I’ve just finished the first unit in the CS101 Computer Science course run by Udacity. I enjoyed the fact that it’s self-paced, and that you get immediate feedback on your answers to the quizzes. It’s taken me longer than a week to finish it, but that doesn’t really matter – I haven’t set myself a deadline to finish the course by.
It’s been fairly easy to understand the concepts. I haven’t done any previous programming or computer science study, and the content is nicely packaged and presented so that you work through it at your own pace, and you can go back and review any of the previous topics at any time.
I’m certainly not planning to make a major career change and move into programming/software development. I guess I’m doing the course to try one of these new online learning systems, and also to increase my understanding of computer science. It’s more for personal development rather than professional development.
One unit down, six to go!
MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) are a relatively recent addition to the education sector. They’re already having an impact on the way that traditional universities think about and teach their courses. The faculty Learning and Teaching Committee that I’m on recently held a meeting where we had a look at some of the MOOCs that are out there, such as Khan Academy, Udacity, and Coursera. Some of the common features include the ability to enrol at any time, the self-paced nature of the coursework, and the focused nature of the online content that they produce.
I thought I’d give it a go, so I enrolled in the Udacity course CS101 – Intro to Computer Science. It was easy to enrol – all I needed to provide was a username and password. So far I’ve watched a couple of the videos and answered the first two multiple choice quizzes. It’s nice to be able to study in my own time without the pressure of having a timeframe to meet. There is a final exam which is held every eight weeks, so you do get a final grade at the end of the course. However, you can take the course again if you’re not happy with your mark and try to improve it.
What can librarians take away from the emergence of MOOCs? I think the main one is to keep our online content short and sweet and to the point. Most of the videos produced by MOOCs are fairly short, and they don’t try to cram too much into them. Students can dip in and out of them and only watch the videos that deal with the specific content that is relevant to them. This is something that librarians should keep in mind when producing online tutorials.
I’ll let you know how I go with my programming course. Apparently we’ll learn how to build a search engine in seven weeks, so it should be interesting to see how they work.