Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Learn to Program: The Fundamentals @ FIX University Cultural Campus
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Learn to Program: The Fundamentals

Jennifer Campbell, Paul Gries

Behind every mouse click and touch-screen tap, there is a computer program that makes things happen. This course introduces the fundamental building blocks of programming and teaches you how to write fun and useful programs using the Python language.
Fernando IX University


Workload survey so far

Hi everyone,

Over 8,300 people have responded to the workload survey so far. Before you read it, though, we want to point out that the amount of time spent on this course varies greatly from person to person, so if are taking longer than the average but are still understanding the material, then you are in fine shape.

Here is what we have seen so far. Click on the links to see workload graphs for each category.

Since this course is intended for beginners, we are most interested in the first and second graphs. As far as we can tell, for most beginners who answered the survey the workload seems to fall within the 6–8 hours per week range that we estimated.

We have created a thread for you to discuss these results. Please be polite and positive to each other! We will very likely not be participating much in the discussion because we're working hard on getting week 4 ready! 

-Paul and Jen
Tue 9 Oct 2012 9:27:00 AM PDT

Workload survey for first 2 weeks of work

Hi everyone!

We have created a workload survey for the first 2 weeks of Learn to Program: The Fundamentals. There are 8 short questions. Even if you have decided not to complete this course, we would appreciate it if you would do the survey. Here is the link to the survey page:

You can also find the survey by clicking "Surveys" in the navigation bar.

Thank you very much,
Paul and Jen
Mon 8 Oct 2012 8:21:00 AM PDT

Assignment 1 extension

Hi everyone,

Many of you have been surprised by how much work it is to install IDLE and work on the assignment. As a result, we are extending the due date by 24 hours, to encourage everyone to allow as many people as possible to get it done while not delaying the course.

The hard deadline has not changed.

Good luck!

-Jen and Paul
Sun 7 Oct 2012 2:03:00 PM PDT

Exercises: best 6 of 7

To accommodate those of you who joined the course recently and to compensate everyone for a few issues with the exercise questions, we will only be counting the best 6 of your 7 exercise marks.

- Paul and Jen
Sat 6 Oct 2012 4:44:00 PM PDT

Week 3 lectures! And a pep talk and status report.

Dear LTP participants,

We had a surprisingly productive week, and so we are releasing the Week 3 videos and the Week 3 exercise this evening. We can't promise that we'll be able to do this every week, but it sure is nice when it works out. If you haven't yet finished the Week 2 material, don't worry — we don't expect everyone to be done with it until a couple of days from now.

In general, we're really pleased with how well the course is going. We're learning a lot, on topics ranging from what kinds of examples help in the assignment to how to give feedback on the lecture quizzes. The feedback you've given us on the discussion forums has been really helpful!

We have noticed some frustration on the discussion boards and we wanted to offer some encouragement and advice: if you're finding the material difficult, we strongly recommend having IDLE open while you watch the lectures, and that you type in the code we show you. Learning to program is like learning to play a musical instrument: you have to do it to understand it and get good at it. It helps to be curious, too. For example, if you wonder what a feature of Python does, type it in and find out! If you find a complicated expression hard to understand, type in the subexpressions one at a time and gradually combine them.

We have lecture summaries for most of the lectures that you can refer to if you want to look up information later. To find them, go to the Video Lectures page and look at the icons on the right of the screen. The first column of icons contains the lecture summaries.

The late deadline for Exercise 1 is coming up. Over 30,000 people have submitted it, and the average score is 13.15/15, or about 88%. Well done!

About 10,000 people have submitted Exercise 2, which is due in a couple of days. So far, the average score is about 15/18, or 83%. Again, a nice solid average. You can do this exercise up to 5 times, and we'll take the highest mark. If you get stuck, please check out the discussion forums — there have been a lot of great questions and very helpful answers, so if you need help on a particular question you should head to the Exercise 2 discussion boards. Spend a bit of time reading through what's been posted, because it is very likely that your question has already been asked.

About 5,000 people have submitted Assignment 1. Despite a rocky start to the automated grading, we seem to have worked out the kinks and the average so far is a 35/41, or 86%. Once you start on it, we recommend that you finish the first function and then submit so that you can make sure you're on the right track. Once you submit, click on your Score: that will show you feedback we have generated for you. You can submit the assignment once every hour up until the deadline, and we'll take the highest mark, so take advantage of that, submit often, and look at the feedback. Again, if you need help you can head to the discussion forums.

We hope that you're enjoying the course!

-Jen and Paul
Fri 5 Oct 2012 5:43:00 PM PDT

Exercise 2 question 18 fixed

Hi everyone,

There was an error in our grading on question 18 on the Week 2 exercise. We have fixed the issue and regraded the exercise. Because we are taking the highest mark out of all your attempts, nobody's mark should go down. We have also given everyone 2 more attempts on the exercise as a result of this mistake, for a maximum of 5 submissions.

We have also lowered the number significant digits on question 6 of Exercise 1 and regraded it. Again, nobody's mark should go down.

We hope this helps, and thank you for your patience!

-Jen and Paul
Tue 2 Oct 2012 6:26:00 PM PDT

Assignment and exercise marking: changing to maximum score policy

Hi all,

We have decided to use the maximum score policy instead of the last score policy for assignments and exercises. This means that we will use the highest score out of all your submissions for each piece of work. This will allow you to continue to explore the homework after you've earned the mark you want without worrying about losing marks by accidentally doing something wrong.

