Sunday, September 15, 2013


Nearly two years back I wrote a blog post entitled ICT is not CS! where I wrote about some of the reasons why I feel that the UK (and some other countries too) are falling behind with education in computer science. An article which caused  discussion in some circles, and has indirectly lead to several projects that I have heard about where others with similar worries have stepped in to run various projects with schools in their own areas.  Thanks to everyone who gave feedback, and especially to those who went on to do something positive.

Thankfully the situation in the UK is improving now, despite resistance and scepticism from some. There are a number of initiatives that have featured in the national press which seem to be slowly filtering into place now. There are also a growing number of technology education based events throughout the country now, though some of them take a little finding out about unless you follow the right news feeds on twitter and facebook. But they are out there!

Sadly though, its still not true today throughout the world. There are still so many places where Science and technology education is scarce or non-existent...  But thanks to widespread availability of the internet, this may not always be the case. Even if there is no local source of science and technology education there have been for a year or so now a wide range of on-line education systems developed by some of the worlds leading universities delivered and  graded for free simply to benefit the world of education. I refer of course to MOOCs - (Massive Open Online Courses).

Today I read this:  which is what has prompted this post...  (credit to adafruit for the orignial tweet which drew it to my attention)

It describes the achievements of Battushig Myanganbayar from Mongolia, a country where "a third of the population is nomadic, living in round white felt tents called gers on the vast steppe". At the age of 15 "became one of 340 students out of 150,000 to earn a perfect score in Circuits and Electronics, a sophomore-level class at M.I.T. and the first Massive Open Online Course, or MOOC — a college course filmed and broadcast free or nearly free to anyone with an Internet connection — offered by the university."   The article also goes on to descibe how "Battushig’s success also showed that schools could use MOOCs to find exceptional students all over the globe. After the course, Kim and Zurgaanjin suggested that Battushig apply to M.I.T., and he has just started his freshman year — one of 88 international students in a freshman class of 1,116. Stuart Schmill, the dean of admissions, said Battushig’s perfect score proved that he could handle the work."

There can be little doubting therefore the value of these courses not only in developing countries, but the world over.

This has however raise some interesting questions about the future of education in some circles... Does this spell the beginning of the end of traditional education as some have suggested? Is it a "fad"?   Somehow I doubt that...  We have had the "Open University" Here in the UK for a number of years (albeit not for free), yet still see record attendance figures at our colleges and universities still.  I feel I should add that had it not been for the OU TV programs on the BBC back in the 70's and 80's I almost certainly would not have the interests in computing, science and technology I have now.  I tend to view these MOOCs courses in the same way - as a source of inspiration for the scientists and engineers of tomorrow.

A handful of UK colleges and universities are now offering a limited range of MOOCs, but  I think its time a lot more looked towards the production of their own MOOCs as not only a public service, but as a way of finding the brightest and best students who may otherwise not have found a way to their doors. And more importantly aiming them not only at school leavers - but at those in secondary education too... Especially if those courses had national accreditation comparable to the courses currently offered in the national curriculum.

It really is time the everyone started making education cheaper, more accessible and more meaningful to the future aspirations of our children - MOOCs may well be the means to do that.



  1. In the news today:

    New curriculum announced:

    And a launch date for Cambridge GCSE Computing Online as a MOOC announced:

  2. And today :