Problem Solving, Python Programming, and Video Games


This course is an introduction to computer science and programming in Python. Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:

1. Take a new computational problem and solve it, using several problem solving techniques including abstraction and problem decomposition.
2. Follow a design creation process that includes: descriptions, test plans, and algorithms.
3. Code, test, and debug a program in Python, based on your design.
Important computer science concepts such as problem solving (computational thinking), problem decomposition, algorithms, abstraction, and software quality are emphasized throughout.
This course uses problem-based learning. The Python programming language and video games are used to demonstrate computer science concepts in a concrete and fun manner. The instructional videos present Python using a conceptual framework that can be used to understand any programming language. This framework is based on several general programming language concepts that you will learn during the course including: lexics, syntax, and semantics.
Other approaches to programming may be quicker, but are more focused on a single programming language, or on a few of the simplest aspects of programming languages. The approach used in this course may take more time, but you will gain a deeper understanding of programming languages. After completing the course, in addition to learning Python programming, you will be able to apply the knowledge and skills you acquired to: non-game problems, other programming languages, and other computer science courses.
You do not need any previous programming, Python, or video game experience. However, several basic skills are needed: computer use (e.g., mouse, keyboard, document editing), elementary mathematics, attention to detail (as with many technical subjects), and a “just give it a try” spirit will be keys to your success. Despite the use of video games for the main programming project, PVG is not about computer games. For each new programming concept, PVG uses non-game examples to provide a basic understanding of computational principles, before applying these programming concepts to video games.
The interactive learning objects (ILO) of the course provide automatic, context-specific guidance and feedback, like a virtual teaching assistant, as you develop problem descriptions, functional test plans, and algorithms. The course forums are supported by knowledgeable University of Alberta personnel, to help you succeed.
All videos, assessments, and ILOs are available free of charge. There is an optional Coursera certificate available for a fee.

What you will learn

Module 0: Introduction

In Module 0, you will meet the instructional team and be introduced to the four themes of this course: computer science, problem solving, Python programming, and how to create video games.

Module 1: Design Hacking Version 1

In Module 1, you will explore the game creation process that is used in this course. You will use this process to design Version 1 of the first game, Hacking. You will use two problem-solving techniques: problem decomposition and algorithms. You will explore five criteria for problem decomposition: experiential decomposition, feature selection, problem refinement, spatial decomposition, and temporal decomposition. To create your design for Hacking Version 1, you will use three interactive learning objects: the description builder, functional test plan builder, and algorithm builder.

Module 2: Program Hacking Version 1

In Module 2, you will discover how lexics, syntax, and semantics can be used to understand and describe programming languages. You will use these concepts to understand your first Python statement (expression statement), first three Python expressions (literal, identifier, function call), and first five Python types (int, str, float, function, NoneType). You will use these Python constructs to write, test, and debug Hacking Version 1, a text-based game version. You will then reflect on your game version by using a third problem-solving technique called abstraction, including the specific technique of solution generalization, to solve similar problems.

Module 3: Hacking Version 2

In Module 3, you will identify solution issues in your game. You will apply a second form of the abstraction problem-solving technique, called using templates, to solve a solution issue by using a graphics library. You will then use lexics, syntax, and semantics to learn two new Python statements (assignment, import), two new Python expressions (binary expression, attribute reference), and one new Python type (module). You will employ these Python constructs and a simple graphics library to write, test, and debug Hacking Version 2.

What’s included