Starting this fall, the Department of Computer Science at the University of Toronto (U of T) will be offering three free courses online via the education technology company Coursera.
Coursera, a platform for offering Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), was started earlier this year, and in only six months has enabled 650,000 students from 190 countries to gain access to 43 different university courses. The University of Toronto is the first Canadian university to join the international initiative. The computer science department in U of T's Faculty of Arts & Science will offer three courses, while U of T's Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work and Ontario Institute for Studies in Education will offer a course each.
"The landscape of online education is an exciting new frontier, and we're thrilled to be taking a leadership role in exploring it," said Sven Dickinson, chair of the Department of Computer Science. "Our faculty are looking forward to both reaching out to people around the globe with the open courses, and using the online materials developed to enhance the learning experience for our own students." For example, faculty members will use the materials developed for Coursera to teach via the inverted classroom model in which students can engage with recorded materials on the internet at their own pace. Classroom time can then be used for more active engagement between U of T instructors and students.
Computer science will offer two introductory programming MOOCs as well as a more advanced machine learning course:
- Learn to Program I: The Fundamentals - Behind every mouse click and touch-screen tap, there is a computer program that makes things happen. This course introduces the fundamental building blocks of programming and teaches you how to write fun and useful programs using the Python language.
- Learn to Program II: Crafting Quality Code - Not all programs are created equal. In this course, you'll focus on writing quality code that runs correctly and efficiently. We'll design, code and validate our programs and learn how to compare programs that are addressing the same task.
- Neural Networks for Machine Learning - You'll learn about artificial neural networks and how they're being used for machine learning, as applied to speech and object recognition, image segmentation, modeling language and human motion, etc. We'll emphasize both the basic algorithms and the practical tricks needed to get them to work well.
The computer science courses will be taught by celebrated instructors: the beginners' courses will be designed and taught by senior lecturers Paul Gries and Jennifer Campbell. Gries has received the university's top teaching award and Campbell is co-author of a popular textbook. The neural networks course will be offered by University Professor Geoffrey Hinton, one of the world's leading researchers in machine learning and artificial intelligence, and winner of the 2011 Herzberg Gold Medal, Canada's top award in science and engineering.
In addition to U of T, other top universities joining Coursera to offer courses this fall are Cal Tech, Duke University, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, the University of Edinburgh, Georgia Tech, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Johns Hopkins University, Rice University, the University of California San Francisco, the University of Virginia and the University of Washington.
See the University of Toronto announcement about the partnership with Coursera HERE; see Coursera's announcement HERE; see the announcement in the Globe & Mail HERE.