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The Missing Semester of Your CS Education

MIT LogoWe ran across an interesting class from MIT entitled “The Missing Semester of Your CS Eduction.”  Here is how it’s described:

Classes teach you all about advanced topics within CS, from operating systems to machine learning, but there’s one critical subject that’s rarely covered, and is instead left to students to figure out on their own: proficiency with their tools. We’ll teach you how to master the command-line, use a powerful text editor, use fancy features of version control systems, and much more!

Students spend hundreds of hours using these tools over the course of their education (and thousands over their career), so it makes sense to make the experience as fluid and frictionless as possible. Mastering these tools not only enables you to spend less time on figuring out how to bend your tools to your will, but it also lets you solve problems that would previously seem impossibly complex.

The course covers things like editors, using the shell, data-wrangling, debugging, and security.  It’s all about the practical bits of being a developer.  Yes, you spend your day writing code but can you handle things if someone dumps a ton of unstructured data on your lap?  We all get a chapter in debugging in our C++ or PHP book, but do you really know how that works, end-to-end?  What about release management and continuous integration?

I once knew a developer who said he changing careers because he wanted to be a developer.  He explained what he meant: after meetings, setting up databases, handling deployments, managing repos, creating makefiles and build files, and managing the bug reporting system, he had no time left to actually write code!  Hopefully this kind of course simplifies this kind of work.

Of course, if you want to take it for credit, you’ll need to be admitted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology but if you just want the knowledge, you can watch video recordings on YouTube.



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