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Google Course Builder: Initial Review

course-builderNot too long ago, Google came out with a Course Builder program, designed to allow schools and institutions an easy way to set-up their own MOOC platform.  Today, I decided to take a look at the program to get a sense of their offering and what it can do.  Naturally, I have some high expectations, I mean, this is Google after all.

The first thing that I did was navigate to the Google Course Builder “home”.  Quite honestly, I couldn’t help be feel a bit overwhelmed when I came to this site. With so much information, it’s a bit hard to know where to start.  It’s clear that Google has a specific target in mind with this page: developers (or at least very web-savvy).  In other words, if you are relatively new to setting-up online training programs, then you will likely find the Google Course Builder page is not user-friendly.

The “Get Started” link (if you can find it) takes you to a rather cold, wiki-type page that details the entire program from start to finish.  Again, great if you’re a developer, but not very user-friendly to the casual MOOC fan. I can’t help but wonder why Google didn’t make this a bit more intuitive.  Even for a developer, it’s a lot to come up-to-speed with, but at least it is comprehensive.

I took a moment to look at some example sites made with Course Builder, and well… here take a look (some are in Spanish):

Perhaps it’s just me, but the success of a training program is more than the “bones” of the software, it’s the entire presentation.  There is a lot to be said about user experience, and the setup that is currently offered by the out-of-box Google Course Builder program is about 10 years behind modern design theory.  I think just providing some various templates would be helpful.

Google is certainly downplaying the importance of ease-of-use in regards to the adoption of the program.  I think this is one reason why so many people turn to WordPress for their formal and informal learning programs.  The ability to easily customize the site, implement a user-friendly design interface, and add functionality is second to none.

Now, to be fair, this entire program is very much in the beginning stages. It is obviously providing a useful way to build MOOC programs for some institutions, but they have quite a bit of ground to cover compared to other programs out there.  Here’s to hoping that the development doesn’t go the way of Google Sites.

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About the Author:

Justin Ferriman is the Founder of LearnDash, a WordPress based LMS and Learning Strategy provider. He also works as a Learning & Collaboration Consultant where he implements large-scale training programs for Fortune 500 companies.

9 Comments
  1. Ravi Limaye

    I am a MOOC enthusiast, Can you suggest ways to create a MOOC? I was seraching and found your articles interesting and thought you can guide me to craete a MOOC. I am from India

    • Ed Hall

      Hello,

      The biggest MOOC is youTube. Seriously. It’s open ended, contains sundry topics and allows anyone to create their own videos for instruction. Colleges who stand to get a lot from online exposure (MIT, Stanford, Harvard, among others) started putting their (literally) RAW coursework online, perhaps as a way to generate interest in their institutions. MOOC is an acronym that I first heard only a few years ago that Stanford was using to describe their free online course previews (not OFFERINGS, those are pay to view) and as a way to distinguish themselves from MIT’s open university programs.

      How do you create a MOOC? Find a subject you like to talk about and make a video of it. Put it on youTube and see what happens (this is the over-hyped Khan Academy methodology which was on youTube and is also a MOOC). Don’t get caught up in the hype of the MOOC, my friend. It is all still distance learning.

  2. Jen

    This is good information. I have found the same with other tools I have tried- functionality that is not intuitive to me. Perhaps the program designers are still of the mindset that only the tech or web-savvy are designing courses. Seems to me that there is a market for user friendly design tools! As a student of ID, I am very interested in identifying which tools are going to make my design current, without making me want to throw my computer out a window during the design process! Thanks for sharing!

  3. I would really like to make contact with you to discuss collaboration on a disruptive educational project we are about to implement using course builder and a VOCMOOC (Vocational Massive Open on-line Course). The real usefulness of MOOC’s is not going to be in Higher Education but in the real world of work where vocational education is of use to real people.
    “A vision without a task is a mere dream – A task without a vision is mere drudgery!”
    skype john_newell_acccu

  4. Tom Hodgers

    New free six week MOOC started september 1 (in Spanish). “Crea tu propio MOOC con Google Course Builder” (Make your own MOOC with Google Course Builder). Hosted by UCAM Universidad Catolica de Mercia.
    This is a MOOC about building MOOC’s. Looks very promising: ucamooc.appspot.com/course

  5. Thanks for this review of Google’s course builder. I saw it from LinkedIn. My comment is that I would be hesitant to use this too much, especially to rely on it going forward, because Google has the habit of starting up a tool that lots of people find useful, then they discontinue either future development/enhancements or terminate the whole program outright (I’m looking at you Google Reader!)

    Anyway, thanks again. Cheers, Mike @ Farmstay El Portón Verde

  6. Thanks for posting this!
    I have just started to look at Google Course Builder (GCB), and I thought that I might have missed something fundamental because I found GCB extremely complicated, and definitely out of reach for my capabilities and willingness to step 20 years back.
    I experience in several other areas (search, browser, etc.) that Google has started to deteriorate as a company and making simple things complicated, so I have started to look for something simple enough to be good.

    • Thanks for the comment Tor. You’re right, GCB is pretty dated when it comes to the user interfaces – that’s why many people turn to WordPress (b/c it is so easy to customize). Perhaps you should give LearnDash a look to see if it is in line with your project goals.

  7. Arijit

    This discussion is very interesting. Just had similar discussion in a renowned institution in India.
    Give a try with Eukti Learning platform. It makes things very simple and with a very robust framework. To know more check euktilearning.com

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