Data Structures from C to Python

With Industry Experts David Collien, Hien Nguyen and more...
Unlock your potential in computer science with coding skills

Round out your programming skills with pointers, arrays and data structures while developing proper coding practices; learn how to learn new languages by applying your coding skills in python.
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About the course

8 weeks
About 10 hours per week
5 December 2022
6 February 2023

Data Structures from C to Python is the third of four courses in the CS101 program, building on from the two previous short courses. It is designed to enable anyone to understand and appreciate the qualities of high quality programming code, develop critical thinking skills whilst programming and to cultivate a scientific mindset for solving problems using code.

You will be part of a vibrant community of students, facilitated by passionate educators and participate in consultation groups with computer scientists. By the end of the course, you will have identified and appreciated good programming practices; demonstrated the fundamental design principles for writing good software; and have co-created solutions by coding in teams, coordinating on design, and reviewing each other’s code. You will have the skills necessary to continue onto the next and final course in the CS101 program: Abstract Data Types and Program Design.

There are hundreds of online courses that will promise to teach programming with minimal effort but they often recycle content from YouTube and only scratch the surface of coding. CS101 is different. If you are motivated to learn real computer science and programming skills then you've come to the right place. :)

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Through this course, you will develop a range of practical, technical and thinking skills:


Write clean and efficient code following best practices. Start with 0s and 1s, and write your first program in C.

Computational thinking

Understand how to analyse and break down problems so they can be solved by computers.

Complex problem solving

Apply a range of techniques and strategies to solve problems by developing a scientific mindset.

Logic and reasoning

Explore the rules of programming, the role of logic gates and core concepts such as recursion, syntax, abastraction and more.


Understand how a computer interprets instructions from processors to modern programming languages.

Testing and debugging

Appreciate and implement test driven development, develop strategies and mental resilience for debugging.

Professional practice and ethics

Understand the implications of the code you write, learn how to review other people's code and appreciate feedback.

Working with data

Use data to solve problems with programming, work with data types, abstraction and capture input from users.

Industry Experts

This course is designed from the ground up by some of the world’s leading computer scientists, software engineers at cutting edge technology companies and experienced educators who have studied and taught at top universities.

The following industry experts have contributed to the design and development of this course:

David Collien
Founder and CTO at OpenLearning, Educator. B. Science (Computer Science) UNSW
Hannah Beder
NSW Young Woman of the Year 2020, Tech Lead at Creatable, Cohort Lead at Code Like a Girl. B. Science (Computer Science), B. Science (Honours) UNSW
Shaun Thompson
Senior Learning Designer at OpenLearning, PhD (Mathematics) University of Newcastle
Hien Nguyen
EdD Penn State University, B Science (Computer Science) Texas A&M University
Jessica Rahman
PhD Candidate (Computer Science) Australian National University
Cameron Cooke
Expert in Advanced Computer Vision at Airbus, Ex Senior Emerging Technology Engineer at Qantas
Martha Winata
Entrepreneur, CEO and Co-founder Get Sandwich, Ex Product Manager at Nasdaq OMX, B. Science (Information Systems) UNSW
Min’an Tan
Entrepreneur, Co-founder Get Sandwich, Ex Developer at Atlassian, B. Engineering (Software Engineering) UNSW
Alex North
Software Engineer and entrepreneur. Staff Engineer at Protocol Labs, Ex Google, Canva, Posse. BSc Comp. Sci. UNSW
Prashant Varanasi
Senior Software Engineer at Uber, Ex Google, Microsoft. B. Science (Computer Science) UNSW

Industry Partners

We are proud to partner with some of the world’s most innovative technology companies and leading universities to ensure that this course provides learners with the skills necessary to succeed in the digital economy.

Support and feedback model

Community facilitated by computer scientists

You will be part of a supportive, positive and collaborative learning community that is tightly integrated into the projects and activities that you will complete throughout the course and is facilitated by a team of computer scientists.

Fortnightly portfolio reviews and feedback

All the projects and activities you complete will be automatically added to your portfolio, which will be reviewed every fortnight and you will receive constructive feedback on how you're progressing and areas for improvement.

Automatically marked programming activities

Programming activities in the course are automatically compiled, run and tested (where applicable) to provide you with immediate feedback. You will also be able to share your work with the rest of the cohort to collaborate and exchange ideas.

Course structure

This course is structured as a series of eight modules with one module being released each week during the eight week course. You should plan to spend about eight hours per week on the course, however, you will be able to catch up if you fall behind.

WEEK 1: Introduction to Data Structures


Why Data Structures?

