Computer Science Courses Worth Taking Online


Updated October 18, 2023

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As we continue into the digital age, computer science has become an essential discipline for anyone looking to remain relevant in the job market or understand the world around them. This dynamic field offers many exciting opportunities in many subjects, including data science, artificial intelligence, and software development.

Our guide explores curated online computer science courses. These programs offer a blend of theoretical knowledge and hands-on experience for various skill levels and are available through globally recognized institutions. Discover the course that will fuel your passion for technology.

What Subjects Are Covered in Computer Science Courses?

Computer science college courses can cover various subjects, including computer forensics, database management, and web development. Other common subjects include information technology and software engineering. Explore the list below to learn about some of the other subjects explored in popular online computer science classes.

Computer Programming: Computer science professionals write code with programming languages that tell computers to perform tasks. Some computer programming courses provide a broad introduction to programming languages, while others focus more narrowly on one or more languages, like JavaScript, Python, or C++.

Computer Engineering: These classes incorporate computer science and electrical engineering concepts to explore computer hardware development and design fundamentals. Topics may include circuit boards, operating systems, and robotics.

Cybersecurity: A typical cybersecurity class explores computer risk management, information security policies, and penetration testing. Coursework may cover a broad introduction to the subfield or focus on specific tools and practices.

Data Science: This field uses advanced tools to apply data in problem-solving contexts. Students in data science courses learn about data mining, data visualization, statistics, and machine learning.

Information Systems: Information systems classes explore how organizations can use information technology to solve problems. Topics include application design, human-computer interaction, and information systems theories and practices.

Network Administration: Students explore ways to make computer networks run effectively. Enrollees learn to install, fix, and upgrade computer networks. The curriculum may include aspects of data management, web development, and networking solutions.

Software Development: These classes teach learners to create, test, and maintain modern computer applications. The curriculum may cover programming languages, software security, algorithms, and data structures.

Popular Online Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Top Online Computer Science Courses

Introduction to Computer Science (CS50x)

This Harvard University course, available through edX, provides a broad understanding of computer science fundamentals through theoretical and practical topics. It starts from scratch, making it ideal for beginners and those with some experience. Upon completion, learners earn a certificate of completion from Harvard University's online learning platform, edX.

  • Provider: Harvard University via edX
  • Duration: 6-18 hours per week for 12 weeks
  • Lessons: 9 problem sets (programming assignments), 1 final project
  • Cost: $199 for a verified certificate and graded assignments

Topics Covered

  • Computer science basics
  • Programming in C
  • Web programming (HTML, CSS, JavaScript)
  • Python and SQL

Ultimate AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate SAA-C03

This Udemy course covers the fundamentals of building IT infrastructure on Amazon Web Services (AWS). It helps prepare students for the AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate exam.

  • Provider: Udemy
  • Duration: Self-paced
  • Lessons: 27 hours of on-demand video, 1 practice test, 13 articles, 1 downloadable resource
  • Cost: $129.99 (Prices often fluctuate)

Topics Covered

  • Design and deploy scalable, highly available systems on AWS
  • Ingress and egress data to and from AWS
  • Select the appropriate AWS service based on data, compute, database, or security requirements

Data Structures & Algorithms I: ArrayLists, LinkedLists, Stacks, and Queues

This Georgia Tech uses the edX platform to explore data storage in Arrays, ArrayLists, and LinkedList nodes — ideal for those with basic Java and object-oriented programming knowledge. It incorporates instructional videos, labs, comprehension questions, and Java coding assignments.

  • Provider: Georgia Tech via edX
  • Duration: 9-10 hours per week for 5 weeks
  • Lessons: Multiple modules, final exam
  • Cost: $149 for a verified certificate and graded assignments

Topics Covered

  • Java programming skills with generics, references, and interfaces
  • Low-level data structure programming
  • Abstract data type design and implementation
  • Time complexity analysis
  • Recursive method implementation

Serverless Apps with FastAPI, DynamoDB, and Vue

Students will build serverless web applications with FastAPI and Vue running on AWS. They can construct APIs on AWS Lambda, deploy FastAPI apps through CI/CD on GitHub Actions and Serverless Framework, authenticate with Cognito, and monitor with CloudWatch. The course is for advanced beginners with at least six months of web development experience.

