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Learner Reviews & Feedback for Programming Languages, Part B by University of Washington

753 ratings

About the Course

[As described below, this is Part B of a 3-part course. Participants should complete Part A first -- Part B "dives right in" and refers often to material from Part A.] This course is an introduction to the basic concepts of programming languages, with a strong emphasis on functional programming. The course uses the languages ML, Racket, and Ruby as vehicles for teaching the concepts, but the real intent is to teach enough about how any language “fits together” to make you more effective programming in any language -- and in learning new ones. This course is neither particularly theoretical nor just about programming specifics -- it will give you a framework for understanding how to use language constructs effectively and how to design correct and elegant programs. By using different languages, you will learn to think more deeply than in terms of the particular syntax of one language. The emphasis on functional programming is essential for learning how to write robust, reusable, composable, and elegant programs. Indeed, many of the most important ideas in modern languages have their roots in functional programming. Get ready to learn a fresh and beautiful way to look at software and how to have fun building it. The course assumes some prior experience with programming, as described in more detail in the first module of Part A. Part B assumes successful completion of Part A. The course is divided into three Coursera courses: Part A, Part B, and Part C. As explained in more detail in the first module of Part A, the overall course is a substantial amount of challenging material, so the three-part format provides two intermediate milestones and opportunities for a pause before continuing. The three parts are designed to be completed in order and set up to motivate you to continue through to the end of Part C. Week 1 of Part A has a more detailed list of topics for all three parts of the course, but it is expected that most course participants will not (yet!) know what all these topics mean....

Top reviews


Mar 23, 2018

Great course with really interesting and challenging assignments that allow to get more precise vision on programming languages (especially on PL's typing systems) and get experience with modern LISP


Mar 18, 2018

This course (as Part A and C) is great - Dan is great in teaching and the content is perfect for anyone who wants to learn more about programming languages!

Warning - you might end up loving FP :)

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1 - 25 of 170 Reviews for Programming Languages, Part B

By Arent S

Feb 3, 2019

The programming languages courses are by far the best Coursera courses that I've seen in my life.

The teacher is passionate and really wants to teach programming 'idioms'. The syntax of a language, or the structure for that matter are not as relevant as the underlying idea. With this course you will learn to recognize the underlying patterns of programming. These patters will always be usefull, no matter the language or environment. I highly reccomend this course.

By Julie L

Jun 4, 2019

This course was awesome. I would caution you to take Dan's claim that "Part A is almost as substantial as Part B and Part C combined" with a grain of salt. This couldn't be further from the truth. Parts B and C are challenging, with the difficulty increasing as you progress further into the course. This makes the three part series an exceptional value.

By Julian M

May 9, 2018

DO THIS COURSE. It brings together everything in part A. In particular, the final shorter week on the differences between Statically and dynamically typed languages is mind-bending and brilliant.

By Brandon I

Feb 17, 2020

Nice follow-up to the first course. I've seen Racket before, but seeing Racket structs used the way they were - relating them to "creating a new datatype" - was an "aha" moment for me. It was also good for me to finally learn a little about about what "macro hygiene" was all about; how to use memoization; and to get some practice with streams. They also weren't kidding when they said that "debugging an interpreter is an acquired skill" :) Finally, the material on the soundness and completeness of a static type-checker was completely new to me, but I liked those concepts. The only caveat is that you should've taken Part A before, since this course often makes heavy, non-trivial references to ML, and other ideas taught in that course.

By xinxiao

Aug 5, 2019

This is a great programming course. The instructor explained the key concepts extremely clear and concise.

I found this course when reading the well-known SICP book (Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs), and I was trying to pick up a scheme dialect, and found that several people suggest racket.

However, the course is actually more interesting than racket itself. It covers lots of functional programming idioms, in a precise and systematic way. Also some concepts where I read in other places informally, such as "thunk", "lazy evaluation", "infinite stream" are explained with great clarity. It also makes reading SICP much easier.

I wish there could be more courses like this in Coursera.

By Keith R

Mar 22, 2018

I'm a pretty experienced C/C++ programmer and this course has been a brilliant introduction into functional programming and the underlying philosophies underpinning programming languages in general.

By Sean E

Nov 6, 2018

This entire course (A through C) is gold. Nothing to add, if you have the time, take it! Thanks so much to Dan an the team!

By Lukáš H

Mar 20, 2018

Extremely enjoyable course! I wasn't exactly looking forward to using the Racket language --- I knew nothing about it, to be honest, but it really impressed me. A beautiful language. But the course is not really about the language used. It covers some interesting topics (delayed evaluation, streams, type systems) and contains two very nice homework assignments: the first is mostly focused on streams (which is actually quite a fun) and in the second one you implement an interpreter for a simple language that contains closures!

By Greg G

Mar 19, 2018

It's definitely harder than Part A - Racket with its LISP-like syntax was pretty daunting for me. I just can't imagine using it in production after using so many C-style languages, but I know that there are lots of Scheme and Clojure fans out there. But it was great to learn about dynamic typing, macros, and getting to deeply understand how interpreters work. That was a real wow moment!

