Cover image for Full Stack Open - Reflections of the Course

Full Stack Open - Reflections of the Course

laojala profile image Laura Ojala 惻3 min read

Full stack open is a free online course organized by University of Helsinki and some top-notch Finnish companies. Stack is very up-to-date: single-page-app development using latest React, Redux, Node.js and MongoDB and course contains also GraphQL tutorial. I attended to the 2019's course and completed 7 ETCS credits (this corresponds to 189 hours of work - it is also very close to what I actually used!).

What I enjoyed the most in the course:

  • Course was very practical - it introduced many npm packages, browser extensions and Node scripts, VSCode editor plugins and programming practices that ease the development.
  • Sometimes when doing the first exercises of a topic I felt like "oh-no, this coding style hurts my soul", but then in the end, same exercises were revisited and refactored according to the current best practices. So course really promoted understanding of the stack.
  • Course included lots of well curated links about the topics, so it was easy to find extra information. Students were also encouraged to make pull request to the material, if they felt that something could be included.
  • Exercises covered unit testing using Jest/React Testing Library and E2E testing using Cypress. I am especially happy for the Cypress part! In addition, this is the first time when I really got a grab of a functional programming (this is definitely something that'll be needed when writing more Cypress tests).
  • Discussion in the course Telegram community was supporting and friendly and course lecturer Matti Luukkainen was very active there. So if you get stuck, there is knowing, that help is available. Tone of the voice in the course material was encouraging and often hilarious (example below):

A large part of a typical developer's time is spent on debugging and reading existing code. Every now and then we do get to write a line or two of new code, but a large part of our time is spent on trying to figure out why something is broken or how something works. Good practices and tools for debugging are extremely important for this reason.

To whom I would recommended the course:

  • Someone, who has gained solid programming knowledge but is stuck to tutorials and tiny projects - after this course you will know how to create full stack web applications and host those online. Problem solving skills promoted in this course make it even possible to obtain new stack (such as React Native).
  • Someone, who is already working in the industry and wants to get working knowledge about latest React/Redux/Node.js and shape their Javascript (ES6) skills and the ways of working.

There will be new course on 2020 (it starts on 15th of March). Revised course contains new section about TypeScript. In the meanwhile, current course is still online.

I would love to hear your experiences of the Full Stack Open! Have you benefit from it professionally? Or are you planning to take it and would like to ask for something?

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Hey Laura, I'm from Uganda. I would like to start doing the full stack open course but as a non-Finland citizen, I'm not sure how to go about this exactly. I would love to qualify to sit for the exam at the end, and get my certificate too, but the documentation is not very clear, at least for foreigners. Especially about obtaining your username or ID. Its quite confusing.


Hi! It was a bit complicated even for me as a native Finn. I suggest you ask this question in the course Telegram channel.

I believe it is possible to get the certificate (as pictured in the header of this post) without the exam and the exam is only needed if you want to register credits to a school.


When going through each part of the course, did you keep an editor open with the study material and one open with the exercises ?

Iā€™m trying to figure out the best way to work through the course because it switches from follow along material to exercises often.


I was reading the chapter first and then doing the coding exercises. In other words, I was not usually doing the example exercises (except for a couple of times, when things got hard to understand otherwise) šŸ˜€ Quite often I was first reading the chapter, then started the exercises, and then read the chapter again more thoroughly.


Hi Laura, thanks for this insightful article about the Full Stack Open, I'm planning to take the course this year. I'm a Web Designer who knows very well html 5, css, sass, but struggling with modern development tools like node, react etc. so, what prerequisites you'll think someone needs in order to be ready for taking the course? and one last question: how many hours a week should I dedicate to the course? Thanks!


Hello Javier! In my opinion, the most important pre-requisite is "Participants are expected to have good programming skills". So you should have a solid understanding of fundamentals of programming with some language (booleans, if-else, for loops, handling lists, and dictionaries, methods, objects, and data types).

Participants are not expected to have prior knowledge related to the React/Node/MongoDB stack. And also more "fancy algorithms" (such as arrow functions and functional JS arrow methods) are introduced in the course.

I prepared for the course by studying JavaScript syntax and concepts (from the book Eloquent JavaScript), but because of your background, you most probably know already enough JS. And most definitely you understand enough about how browser apps work!

And about study time: course itself does not have any schedule to follow (expect the final deadline) and some of the exercises are optional. So you can very well adjust the schedule. If you complete all modules, do all exercises and study also documentation and other resources beyond the course material, it is realistic to spend 17.5 hours for one ETCS credit, which means it is 17.5*8 =140 hours. And if you study for 6 months, it will be around 6 hours a week (but as said, you can proceed also in less time).


Thanks for your reply Laura! Can't wait to start the course!


Most definitely it is! Everything is very well explained there and you know more JS that is required (but it does no harm either).