Computer Science 101

Introduction to Computer Science for a zero-prior-experience audience. Play with little phrases of code to understand what computers are all about.

Computer Science 101

There is one session available:

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Estimated 6 weeks
4–6 hours per week
Self-paced
Progress at your own speed

About this course

Skip About this course

CS101 is a self-paced course that teaches the essential ideas of Computer Science for a zero-prior-experience audience. Computers can appear very complicated, but in reality, computers work within just a few, simple patterns. CS101 demystifies and brings those patterns to life, which is useful for anyone using computers today.

In CS101, participants play and experiment with short bits of "computer code" to bring to life to the power and limitations of computers. Everything works within the browser, so there is no extra software to download or install. CS101 also provides a general background on computers today: what is a computer, what is hardware, what is software, what is the internet. Anyone who has the ability to use a web browser may be successful in this course. No previous computer science experience is required.

At a glance

  • Institution: StanfordOnline
  • Subject: Computer Science
  • Level: Introductory
  • Prerequisites:

    Zero computer experience is assumed beyond a basic ability to use a web browser.

  • Language: English

What you'll learn

Skip What you'll learn
  • The nature of computers and code, what they can and cannot do
  • How computer hardware works: chips, cpu, memory, disk
  • Necessary jargon: bits, bytes, megabytes, gigabytes
  • How software works: what is a program, what is "running"
  • How digital images work
  • Computer code: loops and logic
  • Big ideas: abstraction, logic, bugs
  • How structured data works
  • How the internet works: ip address, routing, ethernet, wi-fi
  • Computer security: viruses, trojans, and passwords, oh my!
  • Analog vs. digital
  • Digital media, images, sounds, video, compression

About the instructors

Frequently Asked Questions

Skip Frequently Asked Questions

What sort of work is required?

CS101 has a "lab" component where participants play with short bits of computer code, on their way to understanding the nature of computers. That's more involved than answering multiple choice questions. These code-writing exercises ramp up gradually.

Is a book required?

No. We do provide extensive written notes to go with each lecture, for review, or for people who learn better that way.

What computer language is used?

CS101 uses a variant of Javascript. However, the code used in CS101 is very stripped down, avoiding all sorts of boilerplate that would get in the way of learning. As a result, CS101 code does not look like full, professional Javascript code.

Is CS101 a full programming course?

No. CS101 uses code to explore the nature of computers, but does not pursue code in the depth of a full programming course. Certainly CS101 participants will have a real understanding of what code is and how it works, but not going so far as a full programming course. CS101 is an excellent first step for someone who then wants to take a full programming course.

How much time will I need to allot to this course each week?

You should expect to spend about 4 hours of work per week on this course.