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Thursday, December 01, 2005

Computer Science Course via Podcast

This course is all about understanding: understanding what's going on inside your computer when you flip on the switch, why tech support has you constantly rebooting your computer, how everything you do on the Internet can be watched by others, and how your computer can become infected with a worm just by turning it on. In this course we demystify computers and the Internet, along with their jargon, so that students understand not only what they can do with each but also how it all works and why. Students leave this course armed with a new vocabulary and equipped for further exploration of computers and the Internet. Topics include hardware, software, the Internet, multimedia, security, website development, programming, and dotcoms.
Sounds like a course we could all gain from - and now you can! Harvard Lecturer David Malan is delivering some the Computer Science E-1: Understanding Computers and the Internet course via podcasts and we're all invited.
For the first time ever, not only are these lectures available in high-resolution RealVideo and RealAudio formats for registered students, the course's first several lectures are also available to the world as a Podcast in video and audio-only formats. Of course, only registered students can receive credit for the course. Many resources, including assistance from the staff and access to certain servers and facilities, are also restricted to registered students. And only registered students can submit problem sets, exams, and final projects for feedback from the staff
OK - so you can't sit the exams, or have your assignments marked - but other than that pretty much all the learning resources available to the students at Harvard are also available to you via the computer in your living room or office. And, if you've got an Ipod or similar MP3 player, you can learn about computers and the internet on the train, whilst sunbaking at Bondi or when out on your early morning powerwalk. Generally, this type of online course has been delivered in a closed environment - eg. within the safe structure of a learning management system, or on a College or University extranet. However, Computer Science E-1 is being delivered in public - in an online environment that any interested learner can navigate to using common internet browsing software. This is the exciting bit - by opening the virtual doors to the lecture room, a bigger network of learners can grow.

Computer Science E-1is delivered well - using a mix of web technologies to provide the students with lectures, notes and other resources. The structure of the course website is clear and easy to navigate. The software required to view, download and listen to the learning materials are all freely available and generally pretty accessible to all users. Videos of lectures are available throughout the semester, so students can revisit the site to revise for exams or refer to when preparing project work.

It's also interesting to note that David plans to use the site as an instructional tool. Information about the his site's design and technical specifications are included in the 'About the Site' section, with the suggestion that he will discuss this further during the course. I like the duality of this - that the students not only learn from the course content - but also the course delivery tools. This course is just one example of some of the exciting changes currently happening within some learning institutions. Using web-based tools including Podcasting, Videocasting, Blogging and Websites, a whole range of learning resources are made accessible to students, but also to the any interested learner. Check out the links below to view some other examples:
Important Note: To subscribe to the RSS Feed for Computer Science E-1, point your Feed Reader (Aggregation Software) @ http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~cscie1/podcast/