  • Provider:
  • Duration: Self-paced
  • Lessons: CI/CD pipeline, API, DynamoDB, Cognito; Vue Application; Going to Production
  • Cost: $25

Topics Covered

  • Developing an API with FastAPI
  • CI/CD pipeline setup with GitHub Actions
  • Data modeling with DynamoDB
  • Authentication setup with Cognito
  • Vue application development
  • CloudWatch monitoring setup

The Complete SQL Bootcamp 2023: Go from Zero to Hero

This course will teach you how to use SQL to query a database and perform data analysis. With nine hours of on-demand video and detailed code notebooks for every lecture, this is one of the most comprehensive courses for SQL.

  • Provider: Udemy
  • Duration: Self-paced
  • Lessons: 9 hours of on-demand video, 14 articles, 13 downloadable resources
  • Cost: $189.99 (prices often fluctuate)

Topics Covered

  • PostgreSQL and PgAdmin
  • Fundamental SQL syntax
  • Aggregate functions for data analysis with GROUP BY commands
  • Sophisticated queries using string operations and comparison operations
  • Logical operators to introduce decision-making into SQL queries
  • Common SQL JOIN commands
  • Construct tables and databases with restrictions on data inputs
  • Utilize Python to enhance SQL capabilities

Introduction to Cybersecurity

This course is a comprehensive introduction to the modern cybersecurity landscape. Students learn about the latest types and methods of cyberattacks, as well as modern strategies for protecting systems and information. Enrollees develop familiarity with concepts such as malware, networking security, and web security. They will also receive hands-on experience with basic cybersecurity techniques.

  • Provider: Udacity
  • Duration: 4 months (5-10 hours/week)
  • Lessons: 4 modules with multiple lessons in each; final project
  • Cost: $399 per month

Topics Covered

  • Introduction to cybersecurity
  • Cyberthreats and attacks
  • Securing networks
  • Securing systems and data

Python for Data Science and Machine Learning Bootcamp

This course provides an introduction to data science and machine learning using Python. Students will gain practical experience with Python's popular data science libraries like pandas, seaborn, Matplotlib, plotly, and scikit-learn. It's a perfect course for beginners or anyone looking to refresh their data science and machine learning skills.

  • Provider: Udemy
  • Duration: Self-paced
  • Lessons: 25 hours of on-demand video, 13 articles, 5 downloadable resources
  • Cost: $99.99 (Prices often fluctuate)

Topics Covered

  • Introduction to Python for data science
  • Data visualization with Matplotlib, seaborn, and plotly
  • Machine learning with scikit-learn
  • Natural language processing with NLTK

Free Online Computer Science Courses

Building a Basic Website

This free 12-lesson class — the first MOOC from University of Massachusetts Amherst — helps students develop the design skills to build basic websites. The journalism department created this course for a general audience. Subjects include styles of navigation, aesthetic choices, and basic HTML and CSS. The class also explores using templates, integrating images, and adding plugins and other extra features to websites.

Topics Covered

  • Design principles
  • CSS
  • HTML5

Computer System Engineering

This course from Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science provides a foundation in software and hardware engineering. Students design distributed systems to solve problems in the real world through hands-on projects.

  • Provider: MIT
  • Duration: 5 hours per week (14 weeks)
  • Lessons: Design projects, lectures, recitations, written assignments, quizzes

Topics Covered

  • Operating systems
  • Networking
  • Distributed systems
  • Security

Databases: Relational Databases and SQL

This self-paced MOOC from Stanford Online joins four other database-related classes from Stanford University. The curriculum introduces concepts in relational databases and SQL. Learners need strong backgrounds in basic computer science, including programming and computer science theory. The class includes access to detailed lecture notes. Participants can pay a fee to receive shareable certificates upon completion.

  • Provider: Stanford Online
  • Duration: 2 weeks (8-10 hours per week)
  • Lessons: Videos, quizzes, exercises

Topics Covered

  • SQL
  • Relational databases
  • Relational database management systems

Intro to Theoretical Computer Science

This self-paced theoretical computer science class welcomes intermediate students with a basic understanding of introductory algorithms and computer programming. It explores complexity classes, approximate solutions, and unsolvable computer problems. Students learn to use tools to handle complicated algorithmic problems, but the course does not require prior knowledge of theoretical computer science.

