Getting the environment might be the hardest step of the course. Note, that a working hardware is not necessary to learn, it just makes it possible to make your own modifications and test if it works like you thought.
Ideal hardware is a fully assembled GenBoard, but you can start with any AtMega128 board, especially if it has most avr pins available on headers (AfreshBoard). I'd buy a 4x20 backlight alphanumeric (industry standard HD44780 compatible) LCD and connector for a PC KeyBoard? to make it more fun.
A PC with serial and parallel connector is very useful.
Again, you can follow the course without working hardware, but you want to get the compiler working anyway so that you can check your modifications for syntactical correctness and assembly output.
Read about the demo project in the avr-libc manual, which has online and downloadable versions:
Take some time in this MS-AVR wiki...
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