Quantum Computing From FutureLearn
Written by Sue Gee   
Wednesday, 18 April 2018

A new course on quantum computing for which the only prerequisite is high school math and a rough idea of what atoms, electrons and photons are, started this week on the FutureLearn platform. I Programmer has enrolled.

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Understanding Quantum Computers is a four-week course from Keio University in Japan, although the lead instructor Rodney D. Van Meter comes originally from California. He has been working on quantum computing since 2003 and is author of the book "Quantum Networking". He also teaches courses in Keio University’s first English-language based undergraduate degree program and this MOOC serves, among other aims, to attract high school students in Japan and overseas to study at Keiko University.

So far no-one has built a quantum computer but the topic is important both in theoretical physics and science fiction and this course aims to answer some of the basic questions about this futuristic technology in an engaging way with minimal maths as indicated in this taster video for the course:


Anybody who wants an advanced approach to the field that does present the maths in a traditional blackboard-based way should take a look at the ongoing series of three courses on Quantum Information Science,based on lives lectures from MIT, which we looked at earlier this year, see Quantum Computation on edX. Its aim is to establish a foundation of knowledge for understanding what quantum computers can do, how they work and goes in some depth into solving problems in quantum information science and engineering.

While the Future Learn course shares the aim of providing an understanding of quantum computers and the sorts of problems they can tackle it is at a much more introductory level and only requires around 16 hours effort in total.



Week 1 looks at key concepts, beginning with how waves interfere with each other and leading toward quantum entanglement, which Einstein called “spooky action at a distance”. Week 2 moves into the heart of quantum computing. The week is divided into four major Activities: Qubits, Entanglement, Basic Algorithm Idea, and State Variables. Across those Activities, participants will learn about the seven key concepts needed to grasp quantum computing. In Week 3, the course examine some of the important quantum algorithms in detail and in the final week, it looks at devices that can make and control each kind of state variable, and meets some of the people and companies building real quantum computers.

So far I'm about half the way through Week 1 of Understanding Quantum Computing on Future Learn and am enjoying the course as a not very technical introduction to a topic I've encountered but never really tried to understand. Looking at the discussion comments from fellow learners about their motivation for learning about quantum computers other people there also have a programming background - extending back in some cases to the 1970s and even the 60s.

The only complaint I have is that while there are English subtitles that appear when I play the videos on my PC or Android tablet, when I cast to a TV with Chromecast the subtitles disappear. The course is delivered in English and lead instructor Rodney D. Van Meter speaks clearly - although at quite a fast pace. However, when we hear from the other lead instructor, quantum computing researcher at Keio University, Takahiko Satoh, subtitles become necessary. There is a complete transcript of every video and the optional subtitles are accurate, not intrusive and can be switched off.

If you join the course for free you'll have six weeks access to articles, videos, peer reviews and quizzes but not to tests that validate your knowledge. If you require unlimited access or want a Certificate of Achievement you upgrade at any time during the course or after the course.



More Information

Understanding Quantum Computers


Related Articles

Quantum Computation on edX


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