Leigh Bitossi

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MITx 6.00 1x Review. The Good, the Bad, the…Ugly?

So, I’ve only written one blog post about MITx 6.00 1x shortly after starting the course. I had intended to update my progress along the way, but soon after starting, I noticed how difficult this course is and how much of my free time it was going to consume. In any case, after finishing the course, here’s my MITx 6.00 1x review!

MITx 6.00 1x Certificate

Here it is! I actually did finish it.

MITx 6.00. 1x: A beginner’s course that’s not necessarily for beginners

MITx 6.00 1x is officially titled, “Introduction to Computer Science and Programming Using Python.” As someone who classified themselves as a beginner to programming before starting this course, I would advise any other beginner to think carefully before starting this. While MIT’s literature does say that it’s a suitable course for a beginner to programming and that it’s “introductory,” it’s important to keep in mind that it is a computer science course. If you’re like me (not from a STEM background), computer science is a heavy topic to jump right into. However, with some commitment and hard work, it’s absolutely doable. Just think carefully before you jump in.

What’s in the box?

Here’s the course syllabus.

The Good

The course starts off at a very suitable level for any beginner. The first few video lectures and topics are good, well explained, and have good follow-up “finger exercises” that test your comprehension of what was just taught and count towards your overall grade. After two or three lectures and accompanying exercises, you have to complete a problem set which is typically a coding project.

The early problem sets are basically writing small programs or functions that solve an algorithmic challenge. Later problem sets have you complete the logic and coding of slightly complicated games such as a scrabble-type game that you can play against.

The early problem sets might only solve seemingly small problems but they are quite challenging. It took me a good few days to figure out problem set one completely. The feeling you get from finishing a challenging problem though is very satisfying. I mentioned that a lot of the challenges were completing an entire game. These larger, more complex challenges are staged so that you are only working on one piece of the puzzle at the time. This is a great way of getting you into the habit of breaking down projects into sections or looking at them as pieces of a larger puzzle.

The course’s designers realize that the problem sets can be very challenging and one of the teaching assistants, Thomas Ballatore, has uploaded a series of extremely helpful guides to (all but the last) problem sets. Thomas seems like a great teacher as he knows how to guide you towards the answer instead of just flat-out showing you how to do it. I don’t think I could’ve done the problem sets without his videos.

MIT 6.00 1x lasts seven weeks. New material releases every seven days and you have about two weeks to finish the graded finger exercises and problem sets. There is a mid-term exam after week three, and a final exam after week seven. Each exam is worth 25% of your overall grade. I found the exams to be the hardest part of the course. You have eight hours to finish an exam. Questions are selected at random from a pool so that no two students will receive quite the same exam. As I said, these were tough. In both tests, I finished only two-thirds of the material, and that was using the full eight hour time allowance. By the end, you’ll need to score 65% or more for all the graded activities combined.

 

The bad…the ugly?

I honestly don’t have a lot of bad things to say about the course. Perhaps I could say that the lectures were sometimes a little dry, and Professor Grimson’s handwriting over the slides was pretty hard to read, but that’s just nitpicking. I feel as if the second half of the course increased in pace a lot. At times, I felt pretty rushed. The material and problem sets by this stage were really tough, and the two-week time-limit to complete all the graded tasks was tight.

How was the support? It was okay. I’d say my experience with the online communities was a mixed bag. The Discord for MIT 6.00 1x was the most useful online “community.” A teaching assistant could usually be reached there. These assistants were mostly pretty good. One or two did come across a bit curt, but there are a lot of students asking a lot of questions. I can understand how the TA’s must feel at times. There is a Facebook community for the course, but I found this community to be largely unhelpful as a lot of people posting there came across as weirdly competitive and would only post to brag how easy they found the exam or a particular problem set. Like anything on the internet though, take these kinds of things with a massive grain of salt.

Overall Thoughts of MITx: 6.00.1x

I can’t recommend this course enough. If you’re a total beginner to programming and computer science, you absolutely will find this very challenging, but it is totally doable. If you’re not from a STEM background, I would recommend brushing up on your high-school level algebra and general math skills. I found Khan Academy incredibly helpful when I was struggling with mathematical problems and material that I wasn’t very familiar, or just plain rusty, with. At the end of MIT 6.00 1x, you’ll come out with a pretty good, basic understanding of core computer science concepts and problems, and a bit of familiarity with the Python language to boot.

MITx 6.00 1x was one of the toughest challenges I’ve done in recent memory. I feel as if I’ve got a better understanding of programming that’s already helping me out a lot. I’m definitely more interested in web-development than data science so after finishing this course, I jumped right into Harvard’s CS50w Web-Development Using Python and Javascript where I’m currently learning a lot about Django. MIT 6.00 1x uses Python and what I learned has been really helpful in my experience with CS50w so far.

If you’re going to take MIT 6.00 1x, I’d really recommend getting verified with edX. The $75.00 for the certificate gives you access to the material after the class closes and unlocks grading and assessment. It’s also a great tool for motivation.

 

 

 

 

August 27, 2020