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MOOCs for school-level computer science

MOOCs for school-level computer science

Michael O'Keeffe

Created by Michael O'Keeffe
last edited Feb 20 2017 by Alan O'Donohoe

There is a gradually increasing set of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) aimed at school-level computer science, and intended for teachers or students, or sometimes both. This resource collects the ones we know about, and papers reporting experience of their use.

Also attached here is Michael O’Keefe’s list of MOOCs, created 2013.

Format of entries below:

Blurb from course website evidencing intended audience and anything else of immediate relevance.


Primarily for teachers

The Computer Science Education Research Group, CSER, at the University of Adelaide, have developed a number of open, online courses designed to assist teachers in addressing the new Digital Technologies learning area.

  • Computational thinking for educators. Developed by Google’s external education team, and aimed at those teaching 13-18 year olds (but probably relevant to primary teachers in England :)).

“The goal of this course is to help educators learn about computational thinking (CT), how it differs from computer science, and how it can be integrated into a variety of subject areas. As a course participant, you will increase your awareness of CT, explore examples of CT integrated into your subject areas, experiment with examples of CT-integrated activities for your subject areas, and create a plan to integrate CT into your own curricula.” Running 15 July - 30 September 2015.

  • Let’s teach computing. Run by Oxford Brookes University, University of Northampton, and Turn It On. Open Education (Blackboard). They say “The aim of this course is to support practitioners in developing the confidence, skills and understanding to creatively deliver the primary computing curriculum in the UK.” Six weeks starting May 2015. See this CAS thread.

Let’s Teach Computing is a free online course is being offered by Oxford Brookes University and the University of Northampton in partnership with the educational technology firm Turn IT On. This course is a MOOC; that is a Massive Open Online Course. It is open to anyone and is jam packed full of useful ideas, tried and tested activities and plans you can use immediately in your own teaching practice. These have been created by a collection of university senior lecturers, teachers and training professionals all with a passion is to see computing used across the whole primary curriculum. Programming, coding and algorithms may seem tricky topics to get your staff interested in, but thanks to a Department for Education funded project, we are able to give you resources and training online and for free.

Project GUTS’ Computer Science in Science curriculum makes it easy to integrate computer modeling and simulation into middle and high school science classrooms. Join us to learn about our curriculum, tools, and teaching practices that will help you engage your students in the powerful scientific practice of computational thinking! ……. Eight weeks of free online instruction to educators who are interested in embedding computer science within regular school day science classes through the integration of computer modeling and simulation.

The course has been designed by teachers for teachers and will feature interviews, presentations, and activities from teachers, professors, students and computing professionals.

This two-part course is for primary and secondary school teachers who are preparing to tackle the new computing curriculum. Now re-factored as a single 6 week course.

It’s aimed at teachers with little or no programming experience who may be required to teach the computing up to GCSE in the near future.

The course is intended as a professional development course for primary education leaders, teachers and policymakers in all countries. ….. Our aim is to engage teachers, school leaders, and policymakers, across the world, in continually improving the quality and reach of primary education by optimising the use of the digital technologies available to teachers, learners, and their families.

Assessment for Learning is a term that’s widely used in education, but applied in ways that are variable in their effectiveness. This free online course - designed for STEM teachers in primary and secondary schools, and sixth form and further education (FE) colleges - will help you understand and use it more effectively.

Develop your classroom and laboratory management skills and gain confidence in addressing behavioural challenges.

Primarily for students

The course is based on OCR’s GCSE Computing curriculum and gives participants an excellent opportunity to investigate how computers work, how they are used, and to develop computer programming and problem-solving skills. The course has been designed for 14-16 year olds; but is free and open to all, and can be used either as a course or a resource to support teachers.

Designed to support the teaching of OCR J276 GCSE (9-1) Computer Science. Contains learning resources and assessment resources for teachers to plan and assess the impact on learning.

For both

Learn how to create digital artwork and animations with the programming language, Processing. Your images and animations will be displayed in an online Art Gallery, forming part of a vibrant learning community.

This course aims to teach everyone to learn the basics of programming computers using Python. The course has no pre-requisites and avoids all but the simplest mathematics. Anyone with moderate computer experience should be able to master the materials in this course.

This two-part course (part 2 is available here) is designed to help students with very little or no computing background learn the basics of building simple interactive applications. Our language of choice, Python, is an easy-to learn, high-level computer language that is used in many of the computational courses offered on Coursera. To make learning Python easy, we have developed a new browser-based programming environment that makes developing interactive applications in Python simple. These applications will involve windows whose contents are graphical and respond to buttons, the keyboard and the mouse.

Have you ever wished you knew how to program, but had no idea where to start from? This course will teach you how to program in Scratch, an easy to use visual programming language. More importantly, it will introduce you to the fundamental principles of computing and it will help you think like a software engineer. ………. No prior computing experience is needed. This course is intended for people who have never programmed before, and it is designed to work equally well for children and adults.

  • Introduction to Computer Science and Programming Using Python. MIT. edX. Paul Browning writes: I did the first six weeks of this (having previously taught myself elementary Python) and it was very demanding keeping up. Perhaps stretches the definition of “MOOCs for school-level computer science”! May be something to point those school students who seem to breeze through everything? Also here.

The goal is to provide students with a brief introduction to many topics so they will have an idea of what is possible when they need to think about how to use computation to accomplish some goal later in their career. That said, they are not “computation appreciation” courses. They are challenging and rigorous courses in which the students spend a lot of time and effort learning to bend the computer to their will.

  • A Gentle Introduction to Python. The Mechnical MOOC. MIT OCW, P2PU, Open Study, Code Academy & How to Think Like a Computer Scientist. A meta-MOOC? Carl Turland writes: Could be very useful for students.

A group of online-learning ventures is collaborating on a new kind of free class to be offered this fall, known as a mechanical MOOC (for “massive open online course”), that will teach a computer-programming language by patching together existing resources from open-learning sites.

This is an interactive course that allows participants to collaborate with each other and mentors in a way that stimulates creativity and professional development. Participants require no previous experience in computer science in order to engage and succeed in this course. This is a free course that gives participants all the tools necessary to teach younger generations to create mobile apps through the AP Computer Science Principles framework, including lesson plans and pedagogy.

  • The Beauty and Joy of Computing (CS Principles). Berkeley. edX. Steve Lloyd writes: This course uses Snap! (Scratch re-implemented with additional features which make it suitable for teaching up to undergraduate-level computing). This could be a great CPD resource. BJC also addresses societal implications of computing via the excellent Blown to Bits.

The Beauty and Joy of Computing (BJC) is a computer science principles course developed at the University of California, Berkeley, intended to broaden participation in computing to non-traditional groups. Computing has profoundly changed the world, opening up wonderful new ways for people to connect, design, research, play, create, and express themselves. However, just using a computer is only a small part of the picture. The real transformative and empowering experience comes when one learns how to program the computer, to translate ideas into code.

Papers and reports (most recent first)

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