Course outline

This instructor-lead short online course is your first encounter to Linux and its command line interface. In five weekly units of 3 to 4 hours of work each week, this course makes the novice navigate confidently in a text terminal and have fun with it. This course should be taken before any other course involving Linux.

Each weekly unit consists of a 90 min live-session and assignments as homework. The students are expected to submit their work as the course progresses. They work will be continuously graded and commented. The student needs to collect 60% of the marks to pass the course.


Starting from the purely text based early UNIX days Linux has evolved to be a full-fledged operating system with many graphical user interfaces (GUI) to choose from. It is a free alternative to other operating systems, the popular ones being proprietary. It is well-suited for small as well as large organizations. Linux became the first choice for big servers and surprisingly taken over the micro and embedded computers as well. Linux is also desktop-ready for some time now, although the numbers are still low.

Experienced system administrators maintain their machines from the command prompt. They compile code, install programs, troubleshoot their operation, automate routine tasks; all in this text environment. Unix relies heavily on text, whether in the form of configuration files or as scripts. Not surprisingly Unix came with an elaborate system of pattern matching in text called 'regular expressions'. The Unix command language is also a programming language. One can write interactive programs in this language or paste other specialized programs together in scripts or pack routine tasks into batch programs.

Graphical User Interfaces (GUI) are convenient for the end user but they don't tell you exactly what they do behind the interface. Once something unexpected happens or if you have a task for which there is no option in the GUI, you are stuck. In addition to that the text terminal doesn't require the overhead a GUI needs which is a critical factor in remote administration.


The course consists of two sections:

  • Section 1 covers the history of Linux starting in the mid 1960s with an early predecessor and then moves on to UNIX, finally to GNU and Linux. The history helps the modern student to grasp the idea of a command language by studying why it was invented and by whom.
    • Week 1. UNIX vs Linux
  • Section 2 consists of a series of practical exercises, in which the student learns the most basic commands just enough to navigate in the command line and gain confidence.
    • Week 2. A session with Linux
    • Week 3. Files and directories
    • Week 4. Text editor
    • Week 5. Interaction with others


The students starting this short course are recommended to have the following skills:

  • good user-level experience with any computer system
  • a basic knowledge in programming in a procedural language like C, Python or Java


After completing this course, students will be able to:

  • distinguish UNIX from Linux
  • explain the features and advantages of Linux
  • navigate in the file hierarchy in Linux
  • create and maintain directories and files using commands
  • interrogate key parameters of the operating system environment
  • edit text files using a Unix text editor
  • communicate with other users in the same system using command tools


Throughout the students are required to submit their work on to the learning platform. These course works will be continuously monitored and commented; they determine the outcome of the course.

In each unit your learning will be assessed through three elements:

  1. Quizzes: There will be one quiz each week. In each you can earn up to 10 points.
  2. Assignments: There will be one assignment per week. Each one carries up to 5 points.
  3. Personal journal: Your personal journal will be awarded 3 points each week.

Which means a maximum of 10 + 5 + 3 = 18 points per unit, 18x5 = 90 points for the whole course. You need 54 points (60%) to pass the course.

The general rule is that the assignments given to you on Monday are due on the following Saturday midnight SLT. You can see them as appointments in your calendar. Late submissions up to 7 days late are possible but one point will be deducted from the marks. In those assignments using the Moodle assignment tool, no direct communication with the teachers is necessary, Moodle automatically sends them e-mails by late submission. In the case of quizzes you need to ask the teacher for an extension. Please send a message to Sampath Sir through the messaging system in Moodle. For extensions on your Personal journal you need to send a message to Ratnaweera Sir.

If you have any questions or want to give feedback please post in the General forum.


Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) by  Visvanath Ratnaweera. The quoted materials have their individual licenses.

Last modified: Sunday, 22 January 2023, 9:34 PM