Apps from 2 big MOOC providers

I have been waiting for this – edX mobile is finally here.

I’ve been taking courses from the two big names in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), edX and Coursera, and making good use of Coursera’s iOS app on my iPhone (also available for Android). What I like about having the apps is that I can download course videos and view them anytime, even offline.

I can now get on with the course I’ve signed up for from MITx: Design and Development of Games for Learning. The furthest I’ve got is through their pre-course tutorial videos on Gameblox. I designed my first game (don’t judge!).

Keep your eye on offerings from McGill on McGillx. You can now follow courses on your mobile (yay).

MOOCs and OERs

Welcome / welcome back! I wanted to bring your attention to some free resources, such as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), that may help support your studies. I know, classes have just begun so the last thing that you are thinking about is enrolling in another course but there is some great material out there to help reinforce or expand your learning.

We have a new guide to MOOCs and open education resources (OERs for short) on our Schulich Library site. These include places where you can go to register for courses, but also options for viewing course materials, such as MIT’s OpenCourseWare, or for taking advantage of openly available textbooks in science and engineering.

I’m currently following (when I can) a Linux MOOC and waiting on Writing in the Sciences from Stanford.

There is also Comic Books and Graphic Novels starting in a few weeks on Coursera, but that is neither here nor there…

“Natural Disasters – Live from the MOOC’s Epicentre” Event Rocks Schulich Library!

Natural disasters display

Despite a risk of severe thunderstorms (very fitting for the evening’s theme!), about 50 participants braved their way to Schulich Library of Science and Engineering on Tuesday night for “Natural Disasters – Live from the MOOC’s Epicentre!” to hear all about Montreal-area natural disasters. A big thanks to everyone who joined us, and an even bigger thanks to Professors John Stix and John Gyakum for presenting loads of information on different types of natural disasters and their likelihood of taking place in Montreal. Their presentation was delivered in a conversational, fact-filled and thought-provoking style that inspired the audience.

So what natural disasters could happen here? Earthquakes, ice storms (of course!), and even hurricanes are all possibilities. Even though Professor Stix confirmed that Mount Royal isn’t a volcano, he did recount a dream he once had that Mount Royal erupted and lava came flowing down the middle of campus! (This just goes to show you the kind of things geologists dream about!) The professors also talked about increased risk of natural disasters due to human activities (such as the increased chances of extreme weather events due to rising CO2 emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels and the increased likelihood of earthquakes from fracking to obtain natural gas). Professor Gyakum showed a video that gives the analogy of steroid use by baseball players to explain how climate change works (available here). He also explained that increased water vapor in the atmosphere caused by increased CO2 emissions ups the chances of more extreme weather, such as ice storms in Montreal. We are, after all, in one of North America’s freezing rain capitals. So make sure to keep those candles and bottled water handy this winter!

Their talk generated a lot of questions such as: Is there a risk of Yellowstone erupting anytime soon? Professor Stix says it is a very active geologic area, which may explain this recent news story . However, he also said “I don’t lose sleep over it.” Another participant asked: Generally, how prepared are Montreal’s buildings for an earthquake? Members of the audience concluded that we are not so prepared, especially considering the number of old buildings we have here.

In case you missed the event, you can always come check out the Natural Disasters display with information, photos and specimens related to ice storms, volcanoes and earthquakes. It is located on the main floor of the Schulich Library and will be up until, at least, the end of summer.

Finally, a special thank you to Teaching and Learning Services and Ingrid Birker from the Redpath Museum’s Science Outreach and Public Program for helping to make the evening a success.

Natural Disasters: Live from the MOOC’s Epicentre!

350-public-mooc-natural-disasterAs you may have already heard, there is a MOOC currently being offered on Natural Disasters, which is taught by Professor John Gyakum and Professor John Stix. Related to this, the professors will be giving a talk about natural disasters in the Montreal area. This will include why certain disasters would not happen here and how we can mitigate the impact of natural disasters on our daily lives. They will also be answering your questions about natural disasters.

This event will be held on Tuesday, July 15th from 6:30-8:30pm in the Schulich Library of Science and Engineering. Refreshments will be served.

All are welcome to attend. Registration is required. Please visit to register. I hope to see you there!

Catch the Next Tsunami: Natural Disasters MOOC Starts Tomorrow!

natural_disastersMcGill is about to launch ATOC185x: Natural Disasters, its second MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), tomorrow and you can register here! The course is publicly available to anyone with an internet connection and interest in some of the most pressing environmental questions of our time:

  • What makes certain areas more susceptible to earthquakes, ice storms, hurricanes, tornadoes and volcanoes?
  • What factors are currently increasing the vulnerability of the world’s population to natural disasters?
  • Do natural disasters happen in an isolated manner or can we predict them?
  • How can we work together to better mitigate the impacts of natural disasters in the future?

