Computer science teacher shares lesson materials for free online

For students interested in studying computer science, CS 124: Introduction to Computer Science I is a starting point. Geoffrey Challen, Associate Professor of Engineering Education, recently posted the website “learncs.onlinewhere anyone can learn the course material for free.

“It’s basically a big part of our CS 124 materials,” Challen said. “It’s a publicly accessible website that allows students to learn and practice basic programming and computer science.”

This website, released in June, shares much of its infrastructure with the Challen website, designed for CS 124. Challen is always updating the website and there are currently 61 different lessons to try.

Each lesson contains several interactive components. Challen explained what students can expect to find in any given lesson.

“We tried to make this as interactive as possible, so that each lesson contains a mix of components that attempt to explain a particular concept,” Challen said. “We have a lot of playgrounds that consist of code that students can modify and run to allow them to experiment with things.”

Each lesson also includes interactive explanations from multiple instructors and a coding exercise at the end to help students see if they’ve understood the material.

Challen also said having multiple instructors providing explanations gives people more options in how they learn.

“For a student going through these materials, they may start with an explanation, and maybe that doesn’t make sense to them, but they will usually have several other options they can look at in order to solidify their understanding,” Challen said. .

Challen said the lessons are structured to promote effective course learning. Material.

“Learning a skill — whether it’s cooking, running, or a sport — the foundation for it is consistent, regular practice, Challen said. “Lasting gains and understanding rely on many small interactions with the same material.”

Challen said that through the different components of each lesson, he hopes people will experience and use the interactive opportunities.

Although Challen said he hasn’t done much to promote the website, the site currently has around 1,200 accounts created and 80,000 homework issues submitted.

Colleen Lewis, Associate Professor of Engineering, provided extensive explanations for the lessons on Java, one of the coding languages ​​taught in the course. Lewis said she hopes the website will provide a healthy mindset about computing.

“Hopefully it will give people the right mindset about learning computer science,” Lewis said. “It’s not knowing it already is about having the support to engage in a truly useful practice. Like learning a musical instrument, it helps to have a tutor or teacher who can help you practice effectively.

Challen said he hopes this website will improve the accessibility of computing as a field.

“In IT, one of the things we’ve struggled with for a long time is trying to make our field more accessible and welcoming,” Challen said. “I think there’s something good about a student being able to hear multiple perspectives and multiple different voices.”

Lewis said anyone can start with the website as their first computer experience.

“You can just dive without any experience, but it might help to have people cheer you on when you get frustrated,” Lewis said. “Because it can get frustrating, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be successful in learning it.”

Lewis said that while this website is helpful for people wanting to pursue a career in IT, she thinks knowing the basics can benefit anyone.

“I think this tool is really useful for people who are really interested in a career in IT, but I think it’s not just useful for people like that,” Lewis said. “By gaining some programming experience, it can make some of the computing world around us a little less mysterious.”

Challen said he felt he had a duty to share this website publicly.

“I think it goes hand in hand with the University‘s public mission,” Challen said. “We have a certain public responsibility not only to educate the students who pay to come here, but also to contribute to the general dissemination of knowledge.”

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