  • Provider: Udacity
  • Duration: 2 months
  • Lessons: 7 lessons, instructor videos, interactive quizzes, exercises

Topics Covered

  • Algorithms
  • Programming
  • Theoretical computer science

Introduction to Computational Thinking and Data Science

MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science offers this introductory data science course through its open courseware program. This class can help students who do not have computer science experience. The curriculum covers machine learning, classification, and clustering.

  • Provider: MIT
  • Duration: 3 hours per week (15 weeks)
  • Lessons: Lecture videos, programming assignments, problem sets, lecture notes, final exam

Topics Covered

  • Optimization problems
  • Confidence intervals
  • Sampling and standard errors
  • Understanding experimental data

Introduction to Data Science with Python

HarvardX's intermediate, self-paced course provides practical experience with using Python to answer real-world questions. The curriculum focuses on machine learning and the foundations of data science. In the final week of the class, each student completes a capstone project. The free program offers an optional paid upgrade, which delivers a shareable certificate after completion, graded assignments, and exams.

  • Provider: HarvardX
  • Duration: 8 weeks (3-4 hours per week)
  • Lessons: 8 lessons, capstone project

Topics Covered

  • Linear regression
  • Classification and logistic regression
  • Model selection and cross-validation
  • Hypothesis testing

Secure Software Development: Requirements, Design, and Reuse

This self-paced introductory class, offered through edX, explores the basics of secure software development. Students learn to create secure software and respond to attacks effectively. The class requires basic software creation knowledge for developers, software engineers, and other professionals. The course is one of three in the Secure Software Development Fundamentals Professional Certificate program.

  • Provider: The Linux Foundation
  • Duration: 7 weeks (1-2 hours per week)
  • Lessons: Final exam for students paying for the verified track

Topics Covered

  • Secure design principles
  • Security basics
  • Reusing external software
  • Supply chain evaluation

What to Expect From Online Computer Science Classes

Students can take online computer science courses in various subjects with several formats and structures. Synchronous classes take place in real time, requiring learners to log on to a virtual classroom at specific times. Asynchronous courses, however, generally let students complete coursework on their schedules as long as they meet deadlines.

Typical class structures include live or recorded lectures, reading and writing assignments, and required quizzes. Computer science courses also may include guest speakers and hands-on projects.

Many online computer science classes welcome beginners with little or no previous experience in the field. However, some courses may include prerequisites or require relevant experience. Some classes supply readings or use free resources, but others may require students to purchase supplemental materials.

Popular Online Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Should You Take Computer Science Courses Online?

Online computer science courses can appeal to anyone seeking a flexible and affordable learning pathway. Distance education may benefit people trying to educate themselves while working full time.

Older adults worried about whether or not they are too old to learn to code may find computer science online classes a convenient and low-risk way to start their education.

Taking a one-off online computer science class allows a student to dip their toe into the field and help them decide if they want to pursue a degree or certificate. Learners can also take online classes that provide certificates or degrees.

Pros and Cons of Online Courses in Computer Science

Pros of Online Computer Science Courses

  • Convenience of learning in the comfort of your home instead of commuting to a campus
  • Opportunities to develop time management skills
  • Save money
  • Learn at an accelerated rate and prepare for basic tech jobs
  • Flexibility to access content and complete coursework anytime

Cons of Online Computer Science Courses

  • Reduced interactions with teachers and classmates
  • Burden of motivating yourself to stay on track
  • Fewer networking opportunities
  • Fixed class schedule may conflict with work or personal commitments
  • Additional costs such as transportation, parking fees, and meal expenses

Popular Online Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

FAQ About Taking Computer Science Courses Online

How long do online courses in computer science take?

Computer science courses vary in length. Some last just a few hours, while others occur over weeks or months. Students can even earn four-year computer science degrees online.

Which online computer science class is best for beginners?

Harvard University's CS50x is a standout choice for beginners. It provides a broad understanding of key concepts, making it ideal for those new to the field.

Are online computer science courses worth it?

Yes — they can be. Many online computer science classes are free or carry low costs and can help students gain the skills they need to pursue entry-level tech jobs. Research a class's details before signing up to ensure that it covers your interests or needs.

Can I take computer science college courses online?

Yes — many colleges and universities offer computer science courses online. For instance, MIT provides free online computer science courses via MIT OpenCourseWare. Additionally, institutions such as Stanford University and Harvard University offer online courses in computer science through platforms like edX.

Last reviewed July 26, 2023.

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