Google Launches Course Builder
Google Launches Course Builder
Written by Sue Gee   
Friday, 14 September 2012

Do you want to create your own MOOC? Google has provided a free, open-source, tool to help would-be course creators to realize their ideas.

Google's Course Builder tool was developed for the recent online course, Power Searching With Google and  has now been made available for others to use. It consists of a bare-bones framework for delivering activities and assessments, populated initially with samples from the  Power Searching course and runs on Google's App Engine platform.



According to Peter Norvig, Google's Director of Research, who also has clocked up a good deal of experience of creating and delivering a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), using Course Builder requires some technical expertise.  Potential users need to be capable of installing software, editing files that contain JavaScript and HTML and "fixing things when they go wrong". Some minimal experience in JavaScript and Python would also be helpful and you'll need to be able to set up App Engine and Google Groups using the documentation provided.


The documentation also gives a great deal of advice about course content and provides best practice guidelines for course design.  A discussion forum has been set up for Course Builder and Peter Norvig, and others from Google, will be monitoring it to answer top question in two Google Hangouts on September 19 and September 26.

The H points out that since the courses are using App Engine, significant usage will incur usage fees. It calculates that Google's Power Searching course, which was accessed by roughly 150,000 visitors, would have cost about $20 a day to host on App Engine. On the other hand, a course with up to 300 students should run free of charge.

Although Course Builder is acknowledged to be "an experimental early step for Google in the world of online education" it is a foot in the door that opens up future possibilities. Peter Norvig's blog post notes that Google and edX  are in discussions about open standards and technology sharing for course platforms. In a spirit of inclusivity, he goes on to mention both Sebastian Thrun at Udacity and Daphne Koller at Coursera as well as listing several high profile institutions as being interested in Google's technology.

So yet another area in which Google looks to be asserting its dominance.



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