  • Working on a Project throughout this course
  • Refine your Project ideas
  • Playing with Colours
  • Abstracting Data Representation

Referring to Where Data is Stored

  • Values and addresses
  • Pointers
  • Meet 8-bit Microprocessor III
  • Operating on an Ordered Collection of Data Values
  • Passing by Value
  • Passing by Reference


  • Arrays: a Data Structure
  • Arrays and Pointer Arithmetic
  • Arrays are Pointers
  • Functions Shouldn't Return Arrays
  • What if we Want a Function to "Output" an Array?
  • Can we Pass an Array as input?
  • Function Contracts for Arrays
  • Practice using Arrays
  • Iterating through an Array
  • Your Secret Reduction Recipe
  • Pick a Project and Develop your Specification
WEEK 2: Customising New Data Structures



  • An Ordered Collection of Characters
  • Strings are Structured as Array (of Characters)
  • Strings and Pointers
  • Limitations of the Null Character
  • Buffer Overflow
  • Function Contracts for Strings
  • Practice using Strings
  • Password Hell
  • Good Coding Practices when using Arrays and Strings

Control Structures and Data Structures

  • Taming Algorithm Complexity by Structuring Control Flow
  • Taming Algorithm Complexity by Structuring Data
  • Exploring Limitations of Primitive Data Types
  • Using Arrays to Deal with the Limitations
  • Creating New Data Structures to Deal with the Limitations

Structuring Data to Solve Problems

  • How would you Store Data in Memory?
  • Data Types and Abstracting Problems
  • Example: Abstracting Two-Dimensional Vector Problems
  • Using struct
  • Create your own struct

WEEK 3: Creating and Using New Data Structure


Creating an Interface for a Data Structure

  • The Interface Between the Data Structure and the User
  • The Interface for our Two Dimensional Vectors
  • Use our Two-Dimensional Vectors to Solve Problems
  • Create an Interface for your Spreadsheet Records
  • Developing an Interface for a Game
  • Tic-Tac-Toe Interface
  • Use our Tic-Tac-Toe Game to Create a User Interface
  • Treasure Hunter: Create your own Interface

Implementing a Data Structure

  • Building a Data Structure that Delivers the Interface's Promises
  • Implementing a Data Structure
  • Implement your own Data Structure

Using a Data Structure

  • Use our Tic-Tac-Toe Game to Create a Playable Game
  • Use your Treasure Map Game to Create a User Interface
  • Use your Treasure Map Game to Create a Playable Game
  • Good Coding when Working with Data Structures
WEEK 4: Project Check-In and Revision


  • Project Check-In
  • Teach Data Structures to Us
  • Revision
WEEK 5: Some Useful Data Types and Data Structures



  • Data Types vs Data Structures
  • A Stack as a Data Type
  • How the Call Stack is Used
  • The Call Stack in Action
  • Calling a Function... in Machine Code
  • Implementing a Stack (First Attempt)
  • Use the Stack implementation to Allocate Memory

Allocating Memory Dynamically

  • Limitations of Fixed-Size Memory Allocations
  • Allocating Memory off the Stack
  • Using malloc and free
  • Implementing a Stack (with Dynamic Arrays)

Queues and Lists

  • A Queue as a Data Type
  • Implement a Queue Data Structure
  • A List as a Data Type
  • Implement a List Data Structure
  • Use your List Data Structure to Solve a Problem
WEEK 6: Exploring Python


Python: An Interpreted Language

  • REPL
  • REPL: Create a Basic REPL
  • REPL: Evaluate Simple Commands
  • REPL: Maintain a State
  • REPL: Pass the REPL a Set of Instructions
  • Python as an Abstract Version of C
  • Python: An Example Program

Using Python

  • Comparing Python Code to C Code
  • Write a Program in Python
  • Importing and Using Python Modules
  • Create your own Python Module
  • Unit Testing in Python
  • Good Coding in Python

Easier Problem-Solving with Python

  • Python and Data Structures
  • Using Python Data Structures to Solve a Problem
  • Python and More Advanced Problems
WEEK 7: Dictionaries and Hash Functions


The Dictionary Data Type

  • What is a Dictionary?
  • Dictionaries, Implemented in Python
  • Use a Python Dictionary to Create a Library of Codewords

Structuring a Dictionary with Hash Tables and Hash Functions

  • How do we use a Dictionary?
  • Come up with an Implementation
  • Limitations of using Two Arrays to Implement a Dictionary
  • Hash Functions
  • Hash Functions and Password Verification
  • Hash Tables and Hash Functions

Using Hash Tables and Hash Functions Effectively

  • A Hash Table Implementation of a Dictionary
  • How does the Hash Table Choose a Spot to Add a New Value?
  • Good Hashing
WEEK 8: Project Finalisation and Reflection


  • Project Check-In
  • Teach Data Structures (and Python) to us
  • Revision
  • Share Your Project

Course Outcomes

This course is the third in the CS101 series, building on Problem Solving with Automation and Storage. Whether you are upskilling for your current role or starting fresh, below is a list of outcomes which you'll achieve at the end.