-Paul and Jen
Tue 2 Oct 2012 7:31:00 AM PDT

A1 fixes

We have addressed some typos and a couple of errors in the A1 handout. The biggest change is that the type contract for function to_24_hour_clock is now (number) -> number; before it was (int) -> int. We have added an example of what it should do with a float value.

We have also removed the list of countries in time zone UTC+00:00; it had 2 incorrect entries due to us misreading the Wikipedia page. Apologies to those of you from Spain and Denmark for trying to change your time zone!

Keep the feedback coming, this is really useful for making this a quality assignment. Thanks!
Sun 30 Sep 2012 7:51:00 PM PDT

Better float comparisons on A1

Because of the rounding problems with floats, it is possible for two different equations that are mathematically equal to be considered different in Python. For example, try these two expressions in the Python shell:
1.0 / 3.0
0.1 / 0.3

Because of this and other reasons, we have just added a tolerance on Assignment 1 so that if your answer differs from the expected one by only a little bit (about 7 decimal places), it will now be considered correct. If you have recently received an error on a solution that you are pretty sure is correct, please try submitting again.

Apologies for the frustration!
Sun 30 Sep 2012 7:07:00 PM PDT

Audio improved for "Input/Output and str formatting" video

We replaced the audio for this video and we've let the Coursera staff know that it needs to be captioned. In the meantime, we hope that the new audio is helpful.
Sun 30 Sep 2012 5:32:00 PM PDT

Assignment 1 is posted!

Hi all,

We have just posted Assignment 1. As you'll see when you read the handout, you should finish the week 2 lectures and exercise before starting work on this.


-Jen and Paul
Sun 30 Sep 2012 12:25:00 PM PDT

Week 2 lectures and exercise posted, assignment 1 coming in a few hours

Hi all,

We have posted the week 2 lectures and the week 2 exercise. We're finishing up the assignment handout and it should be posted in a few hours.


-Jen and Paul

P.S. As a reminder, exercise 1 is due in about 11 hours.
Sun 30 Sep 2012 8:58:00 AM PDT

New video for assignment statement visualization

There is some confusion about what the assignment statement does. This is to be expected — we see it every year in our intro course here at the UofT. We have released a week 2 video on this early; hopefully it will help clarify the issue.

This uses the Python Visualizer, which you can find by clicking Resources in the navigation bar.
Fri 28 Sep 2012 10:39:00 AM PDT

Week 1 progress

Hi everyone,

We hope you're enjoying the course material for Learn to Program: The Fundamentals so far! If you haven't started yet, it's not too late: the first exercise isn't due until the end of the weekend.

Here are some notes that you should read carefully.

  • Assignment 1 will be posted in the next couple of days, and we'll email another announcement when that happens. Assignment 1 will have you make use of all the lecture material in weeks 1 and 2, so when it's posted please don't get scared off!

  • The Resources link in the navigation bar has a link to the Python Visualizer, which we will start to use in week 2. The visualizer shows you a picture of computer memory so you can see how Python manages information in a running program. We will have a couple of videos demonstrating its use.

  • The Course Logistics link in the navigation bar contains a list of the coursework and how much each part is worth.

  • In order to earn a certificate, you need to earn at least 70% on the course material.

  • Exercise 1 can be submitted a lot of times — 100, to be exact. The rest of the exercises will be restricted to 3 attempts only.

  • Each piece of work has a soft deadline and a hard deadline. The soft deadline is the regular due date, and the hard deadline is 1 week later. If you submit a piece of work after the soft deadline, there is a 50% penalty. You can't submit after the hard deadline.

We would like to thank everyone who has given constructive feedback on the discussion forums! We're pretty new to this MOOC stuff, and it's been useful for us to interact with people who have been letting us know what we can improve.

Jen and Paul
Wed 26 Sep 2012 2:40:00 PM PDT

Week 1 Video Volume

We increased the volume on some of our Week 1 lecture videos. We hope this helps!
Tue 25 Sep 2012 12:01:00 PM PDT

Due date for Exercise 1

The due date for Exercise 1 is wonky here:

It is correct on the Upcoming Homeworks list in the upper right corner of the main page. We have asked Coursera to look into this and fix it.

Edit: they fixed it for us.
Mon 24 Sep 2012 10:08:00 AM PDT

Video length added

We've added the length of each video to its title. Hope this helps!
Mon 24 Sep 2012 4:36:00 AM PDT

Week 1 Quiz, question 10

Question 10 on the week 1 quiz had a bug: a valid variable name was marked as incorrect. This is now fixed and the quiz has been regraded.
Mon 24 Sep 2012 4:33:00 AM PDT

Welcome to LTP

Dear Learn to Program: The Fundamentals participants, 

The course website is ready!

The first week's lectures are now available and you can work through them at your own pace. You can watch them whenever you like. Be sure to do the in-lecture quizzes!

The first exercise is also posted, and is due on Monday 1 October at 12:01AM EST. It contains a series of short answer and multiple choice questions that help you get used to programming in Python.

If you have questions, please post to one of the Discussion Forums for the course, available in the navigation bar on the left of your screen. The navigation bar also has links to the syllabus and course logistics, including the marking scheme.

Welcome aboard!

Jennifer Campbell and Paul Gries
Learn to Program: The Fundamentals
Dept. of Computer Science, University of Toronto
Sun 23 Sep 2012 9:01:00 PM PDT

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