Computational Thinking Courses for Non-Majors

This page contains a sampling of courses on computer science and computaional thinking that are specifically designed for non-majors. This list is not intended to be comprehensive, but rather to demonstrate a spectrum of different approaches.

Another important resource for re-imagining the first exposure to computing is the CS Principles site supported by the College Board and the National Science Foundation.

UC Berkeley: The Beauty and Joy of Computing (CS 10)

Who: Brian Harvey and Dan Garcia

What: This course uses BYOB (based on Scratch) to teach programming while exposing students to the breadth and beauty of the field through current and relevant applications, history, and big ideas.


Georgia Tech: Media Computation (CS 1315 and 1316)

Who: Mark Guzdial (guzdial AT cc DOT gatech DOT edu)

What: Media Computation is an approach to introducing computing that uses manipulation and creation of digital media as a context for making computer science relevant. Students change pixels in a picture, samples in a sound, and frames in an animation to motivate the use of computer science in order to create visual and audio effects. Research results show that Media Computation classes have higher success rates than more traditional (decontextualized) approaches, and are engaging across genders and ethnicities.

Where: and

Harvey Mudd College: CS For Scientists (CS 5)

Who: Ran "RON" Libeskind-Hadas (ran AT cs DOT hmc DOT edu) (in conjunction with Christine Alvarado, Zach Dodds, and Geoff Kuenning)

What: "CS For Scientists" is an introductory course taken by all first-year students at Harvey Mudd, irrespective of their ultimate major. Thes course endeavors to provide students with useful computating skills while simultaneously demonstrating the intellectual beauty of the field. The course teaches programming in Python using a variety of applications; attempts to demystify computing through a module on digital logic, computer organization, and assembly language programming; and exposes students to the mathematical elegance of the field through a module on uncomputability.

Where: There is also a "biology themed" version of this course dubbed "CS 5 Green" at

Williams College: 10x Courses

Who: Duane Bailey (bailey AT cs DOT williams DOT edu)

What: Williams College offers a number of themed introductory courses in computing called "Life as an Algorithm," "Strategy, Interaction, and Design in Board and Video Games," "Artificial Intelligence: Image and Reality," and "The Art and Science of Computer Graphics." For example, the graphics course uses a system called "Mead" that allows students to do sophisticated 3D graphics using DrScheme. While the class has the look and feel of a technical art course, it's actually a medium for teaching students how to program using Scheme. The result is artwork and animation.