By Jack

May 12, 2020

Fantastic sequel to the first course, it goes into a lot more functional programming idioms with Racket, and also reinforces old ideas. The second assignment where you write an interpreter will take a few days, but you'll understand how closures work in practice.

I will say that Racket is very trippy, and it will take you deep into the FP jungle. Not everyone makes it out intact.

By Johnathan F

Jan 14, 2018

Courses I've taken on programming languages often focus on one language. You learn the different concepts for that one language but don't understand why the language chose those concepts and what the alternatives are. By covering three languages, this course integrates the concepts and their alternatives to give you a solid understanding of how languages work.

By Fei G

Nov 15, 2019

I can't say enough good things about this course. Learned a ton from it! Although I doubt I will do a comprehensive amount of functional programming, I don't doubt that this course has consolidated the foundation of my "imperative thinking" and makes me a better Java/C++ programmer. Thanks Dan!

非常喜欢Dan的讲课风格,让我对UW的好感大增!可惜,UW没有CS master的degree申请呀!

By Thassilo H

Nov 1, 2017

Part B continues where Part A ended. The second programming assignment is really the heart of this Part, it is about implementing a small programming language yourself which gives a completely new view on the theoretical content so far. This is challenging and a lot of fun. If you liked Part A, you definetly need to continue your journey here.

By Anton Z

Mar 24, 2018

Great course with really interesting and challenging assignments that allow to get more precise vision on programming languages (especially on PL's typing systems) and get experience with modern LISP

By Daniele V

Mar 31, 2020

amazing course. So many good things I don't know where to start. The whole series (a-b-c) is a joy to study. In particular the section on streams and infinite list is very fascinating.

By jan s

Jan 14, 2019

unfortunately all the solutions for the homework are online.

By Jonathan F

Mar 31, 2023

Even more fun than the first one! I had heard about homework 5 before taking the courses, and I thought that implementing an interpreter for a made up programming language (MUPL!) was rather intimidating, and I had no idea whether or not I would be up to the task. I worked hard to finish everything as early as my schedule would allow, just to make sure I would have enough time to do homework 5. In the week leading to it, I was nervous and a bit confused about some parts of the task, and I watched some of the lectures multiple times before downloading the actual homework material and looking at it. In the end, it went rather smoothly, and I was surprised that I figured it out fairly quickly overall. It was really cool that until it was time to actually do it, I was worried about it, and then once I was done with it, I thought it wasn't so bad after all.

I'm going to start part C now, and I'm excited about it.

By ِAhmed M

Jul 30, 2023

Very useful and challenging course. I love it but I have one comment.

When I send the assignment the auto grade says that I have a problem with some function, but it make one of two things:

1. give me the solution to my problem.

2. tellm me what is the problem that he finds without giving me a test case that I fail to pass with my function.

So I suggest when I have a wrong answer for sum function, to give the test case that I fail to pass. not give me the solution, or descripe what you find when you run. the description is not clear enough to detect the problem of the function.

By John K

Sep 22, 2022

A lot to absorb, but adds greatly to understanding of language design, important functional programming.topics (e.g. closures and environments) evaluation topics (e.g., lazy evaluation) ever more recursion, and type systems. Will I walk away with all of this learning permanently in my memory? Probably not, but I will easily regain it when it arises, and importantly I will recognize when something calls for it. Also, makes me conversant in the salient features of functional programming and allows seeing the forest better, not just the trees.

By Jack Z

May 3, 2021

An excellent continuation. Before this course, I thought macros was a scary idea. They still might be, but Dan introduces it in a very simple way. I appreciate how Dan always utilizes simple vocabulary to explain technical concepts. Unlike other instructors, Dan does not mindlessly overload with technical jargon as if that's the only way to communicate. That said, it's not a simple course! You will go through writing a small interpreter, learn what a macro is, lists and lisp.

By Srikanth C

Sep 7, 2020

Excellent content, and a very well-articulated and engaging instructor! The preceding course and this one are a fantastic resource for upping one's programming skills, style and learning about Functional Programming. They really open one's mind up about programming and programming languages, in general. The assignments are challenging, and it was a very rewarding experience to solve them.

By Henrik B

Dec 23, 2017

The racket language is a bit strange and takes a bit to get used to, however after doing the homework and listening to the videos you realize that the choice is a good one for this course. The second homework gives a good understanding of how closures and evaluation of functions really work.

A lot of work, but the reward is well worth it.

By Jo

May 24, 2019

Excellent course. Clear and enlightening lectures. Two solid programming assignments, which help with internalizing the topics covered in the course. The first covers things like closures, implementing laziness with closures, and using local state from closures for memoization. In the second we implement a basic lisp interpreter!

By danijel k

Nov 10, 2017

The best teacher I've had chance to listen to. I've completed his corse on programming languages several years ago but always like to return and listen again. It's two things like good movie one can always return to and learn something new, or learn how to be a good teacher, and as Dan says: painting that fence. :)

By Allison C

Apr 9, 2018

I really enjoyed learning Racket and comparing and contrasting it with ML. Studying different languages has really helped me understand the strengths and weaknesses of each. Writing the "evaluator" was the best part of the course. Thanks to Dan Grossman and everyone else who put this course together.