TU Delft develops free online programming course for children
From 15 June, schoolchildren from the age of eight can learn to create a game online. The MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), offered free of charge by TU Delft, uses Scratch, a simple programming language for children developed by MIT. Through the course the children gain a better understanding of Scratch and learn how to use it more effectively, enabling them to create their own games or build on games created by others.
TU Delft and other universities have been developing free online courses known as MOOCS for several years, but this is the first for primary school pupils and the first in Dutch. The course was created by Felienne Hermans who has already devised three online courses for adults and who teaches programming to children every Saturday. “Both of these experiences are now proving very useful,” she explains. “It would be great if this online course encourages more primary schools to start to teach programming. Programming is an important skill for the future. There is already a major shortage of programmers and this is expected to grow. It is therefore imperative that we spark children's interest in programming at an early age. This may not always be easy for primary school teachers and we want to help them with this new MOOC. The school pupils can work independently and there is a teacher's handbook.”
The MOOC includes videos and tasks that enable children to learn programming themselves. Each week, they make a game: a maze, an aquarium, a Flappy Bird game and a sort of Super Mario. Each time, they learn new programming blocks and think about how to make the best looking programs. Numerous tests are incorporated in the course, enabling the children and their teachers to see if they have really understood the material.
Felienne and her colleagues are conducting research into how children learn programming. The insights from this research were used to create the course. For example, their research shows that children find large groups of programming blocks all together quite a challenge. When they are split up, this problem disappears.
The course itself is actually an offshoot of the research. “We were looking for schools who were willing to get involved in our research. No fewer than fifty schools signed up, but almost all of them were outside the Randstad region. So we came up with the idea of doing the course online. This also offers us more opportunities for research. For example, it is easy to make the tasks for the best pupils slightly more difficult or to investigate the effects of other changes to the course. It also has advantages for the children and the teachers, as it is easy to adapt the course at any time if we see that something works better”.
Starts 15 June
The course will be available online from 15 June It has been designed as a four-week programme, involving two to six hours of work each week. Participants can decide their own start date. The course incorporates the ten points in the programming curriculum recently set up by several primary school boards.
Since 2013, TU Delft has been offering free online courses (MOOCS) that have been taken by hundreds of thousands of interested people across the world. The offering comprises around thirty courses, mostly at Bachelor's or Master's level. The exceptions are the course in Mathematics for secondary school pupils preparing for university and this new course in programming for primary school pupils. For EdX, the international online platform on which TU Delft publishes its courses, this is also the first course aimed at such a young target group and the very first Dutch-language MOOC.
For more information and to register, go to this website.