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Learn decoding with online courses and programs

Decoding is an essential step in computer programming. Without decoding it wouldn’t be possible to process information that is communicated digitally. Learn decoding with online courses from edX.

What is decoding?

In its simplest form, decoding is a process we do every day, mostly without thinking about it. When you read a text or answer a phone call, your brain receives the message and decodes its meaning. This happens with verbal and written communication, and also when you process gestures or interpret visual representations like photographs or paintings.

All forms of communication rely on decoding and encoding, including computing and data programming. To transmit or store information digitally, data must exist in a format that computers can understand. Encoding, the opposite of decoding, involves assembling a sequence of characters (letters, numbers, punctuation, and specific symbols) into a binary-based, data-encoding format — like American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII), Unicode, or Base64 — that can be efficiently stored or transmitted between computers. Decoding is how that transmitted message is then converted back to its original form.Footnote 1

We can communicate over the internet thanks to encoding and decoding. Different programming languages, such as Java, Python, C++, and Swift, rely on these processes to transfer messages or object data through networks in a way that’s standardized and allows for interoperability between diverse programming languages and platforms.Footnote 2

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Decoding course curriculum

Introductory computer science classes teach encoding and decoding fundamentals, while more advanced computer science courses address these skills in greater depth. Information technology courses and programming courses, such as those that teach Java or Python, also cover decoding principles.

Enrolling in a decoding class or computer science course may introduce you to topics like:Footnote 3

  • The nature of computers and code

  • How the internet works

  • How software programs and digital images function

  • Necessary jargon like megabytes and gigabytes

  • Loops and logic in computer code

  • Internet security fundamentals

  • Big ideas like abstraction, logic, and bugs

Once you’ve absorbed the basics of decoding and other computer science fundamentals, you might want to explore a specific area of study further, like how to program in Java or another programming language. There are a number of accessible computer science and programming courses where you can continue developing your knowledge and skills.

Explore decoding jobs

Modern society relies heavily on jobs that involve decoding skills. Pursuing a computer science education can help pave the way to a rewarding career path in our increasingly digital world. 

Jobs that require decoding and computer science-related skills like mathematics, programming, and knowledge of data structures and algorithms include:Footnote 4

  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning engineer

  • Business analyst

  • Cloud computing engineer

  • Computer systems analyst

  • Data scientist

  • Database administrator

  • DevOps engineer

  • Full-stack developer

  • Information security analyst

  • Information technology specialist

  • Mobile developer

  • Network architect

  • Project manager

  • Research and development (R&D) scientist

  • Security engineer

  • Software developer

  • Software engineer

  • User interface designer

  • Web developer

If you are interested in pursuing one of these roles, edX offers a variety of online learning opportunities that work for all types of learners from an accelerated boot camp to a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree.Footnote 5

How to learn decoding online

Pursuing an online degree in computer science or programming is one way to learn decoding, and online boot camps like those in a cybersecurity boot camp and a coding boot camp can greatly improve your knowledge.  

The core STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are important to know if you want to excel in decoding classes. Programming and data science rely heavily on logical reasoning and analytical thinking, which STEM classes help cultivate in learners.

While a firm grasp of STEM subjects can be beneficial in decoding courses, learners who come to decoding with a rich humanities education can benefit from an ability to place their learning in historical and cultural contexts and apply it to real-world situations. After all, if you want to engineer solutions to society’s complex problems, it’s important to understand the circumstances surrounding those problems and the society your solutions will impact.Footnote 6

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