UNSW makes computing course free online via open platform

The 12-week course is an example of a massive open online course (MOOC).

The University of New South Wales (UNSW) will make its introductory computing course free online through the Open Learning platform developed by the professor.

The 12-week course starts October 15 and requires five hours of study per week, UNSW said, with the course containing half of the material of the university's introductory computing course.

“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,” said UNSW Associate Professor Richard Buckland.

The class is an example of a massive open online course (MOOC), supporting an indefinite number of participants who do not have to register with a university. Other MOOCs include edX, a non-profit led by MIT, Harvard University and the University of California, and Coursea, a venture-capitalist funded company founded by two Stanford University professors.

The course is offered through Open Learning, an online education startup founded by Buckland and UNSW graduate Adam Brimo. The platform lets students learn through playing games and incorporates social media features allowing students to comment on lectures, ask questions and like or vote down posts. Students earn karma when their posts are liked.

A wiki feature lets students and course supervisors work together on study notes. Students can receive instant feedback on submitted assignments through an automated marking system.

“YouTube and even more recent online education developments like Coursera don't really replace the classroom or the university experience,” said 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.”

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