Junior-high girls share coding knowledge through MOOC

UAlberta outreach program launches world’s first free online computer coding course made by youth for youth.


(Edmonton) An outreach program from the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Engineering is launching the world’s first free online computer coding course made by youth for youth.

Called Intro to Coding, the course is now accepting registrations and begins Oct. 14. Operating as a massive open online course (MOOC), the course was developed and produced by DiscoverE, the faculty’s engineering, science and technology outreach group, and by the four junior-high girls who present the online course.

Register now for Intro to Coding

Each of the course instructors were members of DiscoverE’s highly successful Girls Coding Club.

“We wanted this to be presented by Girls Coding Club alumni, so that they could share their knowledge and passion through peer-to-peer learning,” said Alissa Boyle, acting director for DiscoverE. “The club’s mission is to inspire and empower youths in computer science and engineering. Supporting these girls to design and deliver this course is our way of empowering them.”

Although the course is mainly targeted at girls above the Grade 3 level, Boyle says anyone interested in learning about computer coding can sign up.

“This is something that will give you a basic understanding of core coding concepts introduced in a very user-friendly way,” she said, adding that the course begins with a quick overview of computer history—including the important roles women have played in its development—then moves on to basics of computer programming. The course covers concepts like if/or/and logic statements, loops, variables and logic gates, using Scratch as a learning platform.

Challenges that participants will be asked to solve in the course are all connected to Alberta education curricula, Boyle noted.

Importantly, the course also covers personal safety online. Part of the course development included consultations with the U of A’s risk management team and the university’s freedom of information and protection of privacy office.

“Internet safety is one of the things we spoke about most—it’s a huge part of this,” said Boyle. “The girls are very aware of the precautions we’re taking and why we’re taking them. And there are a few examples that the girls give (in the course) about personal safety online, and it came purely from them.

“This is why we wanted it to be designed and delivered by youths. They think about this in exactly the same way our course participants will, give relevant analogies and can connect with participants easily because they are peers.”

Funding for the MOOC came from a Google RISE Award presented earlier this year to DiscoverE.

Once the course begins, it will stay online permanently, unlike most MOOCs which operate for several weeks then close down. “This MOOC was a massive undertaking, and we want the girls’ work to have a lasting impact on youths who are seeking information on computer programming.”

Find out more about Intro to Coding