Did you know you can learn basic Python in only a few weeks without being a programming geek already? Probably not. Neither did I. In my job, I don’t need to program, but it helps to understand the technology and how the technical stuff works on a high level. So, I should learn something about it.
The big question is, where to start?
If you randomly google “learn python” then you’ll find 206 million results. Some very technical, some super basic. I needed something that helped me. I don’t like reading about technical details. I much prefer to have a teacher teach me.
So, naturally, I started looking at MOOCs (massive open online courses) and found the absolute best course. With that course, I managed to learn the basics of Python in just a few weeks.
The one course I recommend is “Python for Everybody”. There is no better starting point to learn Python. This specialisation consists of 5 courses and is provided by the University of Michigan.
The specialisation gets fantastic ratings between 4.6-4.9 stars out of 5 with thousands of reviews on the various courses.
Chuck Severance is the instructor and starts at the very basics as he slowly progresses to more advanced topics. He shows how you can work with data in Python, access a database and even visualise data using external tools.
He is the best instructor out there. He’s leading the entire specialisation and will give you a great grounding of Python even if you have never used it before. Chuck is legendary and super enthusiastic about Python and teaching. That makes it easy for anyone following the course to learn the fundamental concepts. Not every course on Coursera has great teachers, and sometimes there are gaps in the content that make it hard for students to follow. Not here. Chuck is legendary.
What will you be able to do?
As you’re not a geek, just like myself, you probably won’t create the next Facebook using Python. One thing you will achieve is a high-level understanding of all the concepts. Learning the basics is crucial, so when you talk to a software engineer, you can speak the same language. You’ll be able to write basic Python scripts to manipulate data and visualise it using libraries like D3.
From Hello World to Awesome Data Visualisations
This course will take you a few weeks to up to a few months to complete. It’s all self-paced and suitable for beginners. That also shows in the fact that the course has over 250,000 people enrolled. Let’s have a look at the curriculum.
Course 1 – Programming for Everybody
The course starts with the basics highlighting the importance of programming. You will code a famous ‘Hello World’. The course continues onwards with helping you install the right tools that you’ll need throughout the specialisation. It concludes with you being able to set values, run basics if/else statements and loops. Which is pretty cool, considering you only just started. Also, all material is available online: https://www.py4e.com/.
Course 2 – Python Data Structures
After you learnt the basics of navigating data, we’re going deeper into the different structures. You will see how easily you can pull data from a file, process it, manipulate it and store it back into a file. This part of the course is still quite simple but sets you up for success in course 3.
Course 3 – Using Python to Access Web Data
This course goes into the detail of how the web works and how you can get external data to play around with. It’s a fantastic starting point to get your programming skills to the next level. Because here, you will use the basics you have learnt to take data not just from your input or a file on your desktop. You will go onto a website and use that data in your program. Until this point, you’ve played around a lot, but all will be forgotten unless you store it somewhere. That’s when databases come into play.
Above is a screenshot of what the course video looks like when explaining networking. Professor Severance explains everything in great detail and will use an interactive drawing technology to draw up concepts so you can follow along easily.
Course 4 – Using Databases with Python
Now you need to think about data for the long term. That’s when databases come into play. You use the standard SQL language in Python to write data into a database where it can be stored for future uses. This is great as it’s the first time you’re work lives on beyond the black terminal window.
Course 5 – Capstone: Retrieving, Processing, and Visualizing Data with Python
The capstone ties all knowledge you have gained throughout the course together. You will deal with some ambiguity too as there is a lot of code that is reused to save the effort of getting everything ready from scratch. It lets you focus on the core part of this which is to retrieve, process and visualise data.
Above is my visualisation from a large text file of emails. I created a word cloud using a third-party library, and that’s the result.
Each course features a quiz with real-life exercises that will get you some hands-on experience with Python. Assignments are also part of the specialisation. You’ll help review other students’ code as well.
That’s it. An amazing 5-course specialisation on Coursera which get you up to speed on the basics of Python. How to boost your career with Python now? Read on.
How to Get Started
It’s super simple. I used Coursera to complete this course. Coursera is a fantastic platform, as it provides free courses. Some you can try for a whole week to see if you like them before going for a paid version which includes a certificate. If you want to start the course on Python, follow this link and get immersed.
Once you complete the courses, you’ll be awarded a certificate which you can share on LinkedIn.
More importantly, you’ll have a good basic understanding of how applications are built in one of the most popular languages out there. Here’s my certificate which I shared on LinkedIn.
Then, I started to gain some recognition for it on my LinkedIn profile and even more Coursera themselves liked my post. This led to a significant increase in profile views. There were over 36,000 views of my post and over 350 people liked it. That’s by far more than anything else I’ve ever posted.
Many of you will do this course to learn something new. The certificate is a nice to have as well. Now, I’m sure that also some of you will use this to get a new job, a better job, a job that requires you to know Python.
Well, this is great evidence to show you that people on LinkedIn will notice you. If you’re looking for a new challenge in your career, this could be a great way to let others know. The world is small. Someone might reach out if you use LinkedIn the right way.
I hope this review was helpful, leave a comment, follow me on Twitter @realSemir.