Identify and appreciate the qualities of high quality programming code

  • Upholding good style and producing code of good clarity and design quality
  • Proposing improvements to other’s code design and clarity in code reviews
  • Adherence to, and refinement of a style guide
  • Contributing to the discussion of what good code style, and what undesirable “hacky” each look like

Value the writing of functional software for both its social utility and as an expression of creative skill

  • Identifying opportunities to automate tasks, or solve personal or professional problems by writing programming code
  • Explore creative expression by building programs with a playful or artistic purpose
  • Critique personal and professional ethical considerations when writing software

Cultivate a scientific mindset for solving problems using code

  • Follow a scientific approach to designing and choosing algorithms
  • Apply a methodical, optimistic, persistent, and resilient strategy to debugging, troubleshooting, and solving problems
  • Produce a strategy for exploring, questioning, and experimenting with a problem space scientifically and skeptically
  • Probe a problem space to prioritise exploration, and reverse-engineer “black boxes” using a scientific approach

Identify and appreciate good programming practices

  • Appreciation for writing unit tests
  • Exploring the practice of writing unit tests before implementation
  • Identifying and critiquing the scope and contracts of functions
  • Cultivating an adversarial attitude toward code execution

Demonstrate the fundamental design principles for writing good software

  • Function scope and abstraction
  • Recursion
  • Branching
  • Iteration
  • Working with Collections: Arrays and Lists
  • Abstract and Concrete Data Types
  • Mutability, direct and indirect addressing
  • Structural design of programs

Understand how computers work in order to predict how programs will be translated into machine code and executed

  • Differentiate between automata, calculators, and the ability to perform universal computation  
  • Compare how different types are stored in machines
  • Examine how a compiler operates and how a machine executes code
  • How addressing, memory allocation and data storage operate
  • Identify the difference between imperative and declarative programming

Solve novel problems by building correct and functional software programs

  • Code solutions according to good software design principles
  • Debug and unit test effectively
  • Decipher error messages and interpret code syntax
  • Identify and rectify memory errors such as buffer overflows

Co-create solutions by coding in teams, coordinating on design, and reviewing each other’s code

  • Negotiate, design and develop code specifications with a team
  • Code solutions which adhere to agreed upon interfaces and obey defined contracts
  • Review other’s code and identify style, functionality, and design enhancements
  • Design and write unit tests for other’s code

Develop critical thinking skills while programming

  • Formulate and articulate ideas for solving problems with code
  • Recognise and test assumptions which have been made and their consequences
  • Distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information and feedback provided by automated and human sources
  • Identify trade-offs and secondary problems

Practice the skills required to independently research and explore new programming concepts

  • Independently perform research to seek out clarifications and related concepts
  • Curate and prioritise each source of information as it relates to solving a specific problem
  • Find and distinguish reliable communities of practice and sources of information
  • Build a habit for experimenting and contributing findings back to a community of practice; trying things out to see what happens and sharing


This course is aligned to the Australian OpenCreds Micro-credential Framework and is approved by OpenLearning’s quality assurance department. Upon successful completion of this course you will receive an OpenCred:

  • 75 hours of learning
  • Professional Learning
  • Industry recognised
  • Aligned to the Australian Qualifications Framework

The OpenCred will be in the form of a digital credential that includes both a badge and a certificate that you will be able to share on social media.

Alongside your OpenCred, you will have an online portfolio of your work across all the projects and activities that you have completed in this course.

You will be able to control access to your digital credential and portfolio so that you can share it with employers and educational institutions. 


This course will transform the way you think and work, preparing you for an uncertain future.

Discover why experienced software engineers, tech company founders and educators believe that CS101 is the missing link in the tech sector today.

Provides a pathway into the tech sector
Martin Mao, CEO and Co-Founder, Chronosphere.
Previously at Uber, AWS, Microsoft and Google.

This an excellent program that will help address the growing technical skills gap.

As an industry partner, Chronosphere is changing the tech landscape by diversifying the future workforce through education opportunities and new pathways into tech for those with non-traditional tech backgrounds.

