IBM Teaches COBOL With VSCode
Written by Sue Gee   
Friday, 24 July 2020

COBOL Programming with VSCode is a course for beginners that looks at the language that introduced computing to business over a decade ago with the highly popular VSCode editor. Why is IBM doing this? and why now?

COBOL is a programming language that refuses to act its age. As we reported, it turned 60 last year and yet there is still a strong demand for COBOL programmers . If you want to understand why see Wanted - COBOL Programmers, which explains why the COVID-19 pandemic has alerted governmental organizations to the fact that legacy software is still absolutely vital for a  functioning economy.

I ended that article with:

So if you have or want to have COBOL skills you can expect them to be in demand for years to come - particularly in a crisis.

Now IBM, which already offers several Professional Certificates on Coursera at Intermediate level, has added COBOL Programming with VSCode at Beginner level.

Responding to the notion that COBOL, characterized by using everyday language - or as as some might put it "verbose" - is still at the heart of many financial and administrative concerns, this 16-hour course sets out to impart skills in programming in COBOL to anyone who want a change of career..

Course Instructor Jeff Bisti opens his Welcome Video by spelling out the COBOL acronym - COmmon Business-Oriented Language.



He goes on to explains that COBOL:

was designed around data processing, specifically data processing with incredibly high accuracy, extreme efficiency and ease of reading and writing.

And to motivate interest in learning a 60-year old language says:

Every day about $3 trillion in finance gets handled by COBOL. So let's just make sure we're clear here. COBOL pretty much runs the world. It has been kept up to date to support new requirements throughout the years and 1.5 billion lines of new code are written every year. Suffice to say, learning this language will give you a very valuable set of skills.

COBOL was a mainframe language when the machines occupied huge environmentally-controlled rooms and programs were run using punched cards and, later, paper tape. That's not how this course works and he explains students will be working with Enterprise COBOL, an implementation written specifically to run on IBM Z mainframes.

Rather than making us code the hard way, the course uses VS Code extensions which:

give us all the goodness for COBOL as well as allowing us to connect to a real live mainframe system.

So to get going with the course you need to download and install VS Code, plus the IBM Z Open Editor and Zowe Explorer which are to be found in the VS Code Extensions Marketplace  All of these are free resources.


According to its blurb, by the end of the course, which is estimated to require 16 hours of effort, students will be able to:

  • Summarize the key features of COBOL program
  • Recognize the hardware (IBM Z) and software (z/OS) layers that go hand in hand with Enterprise COBOL
  • Demonstrate an understanding of basic programming fundamentals
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the modern tooling interface (VSCode w/ ZOWE & Z Open Editor)

The syllabus splits the course material into three weeks, but as it is self-paced this is flexible:

  • Week 1 - COBOL Basics - 4 hours
    • 5 videos (Total 19 min), 3 readings, 6 quizzes
  • Week 2 - COBOL Structure and Cross-Program Communication - 6 hours
    • 7 videos ;(Total 33 min), 4 readings, 8 quizzes
  • Week 3 - Defining and Manipulating COBOL Data Names/Types - 6 hours
    • 5 videos (Total 19 min), 3 readings, 6 quizzes

Successful completion will not only earn a Coursera Certificate (as long as you Enroll rather than simply Audit the course) but also an IBM badge.



More Information

COBOL Programming with VSCode

Related Articles

Survey Says COBOL Still Going Strong 

COBOL Turns 60, Still Won't Die

History Of Languages - The Classical Decade

Grace Hopper - The Mother of Cobol       

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Last Updated ( Friday, 24 July 2020 )