New MOOC will be first to “create more teachers”

A new massive open online course on the Python programming language taught by UMSI Clinical Associate Professor Charles (Chuck) Severance will take the concept of the open classroom to a new level.

“Programming for Everybody,” an introductory course on the Python programming language beginning April 10 on Coursera, is specifically designed to allow its participants to turn around and teach the material in their own communities. All course materials, including Severance’s textbook “Python for Informatics,” the syllabus, videos and software, are open source via Creative Commons licenses and available for students to reuse.

“Teaching Programming for Everybody (PR4E) as a MOOC lets me interact with students in high school, college, and adults who want to come back to school and learn technology,” Severance said in an interview with Open Michigan.  “One of my concerns with [open] materials is that potential faculty adopters around the world often think of them as somehow ‘not as good.’ I want to use the MOOC to give teachers who experience the MOOC a reason to make use of the open materials in their own classes.”

The class will give students a taste of the type of instruction Severance does in his Networked Computing class for UMSI, but at a simpler level, he said. More than 26,000 students have already signed up for the MOOC.

The course’s text was originally made available in a partnership with the University of Michigan Library several years ago, via on-demand printing on the Library’s Espresso Book Machine. It is now available in a variety of e-book formats, including PDF, EPUB, MOBI for Kindle, and an Apple iBooks version which includes interactive quizzes as well as the lecture videos. Michigan Publishing, the primary academic publishing entity for the U-M community, worked with Severance to create the iBooks version, which has seen a significant download spike since course registrations opened two weeks ago.

Severance has offered foreign rights to the book to anyone willing to translate the text into their native languages.

It’s the latest move by “the professor with the open-source tattoos,” long a proponent of open-source educational tools, who has taught other successful MOOCs (some with 50,000+ students in five continents) and has held office hours in countries around the globe.

To see what students are saying, check out Twitter hashtag #PR4E.

Posted on April 9, 2014