ossu/computer-science: Path to a free self-taught education in Computer Science!

Open Source Society University Path to a free self-taught education in Computer Science! The OSSU curriculum is a complete education in computer science using online materials. It’s not merely for career training or professional development. It’s for those who want a proper, well-rounded grounding in concepts fundamental to all computing […]

Open Source Society University (OSSU)

Open Source Society University

Path to a free self-taught education in Computer Science!


Open Source Society University - Computer Science

The OSSU curriculum is a complete education in computer science using online materials.
It’s not merely for career training or professional development.
It’s for those who want a proper, well-rounded grounding in concepts fundamental to all computing disciplines,
and for those who have the discipline, will, and (most importantly!) good habits to obtain this education largely on their own,
but with support from a worldwide community of fellow learners.

It is designed according to the degree requirements of undergraduate computer science majors, minus general education (non-CS) requirements,
as it is assumed most of the people following this curriculum are already educated outside the field of CS.
The courses themselves are among the very best in the world, often coming from Harvard, Princeton, MIT, etc.,
but specifically chosen to meet the following criteria.

Courses must:

  • Be open for enrollment
  • Run regularly (ideally in self-paced format, otherwise running at least once a month or so)
  • Fulfill the academic requirements of OSSU
  • Fit neatly into the progression of the curriculum with respect to topics and difficulty level
  • Be of generally high quality in teaching materials and pedagogical principles

When no course meets the above criteria, the coursework is supplemented with a book.
When there are courses or books that don’t fit into the curriculum but are otherwise of high quality,
they belong in extras/courses or extras/readings.

Organization. The curriculum is designed as follows:

  • Intro CS: for students to try out CS and see if it’s right for them
  • Core CS: corresponds roughly to the first three years of a computer science curriculum, taking classes that all majors would be required to take
  • Advanced CS: corresponds roughly to the final year of a computer science curriculum, taking electives according to the student’s interests
  • Final Project: a project for students to validate, consolidate, and display their knowledge, to be evaluated by their peers worldwide
  • Pro CS: graduate-level specializations students can elect to take after completing the above curriculum if they want to maximize their chances of getting a good job

Duration. It is possible to finish Core CS within about 2 years if you plan carefully and devote roughly 18-22 hours/week to your studies.
Courses in Core CS should be taken linearly if possible, but since a perfectly linear progression is rarely possible,
each class’s prerequisites are specified so that you can design a logical but non-linear progression
based on the class schedules and your own life plans.

Cost. All or nearly all course material prior to Pro CS is available for free.
However, some courses may charge money for assignments/tests/projects to be graded.
Note that Coursera offers financial aid.
Decide how much or how little to spend based on your own time and budget;
just remember that you can’t purchase success!

Process. Students can work through the curriculum alone or in groups, in order or out of order.

  • For grouping up, please use the cohorts repository to find or create a cohort suited to you.
  • We recommend doing all courses in Core CS, only skipping a course when you are certain that you’ve already learned the material previously.
  • For simplicity, we recommend working through courses (especially Core CS) in order from top to bottom, as they have already been topologically sorted by their prerequisites.
  • Courses in Advanced CS are electives. Choose one subject (e.g. Advanced programming) you want to become an expert in and take all the courses under that heading. You can also create your own custom subject, but we recommend getting validation from the community on the subject you choose.

Content policy. If you plan on showing off some of your coursework publicly, you must share only files that you are allowed to.
Do NOT disrespect the code of conduct that you signed in the beginning of each course!

How to contribute

Getting help (Details about our FAQ and chatroom)

  • We have a chat room! This should be your first stop to talk with other OSSU students. Why don’t you introduce yourself right now? Join the chat in Gitter Join the chat at https://gitter.im/open-source-society/computer-science
  • You can also interact through GitHub issues. If there is a problem with a course, or a change needs to be made to the curriculum, this is the place to start the conversation. Read more here.
  • Add Open Source Society University to your Linkedin profile!
  • Note: There is an unmaintained and deprecated firebase app that you might find when searching OSSU. You can safely ignore it. Read more in the FAQ.

Curriculum version: 8.0.0 (see CHANGELOG)


  • Core CS assumes the student has already taken high school math, including algebra, geometry, and pre-calculus.
  • Advanced CS assumes the student has already taken the entirety of Core CS
    and is knowledgeable enough now to decide which electives to take.
  • Note that Advanced systems assumes the student has taken a basic physics course (e.g. AP Physics in high school).

