Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

Problem Solving, Programming, and Video Games

About the Course

Problem Solving, Programming, and Video Games (PVG) course is an introduction to computer science and programming in Python.

Important computer science concepts such as problem solving (computational thinking), problem decomposition, algorithms, abstraction, and software quality are emphasized throughout. 

PVG uses video games for programming examples, but is not about computer games. A learner can take the knowledge and skills from this course and apply them to non-game problems, other programming languages, and other computer science courses.

Prerequisites

You do not need any previous programming, Python, or video game experience. However, some computer skills, knowledge of algebra, attention to detail, and a “just give it a try” spirit will be keys to your success.

Course Preview


Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:

1. Take a new computational problem and develop a plan to solve it through problem understanding and decomposition.

2. Follow a design creation process that includes specifications, algorithms, and testing.

3. Code, test, and debug a program in Python, based on your design.

Course Format

12 graded modules; one module (comprising multiple assignments) per week. Pass all graded assignments to complete the course.

Time Commitment

6-10 hours/week for 12 weeks

Hardware Requirements

Computer running Windows 10, MacOS X, or Linux


Find out more about PVG

Learn about course topics and outcomes, and find out how you can participate in the course.

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Instructors

Duane Szafron, Professor
Department of Computing Science, University of Alberta

Duane Szafron is a Professor of Computing Science who has taught many introductory and senior courses on programming.

Paul Lu, Professor
Department of Computing Science, University of Alberta

Paul Lu is a Professor of Computing Science who has taught courses on programming and operating systems.


Syllabus

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.


Module 4: Hacking Version 3

In Module 4, you will modify your game design to support multiple gameplay paths using a new problem decomposition criteria called case-based decomposition, which utilizes a selection control structure. You will learn one new Python statement (if), one new Python expression (unary expression), and one new Python type (bool). You will employ these Python constructs to write, test, and debug Hacking Version 3.


Module 5: Hacking Version 4 & 5

In Module 5, you will modify your game design using two new abstraction techniques, called control abstraction and data abstraction. You will explore two different control abstractions, called definite and indefinite repetition. You will learn two new Python statements (for, while), four new Python expressions (subscription expression, expression list, parenthesized expression, list display), and three new Python types (tuple, list, range). You will employ these Python constructs to write, test, and debug Hacking Version 4 and Hacking Version 5.


Module 6: Hacking Version 6

In Module 6, you will learn a new control abstraction called a user-defined function. You will learn how to implement user-defined functions using two new Python statements (function definition, return). You will employ these Python constructs to significantly improve the quality of your code in Hacking Version 6.


Module 7: Hacking Version 7

In Module 7, you will not learn any new problem-solving techniques or Python language features. Instead you will exercise your problem-solving skills and practice the language constructs you already know to improve your proficiency. You will add some fun features to the Hacking game by designing, coding, testing, and debugging Hacking Version 7.


Module 8: Poke the Dots Version 1 & 2

In Module 8, you will design and implement Version 1 of a new graphical game called Poke the Dots. You will then modify your game design using data abstraction to create user-defined classes. You will learn two new Python statements (class definition, pass) that will allow you to construct your own Python types. You will employ these Python constructs to implement Poke the Dots Version 2.


Module 9: Poke the Dots Version 3

In Module 9, you will not learn any new problem-solving techniques or Python language features. Instead you will exercise your problem-solving skills and practice the language constructs you already know to improve your proficiency. You will add some fun features to the Poke the Dots game by designing, coding, testing, and debugging Poke the Dots Version 3.


Module 10: Poke the Dots Version 4

In Module 10, you will modify your game design using a new form of control abstraction called user-defined methods. User-defined methods allow you to restrict access to the attributes of a class to improve data abstraction. You will employ user-defined methods to implement Poke the Dots Version 4.


Module 11: Poke the Dots Version 5

In Module 11, you will not learn any new problem-solving techniques or Python language features. Instead you will exercise your problem-solving skills and practice the language constructs you already know to improve your proficiency. You will add some fun features to the Poke the Dots game by designing, coding, testing, and debugging Poke the Dots Version 5.


Find out more about PVG

Learn about course topics and outcomes, and find out how you can participate in the course.

Learn More