• Keio University logo

Understanding Quantum Computers

Explore the key concepts of quantum computing and find out how it’s changing computer science with this introductory course.

11,618 enrolled on this course

Understanding Quantum Computers
  • Duration4 weeks
  • Weekly study5 hours
  • LearnFree
  • Extra BenefitsFrom $69Find out more

Get an introduction to the key concepts of quantum computing

In this course, we will discuss the motivation for building quantum computers, cover the important principles in quantum computing, and take a look at some of the important quantum computing algorithms.

We will finish with a brief look at quantum computing hardware and the budding quantum information technology industry.

Key concepts will be explained graphically, with minimal mathematics but some deep thinking required.

[* Note in Japanese] 本コースでは、ビデオの日本語字幕および全テキストの日本語PDFが提供されています。
[* Note in Thai] คอร์สนี้มีคำบรรยายวิดีโอภาษาไทยและคำอธิบายเพิ่มเติมภาษาไทยในรูปแบบ PDF ประกอบ
[* Note in Indonesian] Kursus ini menyediakan teks terjemahan Bahasa Indonesia untuk video dan berkas PDF.

Download video: standard or HD

Skip to 0 minutes and 9 seconds Quantum computers are going to change the world by changing what it’s possible for us to compute. They will break some types of encryption, solve many optimization problems, and compute characteristics of materials like agricultural fertilizers. My name is Rod Van Meter, of the Faculty of Environment and Information Studies of Keio University Maybe you’re thinking about studying quantum computers in college, or maybe you’re already a professional programmer and are wondering how they work and when they will impact your own area. But you’ve heard that they are extremely difficult to understand. Sometimes the field is portrayed as brilliant scientists in exotic labs using the spookiest, most obscure effects of quantum mechanics to build science fiction computers, capable of practically anything.

Skip to 0 minutes and 57 seconds You probably imagine a quantum computers looking something like this. In fact, anyone with a grasp of high school mathematics can understand quantum computers.

Skip to 1 minute and 14 seconds We’ll begin right here at the beach. If you understand how waves work, you are well on your way to understanding quantum computers. At this place, we have waves coming from two different directions. From here, and from here. Where the ripples come together, in some places they add up, and in other places they subtract. This phenomenon is called interference, and interference is one of the keys to understanding quantum computers. We’ll also talk about quantum entanglement and the other features that distinguish quantum computers from the computer you’re watching this on now. You will learn how several key quantum algorithms work, and why we are excited about their possibilities.

Skip to 1 minute and 56 seconds We will discuss some of the key technologies for building quantum computers and see some of the exciting progress being made in the lab. Before we finish up, you will also learn about the budding quantum information technology industry, about the big companies, startup companies and venture funds seeking to translate the ideas from the lab to machines that solve some of Mankind’s most pressing problems and make the world a better place.

What topics will you cover?

  • Waves and interference
  • Quantum superposition and entanglement
  • Computational complexity
  • The quantum Fourier transform
  • Shor’s algorithm for factoring large numbers
  • Grover’s algorithm
  • Quantum chemistry and machine learning
  • Physical phenomena as quantum bits (qubits)
  • Quantum computing hardware and architecture
  • Quantum error correction
  • The quantum information technology industry

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and learn at your own pace. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Describe a few key applications of quantum computing
  • Explain the role of quantum computing in the future and recognize the role of Moore’s Law in the future of computing
  • Prepare for a mathematical course in quantum information concepts
  • Explore the value proposition in available and forthcoming quantum information technology products
  • Identify the importance of quantum superposition, entanglement and interference in quantum algorithms

Who is the course for?

Anyone interested in quantum computing at the “popular science” level.

High school students, college students, and computer professionals interested in developing a qualitative understanding of quantum computing in order to understand the future of computing will benefit.

We recommend that you be comfortable with exponents, vectors, sine waves and the basic concepts of probability. There are some equations, but we have endeavored to keep them as few and clear as possible.

While the mathematics is not too hard, some concepts will be new to most learners, and require some mental stretching. Be prepared to exercise your brain!



The Educators/Hosts will facilitate this course for about three times a year. Our next facilitation period is October - Novermber, 2020. While the Educators themselves aren’t available to facilitate this run, we encourage you to engage with other learners and there are opportunities to do this throughout the course.

Who will you learn with?

Rodney Van Meter studied at Caltech, USC, and Keio. He has been working on quantum computing since 2003. He is the author of the book "Quantum Networking" (Wiley-ISTE, 2014).

Takahiko Satoh studied at Keio and U.Tokyo. His research field is quantum computing, particularly quantum computer architecture and quantum network architecture.

Who developed the course?

Keio University

Keio University is Japan’s first modern institution of higher learning, and since 1858 has established itself as a leader in Japan through its continued commitment to education, research and medicine.

Learner reviews

Join this course

Start this course for free, upgrade for extra benefits, or buy Unlimited to access this course and hundreds of other short courses for a year.


Join free and you will get:

  • Access to this course for 6 weeks


Upgrade this course and you will get:

  • Access to this course for as long as it’s on FutureLearn
  • Access to this course’s tests as well as a print and digital Certificate of Achievement once you’re eligible

Unlimited (New!)
$279.99 for one year

Buy Unlimited and you will get:

  • Access to this course, and hundreds of other FutureLearn short courses and tests for a year
  • A printable digital Certificate of Achievement on all short courses once you’re eligible
  • The freedom to keep access to any course you've achieved a digital Certificate of Achievement on, for as long as the course exists on FutureLearn
  • The flexibility to complete your choice of short courses in your own time within the year
Find out more about upgrades or Unlimited.