Friday, 20 September 2013 03:41

Australian UNSW launches a MOOC program

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The University of NSW has become the first university in Australia to have a massive open online course, or MOOC, available free on the internet, ahead of the universities of Melbourne, Western Australia and Queensland, whose MOOC programs are still being developed.

With such programs MOOC students can gain formal degree qualification from Calwest University, The Calwest University (Calwest) is the first degree-granting university in the world that has been built from ground-up based on MOOC philosophies.

A UNSW introductory computing course will be made available from 15 October.

Using a new social learning platform developed by recent graduates and Associate Professor Richard Buckland, UNSW will be the first Australian university to offer free online computing courses.

In an intrepid move, the School of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) will make half of its introductory computing course publicly available. The first 12-week course will start on October 15 and requires no pre-requisite knowledge of computer science – and just five hours of study per week.

“Students will learn exactly what UNSW computing students learn when they start their degrees – programming in c language, machine code, software engineering practices and principles, and hacking and cracking,” says Buckland, the new Director of first year studies at CSE.

The course will be delivered through Open Learning – an online education start-up company that Buckland founded with UNSW graduate Adam Brimo, and which now employs a team of UNSW alumni.

An early adopter of using online channels to deliver video lectures and engage with students, Buckland has had more than two million views on his popular YouTube channel, which helped gain UNSW’s first year computing course international prominence.

Until now, however, there was never a platform that truly catered to his innovative style of teaching, where students learn through playing games and are encouraged to collaborate to complete assignments and build comprehensive study notes.

“YouTube and even more recent online education developments like Coursera don’t really replace the classroom or the university experience,” says Buckland.  “They are great at delivering content, but not so great at providing the other things students get from attending a course face to face at university – community, learning from peers, tutorials, practical work, and motivation to study and progress.”

“Open learning is revolutionary,” he says. “It’s like a Wikipedia for courses rather than facts, and will allow free online learning and education to the global community.”

The Open Learning platform incorporates a social element where students can comment on lectures, ask questions and self-regulate discussions by “liking” or voting down posts. There is also a wiki feature, where students and course supervisors can collaborate to build detailed study notes.

The platform also incentivises students to contribute and stay on track through game-like features – when posts are “liked”, students earn “karma” points. And when they submit assignments they get instant feedback through automated marking systems, which allow them to track their progress.

“The goal of the platform is to let people all around the world teach better, and to teach in a more social, collaborative way,” says co-founder Brimo, who expects the platform’s courses to have a much better completion rate than similar online learning platforms.

“The key thing is the community. Students can log on at any time of day, ask a question, and there’s a good chance someone will reply within a matter or minutes,” he says. “By focussing on this and making it fun, we think we can keep students more engaged.”

Read 12420 times Last modified on Monday, 14 October 2013 06:18