Earlier this year, we saw Udacity and Coursera take flight, two online ventures dedicated to offering Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and democratizing education. Caught off-guard, traditional universities have scrambled to get a foothold in this brave new world of e-learning, and 16 universities have already signed agreements to offer their own MOOCs through Coursera. We welcome that trend. But, if you talk with profs at these universities, they often ask these questions: Why are we paying good money to develop courses that will build Coursera's business (which is for-profit and VC-backed)? Or why are we creating courses for a platform that we don't control or have a stake in? They ask these questions when they're not otherwise asking "what will happen to our jobs and beloved universities in 20 years?"
For schools asking those questions, Google might have an answer. According to an announcement yesterday, Google is releasing the code base for Course Builder, a new open source platform that will give individual educators and universities the ability to create MOOCs of their own. As Peter Norvig, Google’s Director of Research, explains above, the company gave the platform a test drive this summer when it offered Power Searching with Google, a course attended by 155,000 registered students. Now you can try it out too and bring MOOCs in-house, under your own control. You can find documentation to get started here. But, as Norvig warns, you'll need some tech skills in your toolkit to make initial headway. In the future, you can almost guarantee that the software will become user-friendly for everyone straight out of the box.
Update: Stanford reports today that it is trying out its own open source platform. It's called Class2Go. Learn more about it here.