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Harvard's CS50 Computer Science for Business Professionals

Harvard's most popular online course about computer science is now available as a business version. It aims to give business professionals a top-down overview of computers and programming.

Harvard's CS50 Computer Science for Business Professionals
Picture: marciojosebastossilva/shutterstock

Harvard University's "Computer Science 50" class is not only one of the most popular courses on campus. Its original online version (via the course platform edX) has had 1+ million students enrolled so far.

In its original format, the CS50 online course, taught by Professor David J. Malan, is known for its bottom-up, in-depth exploration of computer science fundamentals.

It is highly popular with online learners worldwide and its Facebook community has more than 800,000 followers. It was also one of the first lecture series available in a virtual reality version.

Recently, Professor Malan and his team have decided to expand the reach of the course to target an even broader audience.

High-Level Computer Science Concepts for Business Learners

Most managers have experienced the problem: listening to tech experts who propose solutions for the average business person who doesn't even know the fundamental concepts.

Building on its popularity, the CS50 team has therefore created a new version of the course specifically designed for business professionals.

Compared to the original version of the course, the main difference is its top-down approach. It aims to explain the key high-level concepts of computer science to learners with no background in programming or computers.

According to the course description, participants of the course will "emerge from this course with a first-hand appreciation of how it all works" and become "more confident in their decision-making".

What's included in the course?

Six Lessons and Six (Challenging) Assignments

There are six lectures – each between 30 and 90 minutes long – that were filmed at Harvard's impressive Sanders Theater. 

Each lecture gives an overview of the basic concepts of a certain sub-topic:

  1. Computational Thinking: binary system (0-1), abstraction, algorithms
  2. Programming Languages: functions, loops, variables; and the Scratch / C / Python languages
  3. Internet Technologies: protocols, domain names, HTTP 
  4. Web Development: IDEs, HTML, CSS, JavaScript
  5. Technology Stacks: various libraries and frameworks
  6. Cloud Computing: caching, software/infrastructure as a service, virtual machines, databases

The lectures are accompanied by slides, lecture notes, and a full transcript. 

After each lecture, students are expected to complete a related assignment, ranging from answering short questions to creating their own short computer program or even designing a basic webpage. 

The effort required to complete the assignments should not be underestimated since a large part of the learning experience is meant to come from successfully mastering these practical challenges.

Preview of the first video lecture

10 Channels to Discuss With Your Fellow Classmates

The learning community for the CS50 course is much more active than in most other online courses. Learners can therefore have a truly interactive experience.

But unlike most other MOOCs (massive open online courses), the discussion is not restricted to the edX course platform.

To interact with other CS50 students, learners can choose from a variety of digital communication channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Reddit, Slack, Snapchat, StackExchange, Discord, and Gitter.

Learn For Free – or Aim for a Verified Certificate

The course can be completed at your own pace. If you aim to complete one lesson and assignment per week, the estimated time required is approximately 2-6 hours per week over the course of six weeks.

In line with other edX online courses, students can access all course materials for free. This includes all video lectures, notes, and course assignments.

Learners who opt for a Verified Certificate need to

  • verify their identity (via webcam),
  • pay the upgrade fee (approximately $90 USD), and
  • reach at least a 70% score on each of the six assignments.

This may help to boost your motivation to complete the course, and it will result in a certificate that can be shared on LinkedIn or in job applications.

(continue to course website)

Harvard's CS50 Computer Science for Business Professionals
Picture: smolaw/shutterstock

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