As we continue the slow march towards an AI-powered future, the coding and technical skills computer science graduates have are in increasingly high demand. This demand accounts for the high salary expectations of a computer science expert (the average salary in the field is €5,700 in Germany) and makes you more attractive as a hiring prospect to employers.
The challenge – finding a quality computer science course that provides the knowledge you need and has a reputation that forces employers to take notice. The four courses in this article (combined with related studies) transform you from computing enthusiast to sought-after computer scientist.
Top Free Computer Science Courses
Kicking off this computer science course list, we have a pair of the best free online computer science courses for building a foundation within the subject area.
Course 1 – CS50: Introduction to Computer Science (Harvard University)
If you’re looking for a free course that carries plenty of prestige, anything with the “Harvard” label attached is a good start. CS50 is a self-paced course, with Harvard estimating an 11-week completion time with between 10 and 20 hours of daily studying. It’s offered in English (sadly, no alternative languages exist at the time of writing) and it’s free to take, though you’ll pay $189 (approx. €175) for an official certificate.
The course covers programming language basics, starting with simple web-based HTML and advancing into Python and C. Advanced computing concepts, such as data structures and cybersecurity, are also covered, though you’re getting more of a baseline knowledge than specialized teaching. Think of the course as a computer science primer designed to give you a foundation that’s ideal for moving on to more complex studies. Add to that the Harvard seal of approval, which looks great on any CV, and you have a course that’s available globally and ideal for impressing employers.
Course 2 – CompTIA A+ (CompTIA)
This free course is A+ by name and mostly A+ by nature, with CompTIA advertising it as the perfect pathway to follow if you want a career in IT or computer sciences. You get an industry-recognized credential that employers will love, with the course focusing as much on practical skills (such as thinking on your feet in an IT crisis) as it does on theoretical instruction.
That’s not to say that theory isn’t covered. Once you’ve gotten to grips with the basics of the hardware and various operating systems, you’ll move into practical modules focused on networking, software, and cybersecurity. The course providers carry some industry weight, too, as titans like Dell, HP, and Intel recommend CompTIA’s courses for anybody who wants to break into the workforce.
There are some downsides – namely the minimal theoretical teaching makes it harder to understand why the practical things you’ll learn work. But as a companion piece to a more technical course (such as CS50), A+ is a great way to develop much-needed skills.
Other Notable Free Courses
The two courses listed above are far from the only free computer science course options available, with the following also being solid choices:
- Python for Everybody – Coming from the University of Michigan, this course teaches the ins and outs of a popular programming language used in AI and machine learning.
- IBM Data Science Professional Certificate – As something of a computer science-adjacent course, IBM’s certificate hones in on data science topics, such as visualization and machine learning models.
- Introduction to Computer Science and Programming – Put together by the best minds at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), this is a great course for beginners who are starting from square one when it comes to programming.
Top Paid Computer Science Courses
If you have some money to spend on your education (or access to student funding) these are the best courses for computer science students who value a more traditional paid education.
Course 1 – Bachelor in Modern Computer Science (OPIT)
As an entirely online course, OPIT’s offering allows you to learn at mostly your own pace, though you’re still expected to complete coursework and pass exams at appropriate times. It’s a three-year course (though two-year fast-track options are available) and it’s provided by an institution that has European Qualification Framework (EQF) credentials.
Granted, the course doesn’t come cheap, with its €3,600 per year tuition fees adding up to €10,800 for a three-year course. But that money buys you a comprehensive computer science education, starting with the basics of software development before moving on to modern concepts, like AI and cloud computing. Along the way, you’ll earn professional certifications from Microsoft and Google, giving you something tangible to place on your CV even as you’re still studying. Credit transfer is also available for students who started a computer science course elsewhere and want to transfer to OPIT’s offering.
Course 2 – Computational Science and Engineering (Technical University of Munich)
Perpetually hovering around the top 50 universities in the world (it ranked 50th in 2021), the Technical University of Munich (TUM) is like the MIT of Europe. With this course, TUM offers something for students who’ve already started on the computer science track and now feel ready to bring those skills together with applied math and engineering for a Master’s certification.
Lasting four semesters of full-time study, the course costs €152.30 and delivers 120 ECTS credits. You’ll hone in on numerical simulation, focusing on how to develop math-based problem-solving methods that help in developing systems and simulations. Theory is king in this course. But you’ll come away with such a solid grounding in that theory (as well as experience with simulated applications) that prepare you for a computer science and engineering career.
