If we think of “computer science” as an umbrella term for so many aspects of computing today, its importance is immediately apparent. Artificial intelligence (and the programming that lies behind it) falls into the computer science category. The same goes for machine learning, data science, networking, cybersecurity, and so many other elements of what make modern computing technology tick.

You need a solid grounding in computer science – both general concepts and theory – to move into one of these areas of specialization. And if you need to get that grounding on a budget, these free computer science courses teach you what you need to know and come with a handy certification.

Top Free Certified Computer Science Online Courses

As surprising as it may seem, you don’t have to pay money to get an education in computer science that employers actually care about. Free courses exist. And many of these free online computer science courses deliver a certification that proves your knowledge and comes from an institution that employers respect.

Course 1 – CS50: Introduction to Computer Science (Harvard University)

We’re stretching the definition of “free and certified” with the first course on the list. Though it’s free to take (and you get an audit of your performance without paying a penny), the verified certification for Harvard’s CS50 course costs $189 (approx. €175).

Assuming you’re willing to part with the cash, this course gives you a certificate from one of the United States’ most respected institutions, in addition to a crash course in computer science fundamentals. Over 11 weeks of self-paced learning (you’ll need to commit at least 10 hours per week to the course) you’ll develop a fundamental understanding of computer science and the programming that underpins it.

Concepts covered include data structures, abstraction, web development, and algorithms, creating a course that melds the math of modern computing with the theoretical concepts you’ll apply in the real world. Prospective programmers enjoy some diversity, too, as the course teaches the basics of several languages. Python, C, JavaScript, and HTML are all covered, though not in enough detail for you to achieve mastery in any of them. Still, as online certified courses for computer science go, CS50 delivers a prestigious certificate and exposes you to ambitious peers who may offer networking potential beyond the course content.

Course 2 – CS50’s Computer Science for Business Professionals (Harvard University)

It’s hard to look beyond Harvard when it comes to free computer science courses because you’re getting education and certification from a top university. With CS50 Computer Science for Business Professionals, Harvard moves beyond the tech-centric approach of its usual CS50 course to demonstrate how computer science principles apply in a real-world setting.

It’s a short course, clocking in at six weeks of study and only requiring two-to-six hours of work per week. That makes it perfect for professionals who want to boost their knowledge without a full-time commitment. You’ll tackle more high-level concepts in computer science, including the fundamentals of cloud computing and how to build technology stacks. All of which makes this like a speed run through of what you need to know about computing on a business level.

That’s not to say you won’t learn any technical theory. Several programming languages are covered (albeit in short-form style), as are the basics of computational thinking. But like CS50 above, certification comes at a cost, even if the course itself is free. Paying for an optional upgrade with EDX (through which the course is offered) is the only way to nab your certificate, if you do get a free course audit to demonstrate completion regardless.

Course 3 – Introduction to Computer Science and Programming Using Python (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

Offered in conjunction with the EDX platform, this computer science online course takes a Python-focused approach to its teaching. Unlike CS50, which covers a wide range of topics in brief, MIT’s course focuses on how computer science is like a tool that you can use to create software and algorithms. Python 3.5 is the technology behind that tool and you’ll learn how to use it by examining and analyzing real-world problems.

The nine-week course starts by demonstrating the basics of Python (some self-learning and expansion of these concepts may be required) before moving into algorithms. Once you’ve gotten to grips with basic algorithm creation, you’ll learn how to test what you create and how those algorithms become the building blocks of complex data structures.

You have to make a substantial time commitment with this course, with MIT requiring you to spend at least 14 hours per week on your studies if you wish to stick to the nine-week schedule. And though effective in teaching you the basics of Python, the course is really a primer for a second MIT course – Introduction to Computational Thinking and Data Science – that requires payment. But it’s a useful course as a standalone product, but you’ll have to pay a fee to EDX if you want a course-centric certificate.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Free Certified Computer Science Online Course

The trio of free online computer science courses discussed above each offer something different. Depending on your choice, you’ll get a bottom-up crash course in the theory, a practical understanding of how computer science works in a business context, or an in-depth guide to using Python. But when choosing between the three courses above (or any other courses you find) you must consider the following factors.

The Course Content and Its Relevance to Your Goals

The big question here is – what do you want to achieve with the course?

Sure, having a certificate, especially one with a major university’s name on it, is nice. But if that certificate demonstrates that you’ve learned skills that you don’t need for your intended career path then it’s not worth the paper it’s printed on.

Think of choosing a course like making an investment on which you expect a return. Outline your goals – both learning-centric and career-based – for taking the course. Then, find a course that helps you to reach those goals through laser-focused learning on topics you’ll use in the future.

Course Duration and Flexibility

For a young learner without full-time work or family commitments, taking on a computer science online course that requires months of study may not be a big deal. But that’s not the case for everybody. If you have limited hours available during the week, you need a course that you can fit into those hours rather than one that forces you to fit your life around the course.