Intro CS

Introduction to Programming

If you’ve never written a for-loop, or don’t know what a string is in programming, start here. Choose one of the two course series below. Either one will give you an introduction to programming that assumes no prior knowledge.

Trying to decide between them?

Python for Everyone will introduce you to a popular language and will quickly move to practical programming tasks – using web APIs and databases. This will give you a taste of what many professional developers do.

Fundamentals of Computing will also start by introducing you to Python. It then moves on to give an introduction to academic Computer Science topics, like sorting and recursion. This will give you a taste of what the following courses will be like. (Students who complete Fundamentals of Computing can skip Intro to Computer Science and begin Core CS.)

Topics covered:
simple programs
simple data structures

Introduction to Computer Science

This course will introduce you to the world of computer science. Students who have been introduced to programming, either from the courses above or through study elsewhere, should take this course for a flavor of the material to come. If you finish the course wanting more, Computer Science is likely for you!

Topics covered:
imperative programming
basic data structures and algorithms
and more

Core CS

All coursework under Core CS is required, unless otherwise indicated.

Core programming

Topics covered:
functional programming
design for testing
program requirements
common design patterns
unit testing
object-oriented design
static typing
dynamic typing
ML-family languages (via Standard ML)
Lisp-family languages (via Racket)
and more


Math Electives

Students must choose one of the following topics: calculus, linear algebra, logic, or probability.


Linear Algebra



Core Math

In addition to their math elective, students must complete the following course on discrete mathematics.

Topics covered:
discrete mathematics
mathematical proofs
basic statistics
discrete probability
and more

Core systems

Topics covered:
procedural programming
manual memory management
boolean algebra
gate logic
computer architecture
machine language
virtual machines
high-level languages
operating systems
network protocols
and more

Core theory

Topics covered:
divide and conquer
sorting and searching
randomized algorithms
graph search
shortest paths
data structures
greedy algorithms
minimum spanning trees
dynamic programming
and more

Courses Duration Effort Prerequisites
Divide and Conquer, Sorting and Searching, and Randomized Algorithms 4 weeks 4-8 hours/week any programming language, Mathematics for Computer Science
Graph Search, Shortest Paths, and Data Structures 4 weeks 4-8 hours/week Divide and Conquer, Sorting and Searching, and Randomized Algorithms
Greedy Algorithms, Minimum Spanning Trees, and Dynamic Programming 4 weeks 4-8 hours/week Graph Search, Shortest Paths, and Data Structures
Shortest Paths Revisited, NP-Complete Problems and What To Do About Them 4 weeks 4-8 hours/week Greedy Algorithms, Minimum Spanning Trees, and Dynamic Programming

Core applications

Topics covered:
Agile methodology
software specifications
relational databases
transaction processing
data modeling
neural networks
supervised learning
unsupervised learning
and more

Advanced CS

After completing every required course in Core CS, students should choose a subset of courses from Advanced CS based on interest.
Not every course from a subcategory needs to be taken.
But students should take every course that is relevant to the field they intend to go into.

The Advanced CS study should then end with one of the Specializations under Advanced applications.
A Specialization’s Capstone, if taken, may act as the Final project, if permitted by the Honor Code of the course.
If not, or if a student chooses not to take the Capstone, then a separate Final project will need to be done to complete this curriculum.

Advanced programming

Topics covered:
debugging theory and practice
goal-oriented programming
GPU programming
parallel computing
object-oriented analysis and design
large-scale software architecture and design
and more

Advanced systems

Topics covered:
digital signaling
combinational logic
CMOS technologies
sequential logic
finite state machines
processor instruction sets
parallel processing
virtual memory
synchronization primitives
system call interface
and more

1 Note:
These courses assume knowledge of basic physics.
If you are struggling, you can find a physics MOOC or utilize the materials from Khan Academy:
Khan Academy – Physics

Advanced theory

Topics covered:
formal languages
Turing machines
event-driven concurrency
distributed shared memory
consensus algorithms
state machine replication
computational geometry theory
propositional logic
relational logic
Herbrand logic
concept lattices
game trees
and more

Advanced applications

These Coursera Specializations all end with a Capstone project.
Depending on the course, you may be able to utilize the Capstone as your Final Project for this Computer Science curriculum.
Note that doing a Specialization with the Capstone at the end always costs money.
So if you don’t wish to spend money or use the Capstone as your Final, it may be possible to take the courses in the Specialization for free by manually searching for them, but not all allow this.

