It is very likely that in the near future, you may get your degree from some university but will really learn from an MOOC (wikipedia.org/wiki/Massive_open_online_course). These massive open online courses should not be confused with streaming of traditional lectures on the internet. These are or will be as radical a departure from current education as the replacement of the personal tutors for the elite was with public schools. These courses are heavily dependent upon technology, especially, software. It is very interesting to examine the software which are needed to create and run such courses.
For those interested in knowing the variety of courses available now on various sites may want to look at coursetalk.org.
Another resource for more about MOOC, including its wider significance as a way of jointly exchanging knowledge can be found at moocguide.wikispaces.com.
The most obvious part of the MOOC are the videos. The videos have to be brief and engaging. Khan Academy is reference example for all. Salman Khan's presentation on TED talks is an excellent resource for understanding why and how these videos worked. It seems so obvious in retrospect that one wonders why no one had done it earlier. Unsurprisingly, the radical change had to come from outside the community of educators!
To make such videos, the primary tools you will need are a screen capture software, a sketching program and a tablet. In order to ensure that you do not need to have too many 'retakes', you will need a video editing software.
Although desktop recording tools will let you record the screen and audio simultaneously, you may find it more effective to create separate tracks for screen capture and audio and then mix them.
You can find a number of open source and linux options for each of the needed software. Recording a desktop session on Linux is easy with recordmydesktop. For sound editing, audacity is the default option. For video editing, the options include Kino, Cinelerra as well as vlmc from videolan, the creators of vlc player.
In order to make your video available to viewers from different language backgrounds, you may want to use subtitles. You can even use your viewers to create the subtitles for you (universalsubtitles.org/).
An important part of learning is the ability to ask questions and get answers. Not everyone asks a question, however, everyone present in the class gets to hear the answer. The conventional method of a conversation between a student and a teacher would not be a viable mechanism where thousands of students are involved, although Google Hangouts and similar solutions can be an option.
A case study 1 of a MOOC course found that of all the tools, the best loved tool was the mailing list! There is no shortage of open source options for mailing lists and discussion forums. There are also solutions targeted at Q&A (questions & answers) sites like the .StackOverflow. You may search for StackOverflow clones on StackOverflow to get an answer! Those who like Python may opt for AskBot or OSQA.
In a number of courses, the best way to share assignments and analysis would be using blogs. Wordpress and Movable Type are the prominent open source solutions for blogs but there are numerous alternates.
Testing is the most irritating aspect of the current educational institutions. However, you know from programming that testing is highly desirable and mandatory. Testing in software is not for testing the programmer and categorising him, at least one hopes so. It is to ensure that the software does what it is supposed to do. Online education changes the focus from traditional evaluation. Video lectures are integrated with quizzes. The MOOC focus is the student – I think I have understood but have I?
Each brief tutorial is followed by a quiz to help you know if you have understood the concept discussed. Currently, the handling of quizzes may be just questions and answers. Many tools will let you create a quiz dynamically from a pool of questions. A good current tool is from the Khan Academy, github.com/Khan/khan-exercises.
However, smarter quiz and evaluation bots will emerge. For example, Hewlett Foundation sponsored a prize to improve automated scoring of student essays.
To be useful, the quizzes have to adapt themselves to the individual being tested – an obvious use of AI techniques. No wonder the breakthrough MOOC was a course on artificial intelligence and involved Peter Norvig, co-author of AI: A Modern Approach. You may want to see a concise 6 minute video of his experiences on ted.com.
Google has a project Course Builder to help you create a MOOC as an App Engine application. It is a good resource for the steps and the ideas which may need to be considered.
Stanford has created a platform Class2Go, github.com/Stanford-Online/class2go.
With the variety of tools available, it would be easy for you to roll your own framework, quite possibly, by using Drupal or a similar CMS as the base.
You don't even need to wait for someone to create a MOOC to learn. One great opportunity for learning a new subject would be to create a MOOC by re-mixing existing content and sharing it with the world :)
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