Google Course Builder, why it’s cool and why it’ll fail

I was very excited when I saw the announcement for Google’s new Course Builder platform. Education is such a big part of libraries but they’re all on their own, constantly reinventing the wheel from scratch. A free, consistent platform librarians could build on and share the way they have other technologies could make life a lot easier for librarians in the public and special sectors as well as academics.

So I went digging for information.

  1. It looks like you can limit registration to your course using Google’s Apps for Education service so that only people from your school try to access restricted resources.
  2. It’s a hosted app so the URL is “theappname.appspot.com.”
  3. It won’t work for most educators I know.

The last is disappointing. Course Builder’s webpage describes several of the same options included in Blackboard except with more flexibility, making for a promising alternative. However, the problem is in the backend. These courses aren’t products of an application, they’re apps themselves.

In short, you have to be at least a minor programmer to make this work. To even start requires installing Python on your own computer which leaves most library systems out (IT departments tend to frown on that sort of thing). Creating the course needs HTML and more than light javascript knowledge at the very least.

I don’t know many educators with these kinds of  skills or the time to acquire them.

Course Builder is definitely in beta with several features already requested. It’s possible it’ll become more user-friendly in the next year but Google doesn’t have a very good track record with that.

In short,  join the community to provide much-needed feedback if you can, or check back next year to see if it’s still around.

2 Responses

  1. at least one big player (Saylor.org) will collaborate with/use Google Course builder: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-saylor-foundation-collaborates-with-google-to-offer-courses-via-the-course-builder-open-source-project-2012-09-20

    Hopefully that will make it more user friendly. I know that Stanford develops a similar and also open source package called class2go. You can find out more about it here:
    http://class2go.stanford.edu/
    https://github.com/Stanford-Online/class2go

  2. Laura says:

    Thanks! I’ll look into those.

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