Use Resources of These MOOCs In Your CSE Courses

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12-11-2013 8-52-33 AM
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The above article appeared on the front page of the New York Times on Wednesday, 11 December 2013. (See screenshot below.) The New York Times has won 112 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other newspaper. (See source.)


The above New York Times article fails to acknowledge the wealth of resources that MOOCs have already generated, quality resources that Alberta CSE teachers can use now in their courses, but it is important that we see all sides of an issue. I recommend that you read this article because, as its title suggests, we should always “rethink” our teaching and learning strategies.

Last June at the UoC Teachers Symposium I reviewed the history of the MOOC and recommended that Alberta CSE teachers integrate MOOC resources into their courses. (See that presentation, Merge Your Class Using a Computer Science MOOC!, as a pdf, pptx or mp4.) I then wanted to experience the current state of a computer science MOOC, so during June-August 2013, I paid $150US and took a Udacity MOOC for undergraduate credit at San Jose State University, Introduction to Programming in Java.

I left home and high school at aged 15 and completed my Alberta high school education through correspondance courses during the 1960’s. Each correspondance course arrived as several hundred pages of paper broken into “lessons” that I dutifully completed and mailed. Feedback came weeks later. Today students have immediate to quality resources the likes of which few could anticipate 50 years ago.

I continue to recommend that Alberta CSE teachers integrate MOOC resources into their in-class courses. I plan to post separate blogs in the coming months with specific recommendations for “blending” MOOCs into Alberta’s CSE in-class courses. For now, I recommend that Alberta CSE teachers inspect the following MOOC’s. The best of these resources are terrific.

  • Introduction to Programming in Java – The hundreds of brief (2-5 minutes each) videos in this MOOC are available under a non-commercial CC license and may be integrated into your own website or LMS for non-commercial purposes. I personally viewed them all. They are well designed and edited and form the backbone of an excellent first course in programming. Distance calculator No textbook is needed, though I recommend that teachers use the supporting and evaluation resources of Cay Horstmann’s textbook, BIG JAVA Fifth Edition, which parallel this MOOC course.
  • AP Computer Science -This MOOC uses the Blue Pelican Java textbook which may be freely distributed to students. I have not inspected this MOOC closely enough to venture an opinion, but a number of Alberta CSE teachers have used the Blue Pelican Java textbook and supporting resources such as teaching videos. The Blue Pelican textbook was written for high school students specifically and has a much easier reading level than most computer programming textbooks on the market.
  • Algorithms are, quite simply, the unit of analysis of Computer Science. The followng MOOCs assume a first course in Java background. The supporting textbook by Robert Sedgewick and Kevin Wayne, Algorithms Fourth Edition, may be the best textbook on algorithms available. The following MOOCs were created and presented by Swdgewick and Wayne.

About the Author:

Gerry Donaldson was Calgary’s first high school teacher to use a lab of personal computers. Gerry taught CSE, including CTS, AP and IB Computer Science, for 30 years before teaching and consulting to the Department of Computer Science at the University of Calgary.
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  1. Sue Bromley  December 18, 2013

    Great Article Gerry. I would tend to agree with your title and subsequent remarks! Well done!

    Sue Bromley


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