University of Alicante (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2013 Proceedings
Publication year: 2013
Pages: 1847-1856
ISBN: 978-84-616-3847-5
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 6th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 18-20 November, 2013
Location: Seville, Spain
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are online courses with the option of free and open registration that are usually followed by thousands of students from all over the world at the same time. MOOCs are usually created and offered by higher education institutions, such as universities. The structure and content of MOOCs usually mimics traditional online courses: a syllabus, a calendar, educational materials (mainly videos), some activities or projects, quizzes (usually multiple choice questions) to assess students’ learning, and a forum to discuss with instructors and other students. MOOCs are the natural evolution of OpenCourseWare (OCW), but in contrast with them, MOOCs offer the opportunity to interact with other students and instructors, and they typically provide a sort of certification at the completion of the course.

A key factor in the deployment and success of a MOOC is the scalability. Some systems start to work slowly when the number of users increases. Scalability is the ability of a system to handle a growing amount of users (workload) in a capable manner because it can be enlarged to accommodate that growth. A system without this ability cannot be enlarged to accommodate a huge amount of users, or it can be enlarged but the cost is prohibitive because adding new resources to support new users is more expensive each time. Some popular Learning Management Systems (LMS), such as Moodle or Sakai, have been used to provide MOOCs. However, these LMS present some scalability problems because they were not designed to support thousands of students at the same time.

CourseBuilder (CB) is an open source project of Google. It is important to clarify that CB is not a Google product. CB provides the capability for anyone to create a MOOC. CB runs on Google App Engine (GAE), Google’s could computing platform for developing and hosting web applications in Google’s data centers. The most important feature of GAE is the high level of scalability it offers. But GAE provides additional capabilities that are essential for the creation of a MOOC.

In this paper, based on our experience in the creation of some MOOCs, we discuss how to use CB as a MOOC platform. Firstly, we analyze and compare the different platforms that can be used to develop a MOOC nowadays. Then, we explain how to create a MOOC with CB and we highlight the advantages CB offers, such as to have a full control of our MOOCs and to own all the data collected from the activities of students. Next, we also point out some of the disadvantages of CB (e.g., using CB requires some technical expertise and potential users need to be capable of installing software and editing files that contain JavaScript and HTML code). Besides, as CB is an open source project, CB can be easily customized and added new features to CB. Finally, we provide some advices to improve the performance of CB and to avoid some common problems.
LMS, MOOC, e-learning, platform.