Google Course Builder Lets Users Build Their Own MOOCs

Google is adding to its suite of tools to aid educators with the release of Course Builder, an open source solution for those looking to put together an online class. Course Builder will help anyone hoping to emulate the recent success of massive online open courses (MOOCs) offered by some of the top colleges and universities in the country via platforms designed by Stanford, a Harvard/MIT collaboration and others.

The idea for Course Builder arose out of Google's own MOOC experiment: their Power Searching With Google class the company offered earlier this year. Over 150,000 students spanning nearly 200 countries signed on to take advantage of the course, which taught how users could meld various technologies offered by Google to obtain better search results and improve their workflow. With more than 20,000 completing it, the class was such a success that a new session has already been scheduled and will kick off in two weeks.

According to the video announcing the tool's release, using Course Builder will not require any advanced knowledge of programming and will take advantage of no high-level skills beyond what's needed to build and maintain a website. Peter Norvig, the company's Director of Research, listed the skills needed to make use of the tool, including a basic understanding of HTML, familiarity with JavaScript syntax and the ability to install software on your computer.

"The Course Builder open source project is an experimental early step for us in the world of online education," Norvig said. "It is a snapshot of an approach we found useful and an indication of our future direction. We hope to continue development along these lines, but we wanted to make this limited code base available now, to see what early adopters will do with it, and to explore the future of learning technology."

Early adopters will also get the advantage of being able to pick the brains of developers behind Course Builder. For the first two weeks after launch, company employees involved with the project plan to make themselves available to users via Google Hangouts.

 The Course Builder support site is already live and the free software download has already received its first update. For those unsure about their level of skill as it relates to the possible use of the software, Google's Course Builder Checklist offers a reassuring primer on exactly what to expect and how to get started.

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