Other Notable Paid Courses
More thought goes into choosing a paid computer science course because you’re investing more than just time into your studies. If neither of the above two courses whets your appetite, the following are a few other notable providers offering courses to European and international students:
- Computer Science BSc by Cambridge University – You get more than a degree from one of the UK’s most prestigious universities with this course. Given that Cambridge University lies in the heart of “Silicon Fen,” this course puts you in the ideal location to gain exposure to over 1,000 Cambridge-based tech companies.
- Computational Thinking for Problem Solving – Devised by the Penn University faculty, this four-week online course starts by teaching the “pillars” of computational thinking, ending with an applied task using the Python programming language.
- Computer Science 101L Master the Theory Behind Programming – Available via Udemy, this course costs about €69 or is available with a monthly subscription to Udemy. It features nearly 12 hours of recorded teaching sessions, alongside articles and other resources, that teach the basics of computer science.
Related Courses for a Well-Rounded Computer Science Education
The courses covered so far focus on computer science, with some variance in a few cases, which is like building the foundations for a house. To turn those foundations into something special (and something from which you can make a living), you may need a few more materials. Computer science-related courses give you those materials, with the following areas being great targets for further study.
Programming is the beating heart of computer science. Every piece of software you’ll ever use has a program behind it. Most basic computer science courses teach general programming skills, often in Python, but further study into languages like SQL, Java, and C broadens your skillset to make you more attractive to employers.
According to web3.career, the average European web developer picks up €70,000 per year, with potential to hit six figures with the right company and training. Many of the basics of web development are things you’ll pick up in a computer science course, though those looking for more formal certification should consider the following:
- Full-Stack Web Development for Free (CodingNinjas)
- Intro to HTML 5 (University of Michigan)
- Web Developer on Google Digital Garage (Google)
The European Council’s research suggests that the cost of cybercrimes amounted to €5.5 trillion on the continent alone, with ransomware attacks being among the biggest threats facing EU companies. Therein lies an opportunity – businesses don’t want to lose trillions of euros and your cybersecurity skills could be the shield they need to fend off cyberattacks.
Top cybersecurity courses to consider include:
- Google Cybersecurity (Google)
- The Complete Cyber Security Course (Udemy)
- Introduction to Cybersecurity Foundations (Infosec)
Estimates state that the data science industry will have a 29% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2022 and 2029, making it an ever-growing monolith in the computer science sector. Your ability to extract insights from massive datasets could be useful to employers and is buoyed by the following top courses:
- Data Science MicroMasters (University of California San Diego)
- CS109 Data Science (Harvard University)
- Master of Science in Machine Learning and Data Science (Imperial College London)
Tips for Choosing the Right Computer Science Course
The computer sciences courses covered in this article run the gamut from beginner-level programs to full Master’s degrees. If you feel like you’re struggling to navigate the sheer volume of options available, these tips help you pick an appropriate course:
- Be honest with yourself about your current skill level to choose a computer science course that challenges without being overwhelming.
- Compare the course’s curriculum and learning outcomes with your goals to ensure you’ll get what you need from your studies.
- Measure your time commitments (and how the course format allows for these commitments) against those the course demands.
- Research the instructors who created the course and check online reviews from past and current students.
- Determine whether the cost of the course (both monetary and time-wise) delivers a suitable return on your investment.
Start Your Computer Science Journey With the Right Course
Options abound when you’re looking for a computer science course, with quality free options sitting right alongside traditional paid courses. Whatever course you choose, always remember – one step in the right direction still means that you’re moving forward. By choosing a course, you take your first step into a constantly evolving and expanding world that could provide you with a lifelong career.
Soon, we will be launching four new Degrees for AY24-25 at OPIT – Open Institute of Technology
I want to offer a behind-the-scenes look at the Product Definition process that has shaped these upcoming programs.
🚀 Phase 1: Discovery (Late May – End of July)
Our journey began with intensive brainstorming sessions with OPIT’s Academic Board (Francesco Profumo, Lorenzo Livi, Alexiei Dingli, Andrea Pescino, Rosario Maccarrone) . We also conducted 50+ interviews with tech and digital entrepreneurs (both from startups and established firms), academics and students. Finally, we deep-dived into the “Future of Jobs 2023” report by the World Economic Forum and other valuable research.
