How To Start Learning Computer Science – I was constantly asked if it was possible for someone to learn Computer Science on their own. My answer:
Although I don’t think it’s easy by any standard, I think it can be achieved. The first steps are always the hardest, but if you’re prepared and determined, I think you’ll be able to learn a lot on your own once you get past the first notch of learning the basics of programming. I mean almost all college course materials are available online for free.
- 1 How To Start Learning Computer Science
- 2 Facts About Computer Science, Why I Am Excited About It And Why You Should Study It.
- 3 How To Choose A Computer Science Specialization (plus Jobs)
How To Start Learning Computer Science
Notes: This post is primarily intended for students in or about to enter university. While many people who are not in college can follow this, I have found that they don’t need to learn this curriculum as much as they need to learn how to code. In the future I will probably write another similar post specifically for that demographic.
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Also, while I think this is very possible on your own, I would recommend at least trying to study with another person. This can be especially helpful because it will help you stay motivated and bounce ideas off of you. If one of you succeeds, teach the other. This is also a great learning exercise. If you can teach it well and accurately, it’s a good indicator that you have a pretty solid understanding of the concept. If you find it difficult to explain in simple terms, you don’t know the material well enough.
You can also go to almost any reputable university website, find their requirements for completing a Computer Science degree, and then search for equivalent free online courses at places like Coursera, Codeademy, MIT OpenCourseware, Khan Academy, edX, Stanford Online, Treehouse (although Treehouse costs money), etc. Believe it or not, you can call these things online
I am writing this because I thought I would try to make it difficult for you! Below is a list of everything you need to do to move forward.
The lists below are meant to get you started and give you a good outline of what to do. It’s not the end of the road. I guarantee you will find many ways, websites and books that will help you. This is just to help you get in the door.
Facts About Computer Science, Why I Am Excited About It And Why You Should Study It.
You have to be very clever. Finally, you will have to do a lot of Googling for advice, but be careful because there is a lot of bad code online. Just because it’s on Stack Overflow doesn’t mean it’s the best way to handle a problem. Code needs to be readable and efficient, some muddled answers with minimal documentation won’t fly in the real world. Also, if you don’t know what some of these mean, don’t worry, you’ll learn very soon after you start studying.
This is the introductory course! It is very important to understand everything at this level. Every aspect of computing discussed here is used everywhere, every day, by every programmer. Of variables, conditionals, loops, functions, classes, objects, etc. You must understand all these concepts. My personal advice is to find a language and stick with it until you become proficient in it. Ideally this should be Java, C, C++ or Python. C and C++ can be confusing for beginners, so I would personally recommend Java or Python.
They are very different). They also have a lot of good exercises to do well. They hold your hand a little and it’s a nice place for beginners.
How To Choose A Computer Science Specialization (plus Jobs)
Introduction to Computing and Programming is an MIT course that uses Python. It’s a complete course and MIT in general offers a lot of free courses that I would recommend you check out. Useful books and other resources: Head First Java, Effective Java, A First Book of C++, C: Reference Manual, Learn Python The Hard Way
Topics include debugging, testing, test case generation, state machines, abstract data, design patterns, basics of object-oriented programming, concurrency, parsing, threads, etc. They are all advanced topics. Many of the links above go beyond these basics. The key is always to code! Keep coding more and more to wrap your mind around these topics. Find more online problems or questions that you can try and build on.
Remember that frustration is very common and expected at this stage. You can do it anyway! Keep trucking! The Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs is an MIT course that follows the MIT course mentioned above. Many of the links above extend to this area. Introduction to Java Programming is another MIT course that emphasizes Java instead of Python.
Note: Ok now you should have the basics of programming down. You should probably look into proper code documentation/comments, version control and best practices now if you haven’t already. One piece of advice I would give is to maybe look up a good corporate code style guide. It is a standard that many commercial codes must meet for clarity and readability. I would look at a large company’s style guide, Google has theirs to check online. Google Java Style, Google Python Style. This all includes indentation, line length, expressions, formatting, etc. includes rules. Try to have a consistent style to date.
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The basics of how everything works at a low level. Registers, transistors, gates, circuits, assembly language coding, pipelining, arithmetic, I/O, memory hierarchies, etc. MIT’s Structures of Computing is a good general source. Computer Organization and Design is a decent book.
A very important course. These tend to be the subject of many interviewer ask questions. You need to learn everything from linked lists, stacks, queues, sorting, trees, graphs and more. HackerRank is a great place to see where you stand with all those skills. Learn these inside and out and go code. Introduction to Algorithms for a full course at MIT, followed by this course on Algorithm Design and Analysis and Introduction to Algorithms is a classic book.
Congratulations, once you’ve reached this point on the list, with an expert understanding of all the above areas, you’re probably eligible for a job. This does not mean that if you understand all the above topics you will get the job, it means that you know all these topics like the back of your hand, then you can build entire applications from the ground up at this point . You still have a lot more to learn for yourself to probably get anything you want, but you should be in a pretty good position at this point.
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If you haven’t experimented with Version Control up to this point, you’ve made a mistake. Log out now and create a Github account. Submit your best code to your account, and when you’re done, code more projects. Remember your ABCs (Always Code)
At this point you should be able to create scalable applications that you can push to the web. Go out and build something! It can be anything. It doesn’t even have to be something that anyone uses. It’s just for you. I would actually recommend checking out the entire MIT Electrical and Computer Engineering Page at this point. It lists many courses that you can focus on to try on your own. I’ve taken the liberty of adding a few topics to focus on below.
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