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Online Tutorial Site Launches Free Computer Science Classes

Thanks to the Khan Academy, future programmers can get a free kick-start online.

Khan Academy, the free online tutorial website, has launched a new interactive computer science curriculum that features video tutorials, editable script boxes with real-time GUIs, and colorful images that will likely appeal to kids and beginning programmers.

The curriculum is headed by noted JavaScript programmer John Resig, who is best known as the creator of the jQuery JavaScript library.

According to Resig, the interactive platform is designed to target people with no programming knowledge, and to be engaging and approachable for people of all ages, including young children.

"In an environment that is truly responsive you can completely change the model of how a student learns: rather than following the typical write -> compile -> guess it works -> run tests to see if it worked model, you can now immediately see the result and intuit how underlying systems inherently work without ever following an explicit explanation," Resig wrote in a blog post.

"Rather than starting computer science education off by explicitly teaching how a computer works or fundamental programming concepts (like variables, logic, control structures, etc.) you put the student into code of graduate complexity and encourage them to manipulate, explore, and write their own programs."

Most of the lessons in the computer science curriculum involve a box with code in it next to a graphical user interface (GUI). The code is already written to display a colorful, interesting shape in the GUI, but users are encouraged to manipulate the code to see how their changes affect the final product. Users can manipulate code by typing directly into the script box, or by clicking on values and dragging their mouse to the left or right to decrease or increase the value.

Lessons range from easy to advanced, though the most advanced lessons are just shy of university-level material, since this is designed to be more of an introduction to a programming course.

Khan Academy was founded in 2006 by Salman Khan, whose vision was to create an interactive, online learning environment where people could learn at their own pace for free. Khan Academy initially started as a YouTube channel on which Khan created YouTube videos using Yahoo Doodle images to help his cousins with math. The academy has since blossomed into a well-funded nonprofit organization with more than 3,300 videos on multiple categories, including math, history, medicine, finance, physics, chemistry, biology, economics, and, now, computer science.

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