CS101 really stands out
Jessica Rahman, PhD Candidate (Computer Science) Australian National University

CS101 is different from other computing programs. Two features stand out – the first aspect is social learning and the second is a focus on creating the scientific mindset.

This course give you plenty of opportunities to think about what is happening and why - when you're learning a new concept, rather than just straight jumping into coding.

Learn a new way of thinking!
David Collien, Founder and CTO at OpenLearning

It is important to build a solid foundation and develop a holistic view when starting to learn Computer Science, and this program is designed with that in mind.

Learners will not only learn to code but also have opportunities to have deep and active learning experiences. Can’t wait to see learners, like yourselves, in the CS101 program!

CS101 provides you with a solid foundation
Hien Nguyen, Senior Learning Designer for CS101. EdD Penn State University, B Science (Computer Science) Texas A&M University

It is important to build a solid foundation and develop a holistic view when starting to learn Computer Science, and this program is designed with that in mind. Learners will not only learn to code but also have opportunities to have deep and active learning experiences. Can’t wait to see learners, like yourselves, in the CS101 program!

Makes Computer Science fun!
Shaun Thompson, Senior Learning Designer at OpenLearning

One of my favourite things about working on the program so far is having a bit of fun with the course, like having a play with the course’s graphics. We believe that the more fun we have with creating the course, the higher the chance that the learners will have fun going through the course themselves.

Why study with CS101?

Original content designed by experts

Designed from the ground up by computer scientists and educators with original content, activities and projects. Validated by leading technology companies and software engineers CS101 will ensure that you're gaining the foundational skills that everyone in the industry needs.

Constant support

We've designed a support model that fits around your schedule and enables you to improve. You'll receive feedback every fortnight on your portfolio as you progress through the course and a facilitator will support the community and encourage discussion.

Community-based learning

Programmers rarely work alone, they brainstorm with others, write programs that interact with other programs and they give each other constructive feedback. You will be part of a vibrant learning community that is driven by activities and projects, and facilitated by experts in the field.

Interactive learning

CS101 is designed from the ground up to maximise opportunities for peer interaction and engagement so that you develop a broad range of computer science and professional skills. Delivered on OpenLearning and designed around the principles of social constructivism, you will interact because it's fun, not because you are forced to do so.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there any specific system/resource requirements?

This course is 100% online and can be completed entirely through your web browser. The course makes use of various programming tools and applications that have been designed to run within your web browser so there is no software to install. However, you are encouraged to program on your computer using a range of applications (not within the web browser) and instructions will be provided inside the course.

The course is delivered on the OpenLearning platform and we encourage you to access this via Desktop web browser for the best learning experience. We've also published a list of recommended web browsers and system requirements here: https://help.openlearning.com/t/y7grg4/minimum-system-requirements-for-maximising-your-openlearning-experience

Who can I contact for support?

You can contact contact@cs101.com for technical support and questions regarding enrolment or payment. CS101 is delivered on the OpenLearning platform and the courses are managed by the CS101 team at OpenLearning.

Will I get a certificate upon completion?

Yes, you will receive a digital credential upon completion of this course, which includes both a certificate and a digital badge. The credential is an OpenCred, which is a type of micro-credential developed by OpenLearning that adheres to a strict quality assurance and verification process.

Are there any discounts?

Yes, there is a discount of 50% off the full price of the first course for a limited time.

Will I be able to get a job as a programmer after this course?

This course provides you with the foundational skills in computer science and programming, which will make you more employable in a range of professions and enable you to teach yourself new programming languages and tools. However, this course is not specifically designed to get you a job as a programmer and we would recommend taking all four CS101 short courses if you are looking to get a job as a computer scientist or programmer.

Do you offer a money-back guarantee?

Yes, we have a 7-day money-back guarantee from the start date of your cohort. So, if you're unhappy or change your mind within the first 7 days then you can contact our support team to request a full refund.

Will I be able to access the course when it finishes?

You will be able to access the course for at least one year from the date of the intake. The course is designed such that everyone in the cohort goes through at the same pace with the aim of completing within 6 to 8 weeks from the start date, depending on the course. The course facilitators will be in on hand from the start of the cohort. That said, you will be able to take your time in completing it if you do fall behind. For best results, try to keep up :)

Do I need a technical background to take this course?

You do not need a technical background or any experience in computer science or programming to take this course. We will start from the very beginning so you can build up your knowledge and confidence as the course progresses.

How much time should I spend on the course each week?

You should set aside about 5 to 7 hours per week to take this course. If you fall a bit behind, don't worry, you will be able to access the course for at least a year from the start date of the course.

Prepare yourself for the future

Transform the way you think and learn the skills that are driving the technological revolution

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