Following in the footsteps of McGill’s first MOOC – “Food for Thought” that kicked off in January 2014 and saw over 30,000 people register, this second MOOC given by volcano expert John Stix from Earth and Planetary Sciences and ice storm expert Professor John Gyakum from Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences continues to offer education for the masses on important topics that affect all our lives. Want more information on MOOCs? Check out the library’s MOOC subject guide and make sure you catch this next tsunami that is ATOC185x: Natural Disasters!

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Thinking of taking the MCAT? Try the Khan Academy resources

The Khan Academy is a not-for-profit seeking to provide free education to “anyone, anywhere.” It sounds a lot like a MOOC site, but it doesn’t seem to call itself that, which is fine by me. Their health content is categorized under science, which is also fine by me: The library staff (including librarians and yours truly) and the collections of the Life Sciences Library recently moved, in large part, to the Schulich Library of Science and Engineering, so this comparable categorization makes me feel even more at ease in our new Schulich home.

But let’s get back to the subject line. One of their collections, MCAT, is being developed as a study aid for the revised release of the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) due out in 2015; this is being done in collaboration with the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The MCAT is not a required examination for all categories of prospective medical students at McGill (depending on the type of applicant) but is commonly required in Canada and in most of the US medical schools.

This is poised to be an excellent resource for students of any age seeking new knowledge, refreshers or tutorials on specific topics. The Khan Academy covers other subjects as well, such as calculus, inferential statistics, and organic chemistry. There are also plans to put together a collection for the NCLEX-RN licensing examination for nursing, which is, according to Dr. Rishi Desai (Program Lead – Medical Partnerships, Khan Academy) quite similar to the USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination).

McGill plug: One of their team members is a McGill grad!

I just logged in with my Gmail account (super easy) and was faced with a math test. Despite the badge I got for completing what is probably quite a basic test, I did really, really badly. Perhaps I should get my basic math concepts down before looking at MCAT content…

Intro to physics online – lab included

There are any number of free introductory science courses available as MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). This one, however, is the first that I’ve seen that includes a laboratory component. It looks like all that you need to participate in Introductory Physics with Laboratory from Coursera is a smartphone with a camera or a webcam to capture video. They will provide the open source software for analyses.

Let me know if you give it a go.

OpenupEd – the European MOOCs portal

OpenupedA European portal of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) was recently launched at  It offers online courses, free of charge, in different languages from partner universities in Europe. The subjects cover from learning skills, management, climate change to mathematics. If you are interested in how a topic is taught in Europe or something outside of your curriculum , take a course at this website. Other major MOOCs providers include Coursera, Udacity, edX.

Writing in the Sciences

Writing is not only a duty for the students in humanities and social science majors, students in sciences at different levels all face the challenge of good writing. As a librarian in a science and engineering library, I often receive questions on this matter. A hands-on course with quality examples and practice may address this need.

Starting tomorrow, Sep 24th 2012, Kristin Sainani, a professor at Stanford University and also a health and science writer, will offer an online open access course on Coursera, Writing in the Sciences.  As the introduction says, “this is a hands-on course that focuses on examples and practice. In the first four weeks, we will review principles of effective writing, examples of good and bad writing, and tips for making the writing process easier. In the second four weeks, we will examine issues specific to scientific writing.”  Read more at Writing in the Sciences.


Coursera: A Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) Source

Coursera recently announced that it had signed on with more than a dozen major educational institutions worldwide, including U of T, the only university from Canada. Coursera was created by two computer science professors at Stanford University earlier this year. The plan of Coursera is “to partner with the top universities in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free”. The creators “envision a future where the top universities are educating not only thousands of students, but millions.”

The courses on Coursera contain lectures, forums, quizzes, assignments, and exams. The students will be able to join online discussion with classmates everywhere on the earth, submit their assignments, and get grades for free. Coursera has now 111 courses available which are categorized in Biology & Life Sciences, Business & Management, Computer Science, Engineering, Sciences, etc. Below is an example of a Coursera course, Software Engineering for SaaS, which is currently offered by Fox and Patterson, professors from UC Berkeley.

Other than Coursera, edX and Udacity are also known for offering MOOCs. The most influential MOOC so far is Stanford University’s computer science professor, Sebastian Thrun’s Introduction to Artificial Intelligence which drew more than 160,000 students who eventually received detailed grades and a class ranking.

Read more at The Massive Hype of MOOCs