🔍 Phase 2: Selection – Crafting Our Roadmap (July – August)
Our focus? Introducing new degrees addressing critical workforce shortages and upskilling/reskilling needs for the next 5-10 years, promising significant societal impact and a broad market reach.
Our decision? To channel our energies on full BScs and MScs, and steer away from shorter courses or corporate-focused offerings. This aligns perfectly with our core mission.
💡 Focus Areas Unveiled!
We’re thrilled to concentrate on pivotal fields like:
- Advanced AI
- Digital Business
- Metaverse & Gaming
- Cloud Computing (less “glamorous”, but market demand is undeniable).
🎓 Phase 3: Definition – Shaping the Degrees (August – November)
With an expert in each of the above fields, and with the strong collaboration of our Academic Director, Prof. Lorenzo Livi , we embarked on a rigorous “drill-down process”. Our goal? To meld modern theoretical knowledge with cutting-edge competencies and skills. This phase included interviewing over 60+ top academics, industry professionals, and students and get valuable, program-specific, insights from our Marketing department.
🌟 Phase 4: Accreditation and Launch – The Final Stretch
We’re currently in the accreditation process, gearing up for the launch. The focus is now shifting towards marketing, working closely with Greta Maiocchi and her Marketing and Admissions team. Together, we’re translating our new academic offering into a compelling value proposition for the market.
Stay tuned for more updates!
Far from being a temporary educational measure that came into its own during the pandemic, online education is providing students from all over the world with new ways to learn. That’s proven by statistics from Oxford Learning College, which point out that over 100 million students are now enrolled in some form of online course.
The demand for these types of courses clearly exists.
In fact, the same organization indicates that educational facilities that introduce online learning see a 42% increase in income – on average – suggesting that the demand is there.
Enter the Open Institute of Technology (OPIT).
Delivering three online courses – a Bachelor’s degree in computer science and two Master’s degrees – with more to come, OPIT is positioning itself as a leader in the online education space. But why is that? After all, many institutions are making the jump to e-learning, so what separates OPIT from the pack?
Here, you’ll discover the answers as you delve into the five reasons why you should trust OPIT for your online education.
Reason 1 – A Practical Approach
OPIT focuses on computer science education – a field in which theory often dominates the educational landscape. The organization’s Rector, Professor Francesco Profumo, makes this clear in a press release from June 2023. He points to a misalignment between what educators are teaching computer science students and what the labor market actually needs from those students as a key problem.
“The starting point is the awareness of the misalignment,” he says when talking about how OPIT structures its online courses. “That so-called mismatch is generated by too much theory and too little practical approach.” In other words, students in many classes spend far too much time learning the “hows” and “whys” behind computerized systems without actually getting their hands dirty with real work that gives them practical experience in using those systems.
OPIT takes a different approach.
It has developed a didactic approach that focuses far more on the practical element than other courses. That approach is delivered through a combination of classroom sessions – such as live lessons and masterclasses – and practical work offered through quizzes and exercises that mimic real-world situations.
An OPIT student doesn’t simply learn how computers work. They put their skills into practice through direct programming and application, equipping them with skills that are extremely attractive to major employers in the tech field and beyond.
Reason 2 – Flexibility Combined With Support
Flexibility in how you study is one of the main benefits of any online course.
You control when you learn and how you do it, creating an environment that’s beneficial to your education rather than being forced into a classroom setting with which you may not feel comfortable. This is hardly new ground. Any online educational platform can claim that it offers “flexibility” simply because it provides courses via the web.
Where OPIT differs is that it combines that flexibility with unparalleled support bolstered by the experiences of teachers employed from all over the world. The founder and director of OPIT, Riccardo Ocleppo, sheds more light on this difference in approach when he says, “We believe that education, even if it takes place physically at a distance, must guarantee closeness on all other aspects.” That closeness starts with the support offered to students throughout their entire study period.
Tutors are accessible to students at all times. Plus, every participant benefits from weekly professor interactions, ensuring they aren’t left feeling stuck on an educational “island” and have to rely solely on themselves for their education. OPIT further counters the potential isolation that comes with online learning with a Student Support team to guide students through any difficulties they may have with their courses.
