Supercomputing MOOC: it’s massive!

Author: David Henty
Posted: 15 Nov 2017 | 11:20

Our Supercomputing MOOC is for anyone interested in leading-edge computing technology, supercomputers or the role that computer simulation takes in science and engineering. There is no requirement to write computer programmes. The next 5-week run will begin on January 15 2018.

For the first run in March this year, 3,263 people registered and 1,721 people accessed content, which is a typical conversion rate for FutureLearn. The course went very well, with the most surprising (and pleasing!) aspect being how much interaction there was between learners in the various discussion sessions.

For the second run we chose to make only a few updates:

  • Re-record some of the “talking head” videos to improve audio quality.
  • Add more informal quizzes so learners can check how well they are following the material.
  • Write a couple of short articles addressing artificial intelligence, which was a hot topic of conversation during the first run.

Even with this additional material, rolling out the second run was much less effort (and far less stressful!) than the first.

By the end of the five-week course we had over 2,800 registrations with almost 1,700 accessing content, which is a higher conversion rate than for the first run. As “Educators” we try to check up on how things are going and contribute comments on a daily basis, but just as before there is an enormous amount of mutual support among the learners.

Our expectation was that it would be a lot of work to develop the material in the first place (compared to a traditional “chalk-and-talk” lecture course), but less effort to run. This has been borne out in practice in spades: as MOOC novices we found creating interactive content and videos quite challenging, but I am constantly surprised at how much the MOOC almost runs itself on a week-by-week basis (although helped to a great extent by the many pearls of wisdom contributed by the Educators!).

You can sign up for our Supercomputing MOOC here: www.futurelearn.com/courses/supercomputing

The MOOC was developed in collaboration with SURFsara (Netherlands) on behalf of the Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe (PRACE). It is hosted on FutureLearn, the social learning platform. 

Author

David Henty, EPCC