free?? Awe­some!

  • Martin B says:

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

  • Anas says:

    No youtube in Pak­istan.

  • attilavago says:

    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!

  • Danyal says:

    Nice… Thanks But I need Java relat­ed Course…

  • Syed S. Hashmi says:

    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.

  • Eric Johnson says:

    non­ap­ple user=> Quit being a snob. Apple only stopped being laughed at by the micro-com­put­er mar­ket in 2004 or 5. Before then it was often chal­leng­ing to find soft­ware, hard­ware and periph­er­als for Apple.

    Solu­tion: Apple retail stores. Sor­ry, but they worked, and work, well.

    But Apple was pro­nounced as all-but-dead by the New York Times and oth­er promient mem­bers of the (com­put­er) press in 1996.

    Before then, and now, PCs dom­i­nate in every way except sin­gle man­u­fac­tur­er units shipped. Then Apple wins.

    But there are how many com­pa­nies world­wide mak­ing Win­dows machines?

    More com­pa­nies make soft­ware, hard­ware, and periph­er­als for use in the win­dows world.

    So you have noth­ing to be snip­py about regard­ing Apple.

    Apple’s first pro­gram­ing lan­guages were even devel­oped either ful­ly or par­tial­ly by Microsoft.

    Microsoft copied Apple’s Mac to devel­op (espe­cial­ly) Win­dows 95.

    So both com­pa­nies became behe­mouths… why do I not hear you com­plain­ing about Microsoft­’s mis­er­able poli­cies?

    Again, you guys won. You have no rea­son to be snip­py. so knock it off

    PCs run the world… look at any hos­pi­tal.

  • parag dhok says:

    Hi kashyap.

    Accord­ing to me you should have a basic under­stand­ing of com­put­ers pro­gram­ming lan­guages like C,C++ , python and java
    Start get­ting famil­iar with this languages.Once you start cod­ing choose any one of your choice and mas­ter that.
    Best of luck…


  • Friendship Day Wishes says:

    Found your post inter­est­ing to read. I can’t wait to see your post soon. Good Luck for the upcom­ing update. This arti­cle is real­ly very inter­est­ing and effec­tive.

  • nihal singh says:

    All the infor­ma­tion men­tion here is clear and easy to under­stand this is help­full to every­one to enhanc­ing the knowl­edge keep on post­ing like this thanks

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