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.
A UNSW introductory computing course will be made available from 15 October. While the course’s intellectual property is owned by the university, the course will be delivered through Open Learning – an online education start-up company that Associate Professor Richard 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. Buckland says of the Open Learning platform::
YouTube and even more recent online education developments like Coursera don’t really replace the classroom or the university experience. 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. It’s like a Wikipedia for courses rather than facts, and will allow free online learning and education to the global community.
The UNSW course includes programming activities and assignments, but does not offer credits. The aim is to interest high school students in computer science and the course is at the same level as the university’s first year course.
As well as launching the UNSW computing course, Open Learning is also bringing a new version of its software online that allows anybody to build a course at no cost, provided that the course is freely available. If the course builder wishes to restrict access to a particular group, then Open Learning charges a fee per student.