One of the blessing and curses of teaching CS is the plethora of materials freely available online. MOOCs on edX and Coursera. Tutorials on Khan Academy and Codecademy. Certifications through freeCodeCamp. Those sites barely scratch the surface of what is available.

How, if at all, do you integrate these or similar resources into particular areas of your curriculum? Does this integration work well for increasing student learning?

  • $\begingroup$ you are correct that there is a plethora of r sources out there. I have suggested some ideas for the "how" below. Whether this works well for increasing student learning depends on the student imho. If you also set some work that relates to the resources, perhaps they are more useful. Is there anything you need expansion on before you could select an acceptable answer? $\endgroup$
    – srattigan
    Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 21:38

4 Answers 4


How, if at all, do you integrate these or similar resources into particular areas of your curriculum? Does this integration work well for increasing student learning?

I teach Python in a "Further Education" course- not university level but the modules compare well with many first-year BSc modules. Students tend to have little or no background in programming.

I learned a lot from completing MOOCs, and it is somewhat problematic that there is no single source of good materials...but, some of the materials are excellent. Unfortunately, not all learners find MOOCs to be a suitable format for learning.

I encourage students to try out a MOOC from EdX, Coursera, Udemy or Udacity, or another site. One assignment this coming year will be to document the "use cases" involved with a MOOC. Both of the assignments I set are variations from assignments on a Rice course and the fantastic CS50 given by David Malen.

For each lesson given, consider a "Further resources" section that allows a learner to view:

  • Videos
  • Tutorials
  • Notes
  • Examples

to cater to different learning styles. Consider setting a formative assessment to test learning, and perhaps hints to the solution are in the resources provided?

At the end of each class, use a minute paper, and it may provide an opportunity to clear up any points of confusion.

I use Moodle as my LMS, and for each part of the curriculum, I provide notes (in a folder) code and links, including videos, other courses, online discussions and tutorials.

Ultimately, it depends on the individual learner- you can lead a horse to water...etc.



It can often be good or bad, but that depends entirely on you.

If you happen to find resources on those sites that align with your curriculum, great. You just need to be sure they don't contradict each other.

If one of the resources on one site is covered by one in another site with a different example, your students might be confused by that.

What I would do is go from site to site and for each subject in the curriculum, and select the site which explains that subject as closely as possible to what is to be taught in class. Then I would direct the students to those sites for each subject, should they need more examples or details.

  • $\begingroup$ "However, I would make point to advise them against searching for other sites, and rather ask in class if something in the site is unclear." Wouldn't it be a good thing to encourage the students to independently research? Yeah, there's a potential for confusion, but finding the answer you need from Google is a great skill to have. $\endgroup$
    – Aurora0001
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 11:24
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Aurora0001 good point. I'm not sure what I had in mind when writing that $\endgroup$
    – ItamarG3
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 12:44

A really good question as arguably MOOCs these days are preferred/easily accessible over conventional textbooks in CS. I had the experience of supplementing my curriculum with MOOCs in 2015 and since then, in every course, there are some supplements from them. Here are my observations about this experience:

Clear Advantages

  1. Easily Available
  2. (Mostly) Free
  3. Students have access to world's leading professors sitting in their home
  4. A huge community of similar (and more experienced - many students take a MOOC more than once) students makes ideas sharing, etc.
  5. Many students find Video lectures (can forward, reverse whenever some thing isn't clear - can view them calmly in your room, on mobile, etc.) much easier to understand.

Things to be Wary Of

  1. Heaps of MOOCs means you can get distracted. There will be points where not only a class lecture and MOOC's lecture will contradict, but also among a couple (or more) of MOOC's. An example I have observed recently when supplementing my ML class with Andrew Ng's lectures and later on found some disagreement of concepts between respectable professors about Neural Networks theory in Neural Networks dedicated course. So, it requires you to thoroughly study and guide them before suggesting any MOOC, otherwise it creates a panic among students when they discover such a (even minor or just re-worded) differences.
  2. Those sites barely scratch the surface of what is available – Exactly does my experience say: Often these MOOCs etc. get students very excited in the start but merely after a couple of weeks its realized that they never go into depth like they do in their (university) classes. I tried to supplement a Bioinformatics course using a famous MOOC course but they never went beyond the scope of E.Coli/Yeast and once hype was over, it was pretty disappointing for students.

Personal Conclusion

One must ensure to have a fine balance between benefits/hypes of these MOOCs etc. and the related knowledge for the course. After few semesters of continuous use of MOOC etc. supplements, I have concluded:

  • Not a fan of abstract stats, but my experience says that there should be roughly 70-30 ratio of our content and of MOOC, Tutorials, etc.
  • OCWs are much better than MOOCs. I have found a few which really go into depth as well.
  • It's iterative process and we always redesign/make some changes in the curriculum based on experience/feedback of one semester and which MOOCs, Tutorials, OCWs, etc. are/were best suited to the course can only be decided by the Course Instructor (which off course includes students feedback as well).


  • $\begingroup$ Disclaimer: I am not associated with the institute whose OCW I used as an example above. It was purely intended to share it with fellow CS educators. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 1:15

Personally, one of the hardest things about using MOOCs in curricular university courses is that the target audience is usually very different. So although they theoretically offer "top instruction from world leading professors", in practice they are not really teaching a course that fits into my particular context. In the end, either I adapt my course into something that fits the MOOC or it looks disconnected and possibly confusing. So using MOOCs as is might not save that much effort in comparison with developing my own materials or adapting another course. Can it be done? Sure, and it can be a quality proposal. It is just that saving instructor effort is probably not a key advantage.


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