Thankfully, most free online computer science courses make allowances for schedule flexibility by taking a self-paced learning approach. You’ll get access to all of the course resources upfront, allowing you to choose when you study. You may be able to get ahead during one week in preparation for a week where you know you can’t commit as much time, giving you the flexibility you need to fit the course into your schedule.

The Instructors and Their Expertise

Would you want to learn the theory of how to pilot a plane from somebody who’s never been up in the air? Of course you wouldn’t, and you must adopt the same attitude when choosing a computer science course.

Check the faculty list associated with the course (most reputable courses tell you who created them) and dig into their individual credentials. What have they done in the computer science industry? Where did they learn what they know? The answers to these questions tell you if your instructors and, by extension, your course are credible.

The Value of the Certification

When it comes to certification, look beyond the website that offers the course and instead focus on the institution that created it. For example, CS50’s Computer Science for Business Professionals is offered via the EDX platform, which doesn’t mean much to potential employers. But that certificate comes with a stamp of approval from Harvard University, which is a school that’s going to immediately raise eyebrows if it’s on your CV.

The point is that reputation matters, though it’s the reputation of the course creator that matters above that of the course platform. The more prestigious the name on the piece of paper, the more valuable the certificate is in the eyes of employers.

Tips for Successfully Completing a Free Certified Computer Science Online Course

With the tips for sifting through the sands of free computer science courses established, let’s round things off with some quick tips that’ll help you succeed in your studies:

  • Set clear goals for your education from the outset, with those goals aligning with your current experience level and desired outcomes.
  • Create a study schedule that fits around your commitments and stick to it as closely as you can.
  • Don’t skip assignments or practical sessions because everything included in the course is there to teach you something valuable.
  • Engage with the course community both to get advice from your peers and to potentially create networking opportunities.
  • Dedicate time to revision and research when preparing for exams or practical assessments to ensure you fully understand the course content.

Get Certified for Free and Improve Your Job Prospects

Given the importance of computer science to modern business – even the simplest of companies use software and have networks – it’s reasonable to want to build your knowledge of the subject. Free online computer science courses allow you to do that in exchange for a time commitment, with many allowing you to inject some flexibility into your study schedule.

Explore the three courses highlighted here, and look beyond them to more specialized courses once you’re confident in the foundational knowledge you’ve built. And remember – even a certificate from a free course has value in the job market if that course was created by a recognized institution.

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Il Sole 24 Ore: 100 thousand IT professionals missing
OPIT - Open Institute of Technology
OPIT - Open Institute of Technology
May 14, 2024 6 min read

Written on April 24th 2024

Source here: Il Sole 24 Ore (full article in Italian)

Open Institute of Technology: 100 thousand IT professionals missing

Eurostat data processed and disseminated by OPIT. Stem disciplines: the share of graduates in Italy between the ages of 20 and 29 is 18.3%, compared to the European 21.9%

Today, only 29% of young Italians between 25 and 34 have a degree. Not only that: compared to other European countries, the comparison is unequal given that the average in the Old Continent is 46%, bringing Italy to the penultimate place in this ranking, ahead only of Romania. The gap is evident even if the comparison is limited to STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) where the share of graduates in Italy between the ages of 20 and 29 is 18.3%, compared to the European 21.9%, with peaks of virtuosity which in the case of France that reaches 29.2%. Added to this is the continuing problem of the mismatch between job supply and demand, so much so that 62.8% of companies struggle to find professionals in the technological and IT fields.

The data

The Eurostat data was processed and disseminated by OPIT – Open Institute of Technology. an academic institution accredited at European level, active in the university level education market with online Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in the technological and digital fields. We are therefore witnessing a phenomenon with worrying implications on the future of the job market in Italy and on the potential loss of competitiveness of our companies at a global level, especially if inserted in a context in which the macroeconomic scenario in the coming years will undergo a profound discontinuity linked to the arrival of “exponential” technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and robotics, but also to the growing threats related to cybersecurity.

Requirements and updates

According to European House Ambrosetti, over 2,000,000 professionals will have to update their skills in the Digital and IT area by 2026, also to take advantage of the current 100,000 vacant IT positions, as estimated by Frank Recruitment Group. But not only that: the Italian context, which is unfavorable for providing the job market with graduates and skills, also has its roots in the chronic birth rate that characterizes our country: according to ISTAT data, in recent years the number of newborns has fallen by 28%, bringing Italy’s birth rate to 1.24, among the lowest in Europe, where the average is 1.46.

Profumo: “Structural deficiency”

“The chronic problem of the absence of IT professionals is structural and of a dual nature: on one hand the number of newborns – therefore, potential “professionals of the future” – is constantly decreasing; on the other hand, the percentage of young people who acquires degrees are firmly among the lowest in Europe”, declared Francesco Profumo, former Minister of Education and rector of OPIT – Open Institute of Technology. “The reasons are varied: from the cost of education (especially if undertaken off-site), to a university offering that is poorly aligned with changes in society, to a lack of awareness and orientation towards STEM subjects, which guarantee the highest employment rates. Change necessarily involves strong investments in the university system (and, in general, in the education system) at the level of the country, starting from the awareness that a functioning education system is the main driver of growth and development in the medium to long term. It is a debated and discussed topic on which, however, a clear and ambitious position is never taken.”