In this focus on support, OPIT showcases one of its main differences from other online platforms.
You don’t simply receive course material before being told to “get on with it.” You have the flexibility to learn at your own pace while also having a support structure that serves as a foundation for that learning.
Reason 3 – OPIT Can Adapt to Change Quickly
The field of computer science is constantly evolving.
In the 2020s alone, we’ve seen the rise of generative AI – spurred on by the explosive success of services like ChatGPT – and how those new technologies have changed the way that people use computers.
Riccardo Ocleppo has seen the impact that these constant evolutions have had on students. Before founding OPIT, he was an entrepreneur who received first-hand experience of the fact that many traditional educational institutions struggle to adapt to change.
“Traditional educational institutions are very slow to adapt to this wave of new technologies and trends within the educational sector,” he says. He points to computer science as a particular issue, highlighting the example of a board in Italy of which he is a member. That board – packed with some of the country’s most prestigious tech universities – spent three years eventually deciding to add just two modules on new and emerging technologies to their study programs.
That left Ocleppo feeling frustrated.
When he founded OPIT, he did so intending to make it an adaptable institution in which courses were informed by what the industry needs. Every member of its faculty is not only a superb teacher but also somebody with experience working in industry. Speaking of industry, OPIT collaborates with major companies in the tech field to ensure its courses deliver the skills that those organizations expect from new candidates.
This confronts frustration on both sides. For companies, an OPIT graduate is one for which they don’t need to bridge a “skill gap” between what they’ve learned and what the company needs. For you, as a student, it means that you’re developing skills that make you a more desirable prospect once you have your degree.
Reason 4 – OPIT Delivers Tier One Education
Despite their popularity, online courses can still carry a stigma of not being “legitimate” in the face of more traditional degrees. Ocleppo is acutely aware of this fact, which is why he’s quick to point out that OPIT always aims to deliver a Tier One education in the computer science field.
“That means putting together the best professors who create superb learning material, all brought together with a teaching methodology that leverages the advancements made in online teaching,” he says.
OPIT’s degrees are all accredited by the European Union to support this approach, ensuring they carry as much weight as any other European degree. It’s accredited by both the European Qualification Framework (EQF) and the Malta Qualification Framework (MQF), with all of its courses having full legal value throughout Europe.
It’s also here where we see OPIT’s approach to practicality come into play via its course structuring.
Take its Bachelor’s degree in computer science as an example.
Yes, that course starts with a focus on theoretical and foundational knowledge. Building a computer and understanding how the device processes instructions is vital information from a programming perspective. But once those foundations are in place, OPIT delivers on its promises of covering the most current topics in the field.
Machine learning, cloud computing, data science, artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity – all valuable to employers – are taught at the undergraduate level. Students benefit from a broader approach to computer science than most institutions are capable of, rather than bogging them down in theory that serves little practical purpose.
Reason 5 – The Learning Experience
Let’s wrap up by honing in on what it’s actually like for students to learn with OPIT.
After all, as Ocleppo points out, one of the main challenges with online education is that students rarely have defined checkpoints to follow. They can start feeling lost in the process, confronted with a metaphorical ocean of information they need to learn, all in service of one big exam at the end.
Alternatively, some students may feel the temptation to not work through the materials thoroughly, focusing instead on passing a final exam. The result is that those students may pass, but they do so without a full grasp of what they’ve learned – a nightmare for employers who already have skill gaps to handle.
OPIT confronts both challenges by focusing on a continuous learning methodology. Assessments – primarily practical – take place throughout the course, serving as much-needed checkpoints for evaluating progress. When combined with the previously mentioned support that OPIT offers, this approach has led to courses that are created from scratch in service of the student’s actual needs.
Choose OPIT for Your Computer Science Education
At OPIT, the focus lies as much on helping students to achieve their dream careers as it does on teaching them. All courses are built collaboratively. With a dedicated faculty combined with major industry players, such as Google and Microsoft, it delivers materials that bridge the skill gap seen in the computer science field today.
There’s also more to come.
Beyond the three degrees OPIT offers, the institution plans to add more. Game development, data science, and cloud computing, to name a few, will receive dedicated degrees in the coming months, accentuating OPIT’s dedication to adapting to the continuous evolution of the computer science industry. Discover OPIT today – your journey into computing starts with the best online education institution available.