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By Carlos Oliviera
Rise of the MOOCs, it may sound like this year’s next blockbuster, but it’s very much a reality, and the revolution is taking place on the Web and the Windows 8 app store.
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are free educational online courses that can be completed by large numbers of worldwide participates. The popularity of such courses has exploded since their emergence in 2008, and are now being labelled as ‘the future of tertiary education’.
One of the world’s most well-known MOOCs, The Khan Academy, describes itself as a “not-for-profit educational organization” who aim to “provide a free, world-class education to anyone, anywhere.”
Their library of over 4,000 videos covering topics from maths and finance to art and history has proved popular, over one billion exercises have been completed since 2008, averaging at two million per day. They have gained widespread support for their initiative including founding from the Google and the Bill Gates Foundation
These resources have created a democratisation of education. Participants do not require affluent backgrounds or straight A’s, this is a level playing field. The Khan Academy’s Windows 8 App puts world class learning materials into the hands of millions of people around the world and the opportunity is there for institutions to take this even further. However, what these courses do require are a huge amount of computing resource and capacity in order to be able to deliver them to such huge numbers of users.
Windows Azure provides the perfect platform for developers to start building their own MOOC’s that can be delivered as Web, Windows 8 and mobile applications. Globally available, massively scalable and with government grade security, Azure removes the barriers of building such large scale systems. Even more intriguingly, one of the leading MOOC providers EdX, recently announced that they were open sourcing their course API, opening up the possibilities for educational institutions to begin creating and distributing their own courses without the need to reinvent the wheel.
With the rise of Windows 8 tablets such as the Surface beginning to flood into the market and with very strong interest from the education sector, the combination of tablet, Windows 8 and Azure hosted MOOCs makes for one very impressive learning package.
As Microsoft Education Partners we have seen first-hand the support and dedication of the Education team to help any partners who want to work within the education marketplace and begin developing their own Windows 8 applications. The tools are all there with Windows 8, Office 365 and Windows Azure to build truly transformational educational technology and we are excited about the challenges that lie ahead.
Carlos Oliveira is the Managing Director of Shaping Cloud, Microsoft Education Partners based in Manchester. With a background in .NET development, Carlos worked for many years building large scale web software for companies like Accenture, Merrill Lynch and UBS. Since forming in 2010 Shaping Cloud have focussed on delivering cloud based solutions on the Windows Azure platform to a variety of Education clients including the University of Sheffield where there work was the subject of a Microsoft Case Study. He is also a founder of the UK Windows Azure User Group
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