Stagnant context and educational offer

In this stagnant context, the educational offer that comes from online universities increasingly meets the needs of flexibility, quality and cost of recently graduated students, university students looking for specialization and workers interested in updating themselves with innovative skills. According to data from the Ministry of University and Research, enrollments in accredited online universities in Italy have grown by over 141 thousand units in ten years (since 2011), equal to 293.9%. Added to these are the academic institutions accredited at European level, such as OPIT, whose educational offering is overall capable of opening the doors to hundreds of thousands of students, with affordable costs and extremely innovative and updated degree paths.

Analyzing the figures

An analysis of Eurostat statistics relating to the year 2021 highlights that 27% of Europeans aged between 16 and 74 have attended an entirely digital course. The highest share is recorded in Ireland (46%), Finland and Sweden (45%) and the Netherlands (44%). The lowest in Romania (10%), Bulgaria (12%) and Croatia (18%). Italy is at 20%. “With OPIT” – adds Riccardo Ocleppo, founder and director – “we have created a new model of online academic institution, oriented towards new technologies, with innovative programs, a strong practical focus, and an international approach, with professors and students from 38 countries around the world, and teaching in English. We intend to train Italian students not only on current and updated skills, but to prepare them for an increasingly dynamic and global job market. Our young people must be able to face the challenges of the future like those who study at Stanford or Oxford: with solid skills, but also with relational and attitudinal skills that lead them to create global companies and startups or work in multinationals like their international colleagues. The increasing online teaching offer, if well structured and with quality, represents an incredible form of democratization of education, making it accessible at low costs and with methods that adapt to the flexibility needs of many working students.”

Point of reference

With two degrees already starting in September 2023 – a three-year degree (BSc) in Modern Computer Science and a specialization (MSc) in Applied Data Science & AI – and 4 starting in September 2024: a three-year degree (BSc) in Digital Business, and the specializations (MSc) in Enterprise Cybersecurity, Applied Digital Business and Responsible Artificial Intelligence (AI), OPIT is an academic institution of reference for those who intend to respond to the demands of a job market increasingly oriented towards the field of artificial intelligence. Added to this are a high-profile international teaching staff and an exclusively online educational offer focused on the technological and digital fields.

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Times of India: The 600,000 IT job shortage in India and how to solve it
OPIT - Open Institute of Technology
OPIT - Open Institute of Technology
May 2, 2024 3 min read

Written on April 25th 2024

Source here: Times of India 

The job market has never been a straightforward path. Ask anyone who has ever looked for a job, certainly within the last decade, and they can tell you as much. But with the rapid development of AI and machine learning, concerns are growing for people about their career options, with a report from Randstad finding that 7 in 10 people in India are concerned about their job being eliminated by AI.

 Employers have their own share of concerns. According to The World Economic Forum, 97 million new AI-related jobs will be created by 2025 and the share of jobs requiring AI skills will increase by 58%. The IT industry in India is experiencing a tremendous surge in demand for skilled professionals on disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, cybersecurity and, according to Nasscom, this is leading to a shortage of 600,000 profiles.

 So how do we fill those gaps? Can we democratize access to top-tier higher education in technology?

These are the questions that Riccardo Ocleppo, the engineer who founded a hugely successful ed-tech platform connecting international students with global Universities, Docsity, asked himself for years. Until he took action and launched the Open Institute of Technology (OPIT), together with the Former Minister of Education of Italy, Prof. Francesco Profumo, to help people take control of their future careers.

OPIT offers BSc and MSc degrees in Computer Science, AI, Data Science, Cybersecurity, and Digital Business, attracting students from over 38 countries worldwide. Through innovative learning experiences and affordable tuition fees starting at €4,050 per year, OPIT empowers students to pursue their educational goals without the financial and personal burden of relocating.

The curriculum, delivered through a mix of live and pre-recorded lectures, equips students with the latest technology skills, as well as business and strategic acumen necessary for careers in their chosen fields. Moreover, OPIT’s EU-accredited degrees enable graduates to pursue employment opportunities in Europe, with recognition by WES facilitating transferability to the US and Canada.

OPIT’s commitment to student success extends beyond academics, with a full-fledged career services department led by Mike McCulloch. Remote students benefit from OPIT’s “digital campus,” fostering connections through vibrant discussion forums, online events, and networking opportunities with leading experts and professors.

Faculty at OPIT, hailing from prestigious institutions and industry giants like Amazon and Microsoft, bring a wealth of academic and practical experience to the table. With a hands-on, practical teaching approach, OPIT prepares students for the dynamic challenges of the modern job market.

In conclusion, OPIT stands as a beacon of hope for individuals seeking to future-proof their careers in technology. By democratizing access to high-quality education and fostering a global learning community, OPIT empowers students to seize control of their futures and thrive in the ever-evolving tech landscape.

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