From C++ Nightmares to PVG: Lessons Learned by the Least Computer-Savvy Girl

A blog written by Mymy, Senior Design Strategist at Onlea. She is the design lead on one of an upcoming University of Alberta MOOC, PVG: Problem Solving, Programming, and Video Games.

In my first year of university, I took an introductory course in computer science. The course was 3 hours long on Mondays, with a one-hour lunch break right in the middle. I would spend many lunch hours in the computer lab, trying to figure out how to tell this machine to perform a simple multiplication using C++... Much to my father’s dismay, a brilliant career in comp sci was not in the cards for me (sorry, dad!). In fact, not long after that, I pursued my studies in design, a path much more in line with my personal interests.

It was only fitting, then, that I would land as project design lead for a course on… you guessed it, computer science!

PVG (short for Problem Solving, Programming, and Video Games) is a course that teaches you how to program two video games using Python - one of many programming languages existing out there. Spoiler alert, at the end of the course, you realize you can program just about anything, and that the video games are really stepping stones into the world of programming!

Cool concept? Check!

See, Do, Teach

As mentioned before, Python is a programming language. I know a thing or two about languages, having learned English in high school, and giving a shot at German, Italian, Spanish and recently Korean (looking at you, Suzy!). Languages are hard to master. One thing that PVG teaches at the very beginning is that, to fully understand how a video game works, we have to:

  • observe how it is played,
  • play it ourselves, and finally,
  • describe how it is played.

When 14 year-old, French-speaking-me moved to Alberta, I spent the vast majority of the first months listening to my teachers and classmates, writing down words I would recognize. Pride aside, I started to speak English first to one friend, then 2, then 3, then the whole school. Short of 14 years later, I’ve been able to present a number of projects, going from concrete or abstract concepts in English, and it feels pretty nice!

Relatable? Check!

Examples

One thing PVG doesn’t run short of is examples. Programming a video game involved tasks similar to baking a cake, or ordering at a fast food drive through, or writing an essay!

examples

Examples help make a complicated or foreign idea easy to understand. That bit about observing, playing and describing video games? Think of it as watching, playing, and teaching tennis!

Fun? Check!

tennis

PVG might be the course that hooks you in on learning programming languages. While I side more with Jony Ive than Tim Cook, I saw so many similarities between computer science and design work. I am proud to have been a part in designing this course along with Veronica, Sandra, Yasemin and Neal and of course the brilliant content team: Duane, Paul, Emma, Elyse and Anne!

final-image

Stay tuned for the release of PVG: Problem Solving, Programming, and Video Games on Coursera coming this fall!


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Myriam Bigras