Online - Advanced Course on Programming Languages
Online - Advanced Course on Programming Languages
Written by Sue Gee   
Monday, 13 August 2012

A new online course, starting in September, will appeal to those who are already professional programmers but have missed out on the academic background and want to plug some gaps and improve their credentials.




This online offering is of course CSCI 1730 Introduction to Programming Languages and is described as "Brown's upper-level programming languages offering"

It comes from Brown University, the seventh-oldest college in the United States, part of the Ivy League group of institutions and a leading research institute.

The course instructor is Professor Shriram Krishnamurthi who recently won the fist ever Robin Milner Young Researcher Award from SIGPLAN, the ACM's Special Interest Group on Programming Languages. In making this award for his outstanding contributions as a:

"a prolific researcher who brings programming language theory to bear in many other disciplines, thus exposing its foundational value" it also notes "Shriram is also an influential educator".



Shriram Krishnamurthi


The prerequisites for CSC are that you are a competent programmer, having the equivalent of CS1 and CS2 courses and comfortable designing and debugging medium-scale programs. You also need basic knowledge of computer internals and of discrete mathematics.

When it comes to the specific language used by the course it is Racket. You are not expected to be familiar with this Scheme-like language but the you will be expected to pick it up reasonably quickly.

What marks this 3-month course out from some others is that it is anticipated that some of its students will be "busy professionals" and to cater for this it is being offered at three levels of recognition requiring different amounts of commitment:

  • Lite - Complete a sufficiently high number of the regular quizzes
  • Mezzanine - In addition to Lite, you also complete the minor project that occupies the first month
  • Ninja - In addition to Mezzanine, you also complete the major project that occupies the remaining two months

To see details of the projects, which sum up the essence of the course, go to the course assignments page.

None of these levels counts as a credit from Brown University. However, the course description states:

those who successfully complete it can get recognition of this directly from the instructor.

The on-campus version of the class has three hour-long lectures per week and videos of these will be available after each class finishes and can be watched at anytime.

All online work (quizzes and projects) need to be done at same pace and the university course. Campus students also have written homeworks that have to be manually graded and while online students will have access to the questions they are unlikely to be graded.

Discussion about the course will be of Google+.



From the information already available, this sounds like an attractive course. I don't think it will necessarily be a MOOC - it's too advanced to attract a massive number of students - but the idea of extending it beyond campus seems a very generous move on the part of  Brown and Professor Krishnamurthi.


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