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12 September 2012, 12:32

Google releases tool for creating online courses

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Google is hoping to make the creation of course materials for online education easier with the release of the open source tool Course Builder. Google calls the project "an experimental early step in the world of online education" and explains that the project came about when the company's research arm created a large online course called Power Searching with Google. The company decided that packaging the technology for general use could benefit a larger audience of educators.

The software allows course creators to populate a bare-bones framework for delivering activities and assessments, populated initially with samples from Google's Power Searching course. It also includes basic forum functionality and sign-up pages for students to register. Google has also created extensive documentation on course creation and implementation. The cross-platform application is written in Python using the webapp2 framework with the Jinja2 templating language and runs on Google's App Engine platform. Created courses are deployed as applications for App Engine as well.

According to the announcement, several universities around the world, including Stanford University and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, have expressed interest in using the software to create some of their online courses.

Users will need to be aware that, since the courses are using App Engine, significant usage will incur usage fees. 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. According to the company, a course with up to 300 students should run free of charge on the platform.

The Apache 2.0 licensed source code for Course Builder is available from the project's Google Code site. Along with the source code, Google is providing documentation and discussion forums to help interested parties get started developing courses with the tool.

Correction: Previously, this article incorrectly stated the framework Course Builder is written in; this has been corrected.


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