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Live blog as a CS50x student (Harvard edX course)

By Matt Jenner, on 16 October 2012

To mark the launch of edX (Harvard and MIT’s joint initiative into the world of Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) I am attempting to live blog my journey. Every time I do something (yes, like a real person I’ll be inconsistent) I’ll blog about it here. One of the main reasons for doing this is to show what it’s like to be on one of these courses as a real student. I don’t know much about Computer Science, despite just finishing an MSc so I’ll be sure to cover what and how I’m learning. If I fail, or succeed, I’ll blog about it.

If you’re interested in finding out how I get on, click through the link and read more…

Post index

I wrote more than one post.

This is mainly about Problem Set 0 (pset0)

This one is about Problem Set 1

Week 0 – as they call it

The start of Introduction to Computer Science I, or CS50x and it may become known, it intriguing. As an inquisitive student I am not sure of what I’ve subscribed to when I signed up to this course. A significant thing about MOOCs is they are free, so I can leave whenever and without fear of financial reprise. I am also getting a Harvard education, which is unlikely to happen any other time in my life. Coupling £0 and ‘Major University’ is so far the winning formula to my enrolment.

In Week  0 I’ve got a few things to do

  • Look at the learning environment and find my way around (fairly simple)
  • Skim the syllabus (maybe look deeper another time)
  • See what level of commitment I have to give!

What I’ll actually do

  • Read the overview page entitled ‘This is CS50x’
  • Watch some lectures
  • Try my hand at the activities
  • See how I get on!

If you’re interested, I’ll be updating this blog post as I go along. If it looks inactive, then you can sadly presume I have failed/quit/burned up by the mysteries of life.

[B]logging learning is difficult

I’ve realised already that logging learning is difficult, how to trace back, and log, what is learnt is an experience in itself.

Week 0 – second ‘login’

Early Saturday seems like a good time to dig deeper into edX, so here I am going to invest some time into the course I’ve enrolled on. I’ve logged in and read the syllabus properly. As I look through the syllabus there are several things that interest me, probably because I only narrowly missed a Computer Science undergraduate degree only to swap last minute for a course called Interactive Multimedia as it was 2001 I was inspired by the emergent web, I could code already and I wanted to mix it with visual, data and user interfacing learning, rather than the more binary aspects of computing. I always wondered if I had missed out on getting a slightly more technical background. Is this my chance?

Like any good student, I look at the syllabus and then jump directly to the assessments – skip the content, I obviously know all that… ahem.

Problem Set 0

The first assessment. I find there’s a walkthrough for the problem set, as I hoped it would outline the context I will be working towards. As seen before, I enjoy the 1.5x speed videos, 2x seems a little too much for some speakers, as it works better, or worse, with different accents (to me). As a student who wants to get into things, rather than just hear about them, I found after only 4:33 into the video, I’ve paused it and already using the tools being referred to, so I an work alongside the video. Dual screen monitors ftw.

Using Scratch

It seems we’re working on Scratch, MIT’s ‘jigsaw-like’ programming language, for humans. After a few hours of messing around (and dropping one idea in favour of this). I made a simple drawing application:

Using Scratch to make a small, and simple, program to draw shapes with keyboard commands.

I could see why, with a currently unknown but probably somewhere either in to 10’s or hundred’s of thousands of students, that they want us to use Scratch. The software is awesome, we know that, but getting that many people using it, talking, sharing – let’s just stop for a second. This is, like many other aspects of MOOCs, marketing genius. Luckily, it was also enjoyable and I got to apply things I understand to a new problem. Yeah, I learnt something already.

That’s all for now, I’ve neglected other things today for too long. But if you’re bursting to try what I made out, here’s the real thing:

handyShapes – in Scratch, by Matt Jenner for CS50, edX


I spent some time in Scratch tonight and I’ve ‘finished my project – I’m quite happy with the outcome

I have submitted Problem Set 0 to the edX platform. The problem set asked for some ‘sanity checking’ which, I guess understandably, is actually a call for some learner data. I began to feel, as one would expect, that I am giving something back from filling out this information, maybe I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine. LOL.

Anyway, some questions about binary, hex and info about my project and I’m done for Week 0. And I didn’t quite get around to watching the lecture video yet – the interactive building exercises were more entertaining, and I learnt something too – which is nice 😉

-I think the next blog post will be separated, this is starting to get messy.


4 Responses to “Live blog as a CS50x student (Harvard edX course)”

  • 1
    Thomas Shipley wrote on 19 October 2012:

    I have enrolled for the same reasons and it is pretty impressive!

  • 2
    pri wrote on 22 October 2012:

    Hi … I am looking forward in joining this. I took a course with udacity before and liked it a lot … hoping to learn some basic OOPS concept in this one …

  • 3
    Alice wrote on 1 November 2012:

    This is a really great post. Your program looks really good and it sounds like you are enjoying your course. Good luck with it!


  • 4
    Dan At Ely wrote on 1 November 2012:

    Thank you for sharing this. It gets a little lonely 3000 miles from campus. Keep going.

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