On 15 March 2019, the University of Helsinki launched a free online course on full stack programming. The course is organised in collaboration with Houston Inc., a software company. Other partners include e.g. the telecommunications company Elisa and the healthcare service provider Terveystalo. Full stack denotes modern web application development encompassing all layers of an application and their entire development process.
“Full stack is currently the number one term found in job advertisements. Businesses are looking for people who do not only specialise in, say, databases; rather, they want individuals who are able to produce a finished product,” says Matti Luukkainen, university lecturer in software systems and coordinator of the course.
It was precisely the needs of employers that provided the spark for the course.
“The courses in computer science give you a theoretical background, but in professional life you should be able to turn programming into products. Therefore, students may lack certain skills. After completing the full stack course, they will be able to work in the role of a junior software developer,” Luukkainen explains.
The course also involves a lot of practical business collaboration, for example, in the form of hackathons, meetups and guest lectures.
“These days, having an overall understanding of software development is important. Thanks to careful planning of its content, the course offers an easy way to update your skills to a professional level,” says Pasi Honkanen, COO of Houston Inc.
First step: mastering the basics of programming
Those registering for the full stack course must be proficient in programming. Basic skills can be acquired by taking other open online courses offered by the University of Helsinki. The minimum requirement is the introduction to programming online course (in Finnish only), which should be supplemented by the server-side web development online course (in Finnish only).
The full stack online course also suits professionals, since in the IT sector, skills become quickly outdated.
“If you lose your job after working on a certain system for years, you’ll find when looking for a new job that technology has made rapid strides over those years,” says Luukkainen, who is himself active in software development.
Professional qualifications from a project-based course
After completing the full stack course, students can choose to take a project-based course where they will code an entire programme using the skills learned in the full stack course. After completing both courses, they will get a job interview with Elisa, Terveystalo and Houston Inc.
“We believe that, in addition to training, the best way for coders to develop themselves is to work as part of a skilled software development team. This is why we have committed to interviewing all students who complete the course in its most comprehensive form,” Honkanen from Houston Inc. states.
In future, several other open online courses for building up skills will be made available. “In the autumn, an open online course focused on project management, as well as cooperation with the customer and the development team, will become available. Additionally, a DevOps Docker course will be launched, with the operating of modern cloud-based programmes as the topic,” Luukkainen points out.
Flexible methods of completion
The full stack course can be completed independently, while degree students can also complete it on campus. Studies completed online can be continued on campus, or vice versa. Those without a study right granted by the University of Helsinki can still register their course completion through the Open University.
Regardless of the form of study, there is a lot of support available for course assignments. Students completing the course on campus are assisted by course instructors, in addition to which support is in-built in the course assignments. At the disposal of all students is a chat service where Matti Luukkainen, the course coordinator, and the most advanced students on the course give advice to others.
“We have quite an enthusiastic and committed group. Usually, someone beats me to the punch answering questions,” Luukkainen says.