Final project

OSS University is project-focused.
You are encouraged to do the assignments and exams for each course, but what really matters is whether you can use your knowledge to solve a real-world problem.

After you’ve gotten through all of Core CS and the parts of Advanced CS relevant to you, you should think about a problem that you can solve using the knowledge you’ve acquired.
Not only does real project work look great on a resume, but the project will also validate and consolidate your knowledge.
You can create something entirely new, or you can find an existing project that needs help via websites like
First Timers Only.

Another option is using the Capstone project from taking one of the Specializations in Advanced applications;
whether or not this makes sense depends on the course, the project, and whether or not the course’s Honor Code permits you to display your work publicly.
In some cases, it may not be permitted;
do not violate your course’s Honor Code!

Put the OSSU-CS badge in the README of your repository!
Open Source Society University - Computer Science

  • Markdown: [![Open Source Society University - Computer Science](https://img.shields.io/badge/OSSU-computer--science-blue.svg)](https://github.com/ossu/computer-science)
  • HTML: <a href="https://github.com/ossu/computer-science"><img alt="Open Source Society University - Computer Science" src="https://img.shields.io/badge/OSSU-computer--science-blue.svg"></a>


Upon completing your final project, submit your project’s information to PROJECTS
via a pull request and use our community channels to announce it to your fellow students.

Your peers and mentors from OSSU will then informally evaluate your project.
You will not be “graded” in the traditional sense — everyone has their own measurements for what they consider a success.
The purpose of the evaluation is to act as your first announcement to the world that you are a computer scientist
and to get experience listening to feedback — both positive and negative — and taking it in stride.

The final project evaluation has a second purpose: to evaluate whether OSSU,
through its community and curriculum, is successful in its mission to guide independent learners in obtaining a world-class computer science education.

Cooperative work

You can create this project alone or with other students!
We love cooperative work!
Use our channels to communicate with other fellows to combine and create new projects!

Which programming languages should I use?

My friend, here is the best part of liberty!
You can use any language that you want to complete the final project.

The important thing is to internalize the core concepts and to be able to use them with whatever tool (programming language) that you wish.

Pro CS

After completing the requirements of the curriculum above, you will have completed the equivalent of a full bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, or quite close to one.
You can stop in the Advanced CS section, but the next step to completing your studies is to develop skills and knowledge in a specific domain.
Many of these courses are graduate-level.

Choose one or more of the following specializations:

These aren’t the only specializations you can choose. Check the following websites for more options:

Where to go next?

  • Look for a job as a developer!
  • Check out the readings for classic books you can read that will sharpen your skills and expand your knowledge.
  • Join a local developer meetup (e.g. via meetup.com).
  • Pay attention to emerging technologies in the world of software development:
    • Explore the actor model through Elixir, a new functional programming language for the web based on the battle-tested Erlang Virtual Machine!
    • Explore borrowing and lifetimes through Rust, a systems language which achieves memory- and thread-safety without a garbage collector!
    • Explore dependent type systems through Idris, a new Haskell-inspired language with unprecedented support for type-driven development.

keep learning

OSSU’s code of conduct.

How to show your progress

  1. Create an account in Trello.
  2. Copy this board to your personal account.
    See how to copy a board here.

Now that you have a copy of our official board, you just need to pass the cards to the Doing column or Done column as you progress in your study.

We also have labels to help you have more control through the process.
The meaning of each of these labels is:

  • Main Curriculum: cards with that label represent courses that are listed in our curriculum.
  • Extra Resources: cards with that label represent courses that were added by the student.
  • Doing: cards with that label represent courses the student is current doing.
  • Done: cards with that label represent courses finished by the student.
    Those cards should also have the link for at least one project/article built with the knowledge acquired in such course.
  • Section: cards with that label represent the section that we have in our curriculum.
    Those cards with the Section label are only to help the organization of the Done column.
    You should put the Course’s cards below its respective Section’s card.

The intention of this board is to provide our students a way to track their progress, and also the ability to show their progress through a public page for friends, family, employers, etc.
You can change the status of your board to be public or private.


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