Home University Courses Networks Illustrated: Principles without Calculus

Networks Illustrated: Principles without Calculus

Online Course Highlights
  • Princeton University via Coursera
  • Learn for FREE, Up-gradable
  • 24 hours of effort required
  • 13,939+ already enrolled!
  • 4.4★★★★★ (65 Ratings)
  • Skill Level: Mixed
  • Language: English

What makes WiFi faster at home than at a coffee shop? How does Google order its search results from the trillions of webpages on the Internet? Why does Verizon charge $15 for every GB of data we use? Is it really true that we are connected in six social steps or less?

These are just a few of the many intriguing questions we can ask about the social and technical networks that form integral parts of our daily lives. This course is about exploring the answers, using a language that anyone can understand. We will focus on fundamental principles like “sharing is hard”, “crowds are wise”, and “network of networks” that have guided the design and sustainability of today’s networks, and summarize the theories behind everything from the social connections we make on platforms like Facebook to the technology upon which these websites run.

Unlike other networking courses, the mathematics included here are no more complicated than adding and multiplying numbers. While mathematical details are necessary to fully specify the algorithms and systems we investigate, they are not required to understand the main ideas. We use illustrations, analogies, and anecdotes about networks as pedagogical tools in lieu of detailed equations.

All the features of this course are available for free. It does not offer a certificate upon completion.




  • 1 hour to complete

An introduction to what this course is about: the fundamentals behind social and technical networks.

Power Control in Cellular Networks

  • 3 hours to complete

How is it possible that we can all communicate effectively without disrupting each other’s calls, messages, or Internet usage? In this lesson, we will take a look at some of the methods that have been developed for letting us “share” the air over which our phones communicate.


Random Access in Wifi Networks

  • 2 hours to complete

In this lesson, we will investigate WiFi, another type of wireless network. Rather than having stringent power control algorithms as we saw for cellular, WiFi relies on “random access” methods to manage interference among users in the same location.

PageRank by Google

  • 2 hours to complete

In this lesson, we will take a look at PageRank, Google’s famous algorithm for ordering the results on its search page. PageRank is a prime example of how coming up with the right “ranking” of a set of items is a difficult yet important question in networking.


Product Rating on Amazon

  • 1 hour to complete

The decision of whether or not to purchase something online is often driven by the ratings that previous customers have left for it. In this lesson, we will take a look at Amazon’s review system, and the see how “crowds are wise” is another important networking principle.

Movie Recommendation on Netflix

  • 2 hours to complete

One of the perks of having a Netflix subscription is getting recommendations of movies to watch. Behind the scenes, Netflix uses powerful algorithms to determine which will be suggested to each person specifically. In this lesson, we will take a look at the main ideas behind these algorithms.

WEEK 4: Midterm

  • 2 hours to completeTake This Online Course

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