In a scramble to fills the skills gap, programming is being seen as a good skill to possess. We look at some of the free online options that are on offer if you want to learn Python.
If you look around at the "begin to program" options available online you'll notice that Python crops up more often than most other languages. In many respects it is "the new Basic". However, it is a good teaching language in that it can be considered object oriented and can be used to teach the basics of computer science. It also has good tools - the IDLE IDE and a useful open source visualizer.
Google Python Class - an intensive 2-day class with around 6 hours of video lectures and four sets of exercises for those with "a little bit of programming experience".
CS Circles - a course suitable for absolute beginners who want to learn Python at their own pace. No community and no certificate though you can print out the checklist to show you've passed at its tests.
Coursera - Learn to Program: The Fundamentals. A 7-week class underway since September 24th with weekly video lectures, exercises and bi-weekly programming assignments. Designed for the complete beginner with a workload around 7 hours per week. Certificate for those with 70% or more. Discussion Forum for participants.
Udacity - CS101 - Learn the basics of Python and tackle the possibly daunting task of building a search engine. Although the description claims "no prior programming knowledge needed" this is a tough first course for the absolute beginner. Now available without a timetable which means students can tackle its seven units at their own pace and have access to discussion forum. A proctored Final exam is available and three universities (Colorado State in USA, Frieberg in Germany and Salzburg in Austria) will count it towards an undergraduate degree.
EdX - MITx 6.00x Introduction to Computer Science and Programming uses Python 2.7 to solve real problems. It started on October 1 and is 14-week course with an anticipated workload of 12 hours per week with two midterm exams and a final exam. To gain a certificate students need a grade of C (55%) or above.
MIT Open Courseware - These free online classes predate the current rise of the MOOC and may seem a bit lacking - no exercises or exams, no certificates and no community aspects Their videos were recorded in the lecture hall - which means they are long and relatively slow paced as the lecturer writes on the board. For Python there is 6.189 A Gentle Introduction to Programming Using Python and parts of CS 6.00 (which is the course that MITx 6.00x is based on).
Mechanical MOOC - This initiative, starting October 15, is taking the approach of harnessing existing online tools rather than developing new delivery platforms. the aspects of content, community and assessment are each from separate entities with the content coming MIT Open Courseware, the practice exercises and assessment from Code Academy, the OpenStudy forums for community and the co-ordination provided by Per 2 Peer University. There are still no certificates but you can earn badges - and hopefully students who start out as complete beginners to Python will emerge as confident Python programmers.