New free Vanderbilt course to teach computer programming to beginners

Register for Introduction to Programming with MATLAB on Coursera.

A new free massive open online course, or MOOC, is being offered by Vanderbilt University that will teach computer programming to those with little or no previous experience April 14 to June 15.

While the course is an introductory college-level course in computer science, it is also suitable for high school students who are interested in programming. The material assumes no background in mathematics beyond the standard high school curriculum.

The course, Introduction to Programming with MATLAB, is being taught by Michael Fitzpatrick, professor emeritus of computer science, computer engineering, electrical engineering, radiology and neurosurgery, and by Akos Ledeczi, associate professor of computer engineering in the Vanderbilt School of Engineering and senior research scientist at the Institute for Software Integrated Systems. The instructors are using MATLAB for the course because it is easy to learn, versatile and useful for engineers and other professionals. The course is being offered on the online learning platform Coursera.


Michael Fitzpatrick (Vanderbilt University)

“The online course is based on Computer Science 103, a course Mike developed in the early 2000s at Vanderbilt and I took over when he retired. We saw the enrollment increase significantly over the years and decided to enhance the course and its reach with the latest technologies,” Ledeczi said. “We created a digital textbook specifically designed for the iPad that is also available as a PDF and received support from MathWorks, the developers of MATLAB, to create a MOOC that will allow the curriculum that we fine-tuned for 15 years to have a truly global reach.”

Students will participate in four to six hours of course programming and work each week of the course’s nine weeks. Students taking the course will get a MATLAB license free of charge for a three-month period and will be able to earn a verified certificate upon their completion of the course.


Akos Ledeczi (Vanderbilt University)

As described in the course listing on the Coursera website, MATLAB is a special-purpose language that is an excellent choice for writing moderate-size programs that solve problems involving the manipulation of numbers. The design of the language makes it possible to write a powerful program in a few lines. The problems may be relatively complex, while the MATLAB programs that solve them are simple, relative to the equivalent program written in a general-purpose computer language, such as C++ or Java. As a result, MATLAB is being used in a wide variety of domains from the natural sciences through all disciplines of engineering to finance and beyond, and is heavily used in industry.

“A solid background in MATLAB is an indispensable skill in today’s job market,” the instructors wrote.

According to the website, students who successfully complete this course will become familiar with general concepts in computer science, gain an understanding of the general concepts of programming, and obtain a solid foundation in the use of MATLAB.

The course is supported by the Vanderbilt Institute for Digital Learning. Since Vanderbilt partnered with Coursera in 2012, more than 700,000 students from over 190 countries have enrolled in MOOCs offered by Vanderbilt.

Register for Introduction to Programming with MATLAB on Coursera.

Melanie Moran, (615) 322-NEWS