Popular Python Course Updated
Written by Sue Gee   
Monday, 28 August 2017

One of earliest introductory computer science courses on the edX platform has been given a facelift and now uses Python 3.5. The first of a two-course sequence, it restarts on August 30th.

Introduction to Computer Science and Programming Using Python comes from MIT and was one of the inaugural courses on the edX platform in 2012.  Originally, with the reference number 6.00x, it was a run as a 16-week course requiring 12 hours per week. After a couple of presentations the course was split into two courses, 6.00.1x and 6.00.2x, both of them taught by the same team from MIT's Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering - Professors Eric Grimson and John Guttag and Anna Bell, who was a PhD student in 2013 and is now a Lecturer.

The 2017-2018 presentations of these courses features:

updated lecture videos, lecture exercises, and problem sets to use the new version of Python 3.5. 

However the course page on edX still uses the You Tube video for 6.00.1x from September 2013 in which John Guttag explains that the course is intended to introduce non-programmers to computer science as a tool to solve real-world analytical problems:



The course blurb states:

Since these courses may be the only formal computer science courses many of the students take, we have chosen to focus on breadth rather than depth. The goal is to provide students with a brief introduction to many topics so they will have an idea of what is possible when they need to think about how to use computation to accomplish some goal later in their career. That said, they are not "computation appreciation" courses. They are challenging and rigorous courses in which the students spend a lot of time and effort learning to bend the computer to their will. 

The topics covered in 6.00.1x, which is now a 9 week course requiring 15 hours per week are:

  • A Notion of computation
  • The Python programming language
  • Some simple algorithms
  • Testing and debugging
  • An informal introduction to algorithmic complexity
  • Data structures

The follow-on course, 6.00.2x  is 10 weeks in length, Introduction to Computational Thinking and Data Science also with 15 hours per week estimated effort and covers: 

  • Plotting with the pylab package
  • Stochastic programming and statistical thinking
  • Monte Carlo simulations

It is the first of the pair that starts on August 30 and it has an impressive track record. It is included in Class Central's list of the Top 50 Most Popular MOOCs Of All Time, which records it as having almost 100K enrollments. It also comes highly recommended in that it has a rating of 4.5 out of 5 on the basis of 222 reviews on Coursetalk. It is also included as one of two foundational courses in the list of computer science courses from OSS University - the list maintained on GitHub to provide a:

Path to a free self-taught education in Computer Science!


The OSS list was compiled in 2015 at a time when most MOOCs were free of charge. Courses on edX have so far remained free with access to the full course experience including assessment - so students can still access everything you require to benefit from the class without having to pay.

If you want a certificate you can upgrade up until any major exam or the time that enrollment ceases. Students who upgrade to the Verified Certificate track and pass the course with 65% or higher are also eligible for transferable credit towards a degree. It costs $300 ($100 per credit hour) to purchaser 3 credit hours from edX partner Charter Oak State College, Connecticut's public online college, which in turn may be accepted by other educational establishments.  

Even if you have no interest in college credit, this course has a lot to recommend it. John Guttag's book Introduction to Computation and Programming Using Python which serves as its textbook was given a 5-star review on I Programmer. Python, which now ranks as the most popular teaching language for computer science, is a trending language and adopting its latest version, 3.5, is a plus point for this course. If you do both courses you'll also make a head start on Data Science - another much sought after skill.




More Information 

Introduction to Computer Science and Programming Using Python

The 50 Most Popular MOOCs Of All Time

Related Articles

Top CS MOOCs By the Numbers

Python Becomes Most Popular CS Teaching Language

Harvard and MIT Join Forces in edX

edX Expands and Announces New Courses

What is a Data Scientist and How Do I Become One

Introduction to Computation and Programming Using Python (book review) 

OSS University - A Free Computer Science Degree Curriculum

Keeping Track of Computer Science Courses




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Last Updated ( Monday, 28 August 2017 )