Path to a free self-taught education in Computer Science

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Ruchika oberoi

Staff member
Mar 27, 2022

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 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 multiple times per year)
  • Be of generally high quality in teaching materials and pedagogical principles
  • Match the curricular standards of the : Curriculum Guidelines for Undergraduate Degree Programs in Computer Science
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 or .

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
Duration. It is possible to finish within about 2 years if you plan carefully and devote roughly 20 hours/week to your studies. Learners can use to estimate their end date. Make a copy and input your start date and expected hours per week in the Timeline sheet. As you work through courses you can enter your actual course completion dates in the Curriculum Data sheet and get updated completion estimates.

Cost. All or nearly all course material is available for free. However, some courses may charge money for assignments/tests/projects to be graded. Note that both and offer 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.

  • 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 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!

(Details about our FAQ and chatroom)


  • We have a discord server! This should be your first stop to talk with other OSSU students. Why don't you introduce yourself right now?
  • 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 .
  • Subscribe to our .
  • Add Open Source Society University to your 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 .


Curriculum version: 8.0.0 (see )


  • assumes the student has already taken , including algebra, geometry, and pre-calculus.
  • assumes the student has already taken the entirety of Core CS and is knowledgeable enough now to decide which electives to take.
  • Note that 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. This course is self-paced, allowing you to adjust the number of hours you spend per week to meet your needs.

Topics covered: simple programs simple data structures

10 weeks10 hours/weeknone

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: computation imperative programming basic data structures and algorithms and more

( )9 weeks15 hours/week

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) Ruby and more

The How to Code courses are based on the textbook . The First Edition is available for free online and includes problem sets and solutions. Students are encouraged to do these assignments.

7 weeks8-10 hours/weeknone
6 weeks8-10 hours/weekHow to Code: Simple Data
5 weeks4-8 hours/weekHow to Code ( )
3 weeks4-8 hours/weekProgramming Languages, Part A
3 weeks4-8 hours/weekProgramming Languages, Part B
4 weeks4 hours/week
4 weeks4 hours/weekObject-Oriented Design
4 weeks2-5 hours/weekDesign Patterns

Core math​

Discrete math (Math for CS) is a prerequisite and closely related to the study of algorithms and data structures. Calculus both prepares students for discrete math and helps students develop mathematical maturity.

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

( )13 weeks6-10 hours/weekThe alternate covers this and the following 2 courses
13 weeks5-10 hours/weekCalculus 1A
6 weeks5-10 hours/weekCalculus 1B
( )13 weeks5 hours/week .Calculus 1C

CS Tools​

Understanding theory is important, but you will also be expected to create programs. There are a number of tools that are widely used to make that process easier. Learn them now to ease your future work writing programs.

Topics covered: terminals and shell scripting vim command line environments version control and more

2 weeks12 hours/week

Core systems​

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

CoursesDurationEffortAdditional Text / AssignmentsPrerequisitesDiscussion
( )6 weeks7-13 hours/weekC-like programming language
6 weeks12-18 hours/weekone of , From Nand to Tetris Part I
10-12 weeks6-10 hours/week
8 weeks4–12 hours/week algebra, probability, basic CS

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 NP-completeness and more

4 weeks4-8 hours/weekany programming language, Mathematics for Computer Science
4 weeks4-8 hours/weekDivide and Conquer, Sorting and Searching, and Randomized Algorithms
4 weeks4-8 hours/weekGraph Search, Shortest Paths, and Data Structures
4 weeks4-8 hours/weekGreedy Algorithms, Minimum Spanning Trees, and Dynamic Programming

Core security​

Topics covered Confidentiality, Integrity, Availability Secure Design Defensive Programming Threats and Attacks Network Security Cryptography and more

8 weeks10-12 hours/week
4 weeks4 hours/week
4 weeks4 hours/week
Choose one of the following:

4 weeks5 hours/week
4 weeks5 hours/week

Core applications​

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

2 weeks10 hours/weekcore programming
2 weeks10 hours/weekcore programming
2 weeks10 hours/weekcore programming
11 weeks4-6 hours/weeklinear algebra
6 weeks12 hours/weekC++ or Java, linear algebra
6 weeks8-10 hours/weekCore Programming, and a

Core ethics​

Topics covered: Social Context Analytical Tools Professional Ethics Intellectual Property Privacy and Civil Liberties and more

9 weeks2 hours/weeknone
4 weeks2 hours/weeknone
3 weeks3 hours/weeknone

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.

Advanced programming​

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

4 weeks6-8 hours/weekScala programming
9 weeks6-8 hours/weeknone
14 weeks
( )*12 weeks
8 weeks6 hours/weekPython, object-oriented programming
4 weeks6 hours/weekPython, programming experience
(*) book by Blackburn, Bos, Striegnitz (compiled from , redistributed under )

Advanced systems​

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

10 weeks6 hours/week Alternate links contain all 3 courses.
10 weeks6 hours/weekComputation Structures 1
10 weeks6 hours/weekComputation Structures 2

Advanced theory​

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

( )8 weeks10 hours/weekdiscrete mathematics, logic, algorithms
16 weeks8 hours/weekalgorithms, C++
8 weeks3 hours/weekmathematical thinking, probability, calculus

Advanced Information Security​

5 weeks4-6 hours/weekunderstanding basic web technologies
3 weeks3 hours/week
3 weeks2-3 hours/weekCore Security
7 weeks1-2 hours/weekCore Programming and Core Security
7 weeks1-2 hours/weekSecure Software Development: Requirements, Design, and Reuse
7 weeks1-2 hours/weekSecure Software Development: Implementation

Advanced math​

14 weeks12 hours/weekcorequisite: Essence of Linear Algebra
14 weeks12 hours/week
10 weeks4-8 hours/week
24 weeks12 hours/week

Final project​

OSS University is project-focused. The assignments and exams for each course are to prepare you to use your knowledge to solve real-world problems.

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 or .

Students who would like more guidance in creating a project may choose to use a series of project oriented courses. Here is a sample of options (many more are available, at this point you should be capable of identifying a series that is interesting and relevant to you):

12 weeks15 hours/weekprogramming
26 weeks2-5 hours/weekfreshman-level physics, linear algebra, calculus,
30 weeks2-5 hours/weekmachine learning
30 weeks3-5 hours/weeknone
30 weeks1-5 hours/weekstrong programming
30 weeks2-6 hours/weekC++ programming
43 weeks1-6 hours/weeknone
29 weeks4-5 hours/weekOne year programming experience
6 months5 hours/weekprogramming, interactive design


Upon completing your final project:

  • Submit your project's information to via a pull request.
  • Put the OSSU-CS badge in the README of your repository!
    • Markdown: [![Open Source Society University - Computer Science](](
    • HTML: <a href=" "><img alt="Open Source Society University - Computer Science" src=" "></a>
  • Use our channels to announce it to your fellow students.
Solicit feedback from your OSSU peers. 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.

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 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.


After completing the requirements of the curriculum above, you will have completed the equivalent of a full bachelor's degree in Computer Science. Congratulations!

What is next for you? The possibilities are boundless and overlapping:

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

Code of conduct​


How to show your progress​

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


  • : founder of OSSU
  • : lead technical maintainer
  • : lead academic maintainer