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Stanford University

Computer Science 101

Stanford University via Coursera

This course may be unavailable.


UPDATE: we're doing a live, updated MOOC of this course at stanford-online July-2014 (not this Coursera version). See here:

CS101 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, students 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. No previous experience is required other than the ability to use a web browser.

Here is another video Nick created for this class.


CS101 topics are covered with a mixture of video lecture and active lab work, all in the browser:

  • 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

Taught by

Nick Parlante


4.1 rating, based on 23 Class Central reviews

Start your review of Computer Science 101

  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course, spending 20 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    I finished the course in February 2014. I completed one "week" lecture per day over the last six days. I spend about 2-3 hours per lessons. I already knew a lot about computers before taking this course, since I am using them for over 15 years now. However,...
  • Audrey Watters

    Audrey Watters completed this course.

    The Coursera class felt very much like a traditional lecture-based class, just one broadcast online. Indeed, some of the videos were Professor Parlante’s lectures at Stanford, although most of them involved him talking into the camera, sharing a split-screen with his lecture notes.

    It covered a lot of fundamentals: bytes, bits, networking, security, variables, strings, Boolean logic. It tied these concepts to manipulating images, sound, and spreadsheets. It covered a lot of material over the 6 weeks.
  • Jose Leal completed this course, spending 3 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    I was a complete beginner and this class guided me in a gentle way into the world of programming. The professor does an excellent job of explaining complicated topics in easy to understand terms. If you are a beginner and need a class that is easy to understand and comprehend you must take this class. The professor is excellent.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    This class is an introduction to how computer works, if you want to learn programming it's probably not the right class for you. Wasn't exactly what i was looking for, but the teacher is great and material is well presented that's why i'm giving it 4 stars
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    This is a great introduction to how computers work. As another reviewer noted, this is not really a programming course. It's a very basic introduction to computing concepts. That said, there are some concepts that are presented in a new and interesting manner. Plus, the instructor is great!
  • Diana Jackson is taking this course right now, spending 17 hours a week on it.

    I'm not sure this site is even still working as it is now November 2017. There appears to be no feedback or anyone on line to help with issues.
  • Bobby Brady completed this course, spending 2 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be very easy.

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