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Lisa

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  • 3 reviews
  • 2 completed
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The main issue with this is the complete lack of translation to the online format. While the on-campus edition looks unimaginably awesome, and the use of C a particularly interesting deviation from typical Python or Java intro courses, it seems as though they put far too much faith in their extensive use of virtual machines, hacker culture and other computer wizardry to scale the chasm between the intimate campus setting and an interactive but often lonely online independence. Pretty much everything is identical here, from the full 60-90 minute lectures uploaded verbatim twice a week to the admittedly very interesting and unique problem sets. Unfortunately, while that hacker mentality would be fantastic when you're surrounded by others on campus and would undoubtedly add a lot to the experience, it is frustrating and interfering when you're by yourself, very far away from Harvard, trying to figure out how to set up an assignment box and then send it over your virtual machine with command prompt, when what you should be doing is learning - or in my case, going for a walk or something, as in boredom and irritation with the poor online structure, I gave up entirely. On the bright side, the content is fantastic and would love to have a bit more pampering on the delivery side. If you can slog through the lectures (which again have fantastic atmosphere on campus), there's much to be learned, especially with so much interaction with TAs and so on. However MITs offering on the same website and Udacity's CS101 are much more suited for the online medium. It is the use of C that makes Harvard so tantalising, but if you're just beginning it doesn't really matter what language you begin with anyway.
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This course would have been almost perfect if not for the numerous small issues that plagued its first offering. First the good - the interface (aside from the weirdly structured forums) is fantastic and very well polished. Videos have all the necessary options along with captioning on the side and waiting for the little green tick to appear in the quizzes is always fun (and frustrating). Content and difficulty was well managed and very consistent, with the exception of one week on object-oriented programming when a new professor entered. Unfortunately, while the course had all the promising features, it seemed to have many teething issues in this first instance. Finger exercises would often not appear for many days, quizzes and midterms had several incorrect answers, and several other small niggling things hampered the experience. Giving the benefit of the doubt, this course should have hopefully fixed what are mere bugs rather than core issues, and is fantastic for anyone looking for a mildly rigourous introduction to Python. If you want something a little more gentle, or perhaps like blitzing through at your own pace, Udacity also has an excellent offering in CS101.
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A fairly gentle introduction to Python - not so much computer science. Certainly no prerequisites are needed, perhaps excepting very basic algebra. Udacity's set up is fantastic, with very short videos interspersed with quizzes every 2 or 3 minutes. The interface looked a bit hackish when the quizzes appeared, and overall wasn't quite as polished as the offering from MIT on edx, but this wasn't much of an issue. Offering timetabled instances could be helpful for some as not all are well-suited to self-pacing.