Introduction to Programming and Computational Thinking

With Industry Experts David Collien, Hien Nguyen and more...
Get started with computer science

Develop your computational thinking and problem solving skills from the ground up, learn the art and science of programming to write beautiful code.
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About the course

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

The future of work is here and software is making it possible. Every job, either directly or indirectly, depends on a range of applications to automate tasks, provide directions, analyse data and facilitate decision making.

To fully understand where we are today and what is possible in the future, requires an understanding of computer science and programming. That is what you will learn in this course.

Introduction to programming and computational thinking is first of four courses in the CS101 program. It is designed to enable anyone to learn the fundamentals of computer science, from problem solving and computational thinking, through to the basics of programming.

You will start from the very beginning with problem solving techniques and microprocessors, understand how a computer translates the code you write into 0s and 1s, and all the skills necessary write high quality, efficient code. By covering both theory and practice through a wide range of unique activities and projects that build your knowledge, we have created a learning experience like no other.

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 written your first program, solved problems using code and have a thorough understanding of how computing works. You will have the skills necessary to continue onto the next course in CS101, Problem solving with automation and storage.

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. :)

Download syllabus


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 six modules with one module being released each week during the six 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: Instructions and Computers


In the first module of the course we explore the nature of programming and computation, the rules governing how computers run a sequence of instructions, and the history which led us to the development of computers.

The activities below are designed to be followed sequentially, taking you on a journey deep down into how computers work, and then back up again to where you'll be writing, compiling, and running your first software programs.


  • Instructions are hard
  • Meet Robot I
  • How a computer follows instructions
  • Meet Robot II
  • Robot challenges
  • What makes something a computer?
  • A timeline of computing machines
  • Programmable machines: Hero's cart
  • Programmable machines: Other examples
  • Computing an algorithm
  • A model for a universal computer
  • Using a Turing machine
WEEK 2: Inside Computing Machines


  • The binary system
  • Counting in binary and hexadecimal
  • Converting between binary and hexadecimal
  • Converting between decimal and binary
  • Microprocessors
  • Instructions in binary
  • Logic gates
  • Constructing an instruction out of logic gates
  • How could you build a logic gate?
  • Transistor logic gates
  • Explaining a microprocessor
WEEK 3: Programming Languages


  • Machine code and assembly language
  • Programming languages
  • C syntax
  • Write your first program
  • ASCII art
  • The importance of good programming style
  • Your Style Guide Starter Pack
WEEK 4: Data


  • Algorithms that solve problems with data
  • Loading data
  • Storing data
  • Data types and variables
  • Using data in an algorithm: explore an example
  • Using data in an algorithm: try it out
  • Numerical data: integers
  • Numerical data: decimals
  • Data type conversion
  • Characters as data
  • How is the computer loading, storing and using the data?
  • User input
  • The scanf function
  • What is scanf doing?
  • Referencing and memory
  • Designing programs to solve problems
  • Harder problems
  • Thinking about how we solve problems
  • Good coding and style
WEEK 5: Top Down Design


  • Instructions are really hard
  • Meet Robot III
  • Imperative instructions
  • Declarative relationships
  • Reducing complexity
  • Using top down design
  • Abstractions
  • A big problem
  • Breaking the problem down
  • A high level algorithm that solves the problem
  • Using functions to break the algorithm down
  • Functions in C
  • Has the top down design approach worked?
  • Thinking about how we solve problems (again)
  • Encapsulating functionality
  • Function scope
  • Pure functions
  • Coding clean up
WEEK 6: Test Driven Development


  • The principle of test driven development
  • Unit testing
  • Using test cases to help solve the problem
  • Developing test cases
  • The testing program and the main program
  • Header files and #include
  • The unit testing process
  • Your first unit test
  • Contribute to our function library
  • Bug catching
  • Develop your quiz

Course Outcomes

This course covers the fundamentals of Computer Science. 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

  • Explore creative expression by building programs with a playful or artistic purpose

Cultivate a scientific mindset for solving problems using code

  • 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

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

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

  • 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

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

  • Curate and prioritise each source of information as it relates to solving a specific problem
  • 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:

  • 50 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.

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

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