OER14 homeApplication › Dr Tharindu Rekha Liyanagunawardena

Teaching programming to beginners in a Massive Open Online Course

Tuesday 11:00-12:30 (2), Blaydon/Gibbs

Type: Lightning talk

Theme: MOOCs and open courses

https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/begin-programming/todo/143 #oer14 #abs27


Dr Tharindu Rekha Liyanagunawardena, Sessional Lecturer and Research Assistant, University of Reading, [email protected]
Karten Lundqvist, Teaching Fellow, University of Reading, [email protected]
Luke Micallef, Open Online Course Developer, University of Reading, [email protected]
Professor Shirley Williams, Professor of Learning Technologies, University of Reading, [email protected]


The University of Reading’s first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) “Begin Programming: Build your first mobile game” (#FLMobiGame) was offered in autumn 2013 via FutureLearn. This course used a simple Android game framework to present basic programming concepts to beginners. The course attracted wide interest. As a course on the beta-version of the platform, the number of participants was capped at 10,000. The demand for this course was so high, within 24 hours of launching it was full; a waiting list is now maintained for the next run (spring 2014).

The School of Systems Engineering proposed this course based on materials authored by Dr Karsten Øster Lundqvist and used in extra-curricula courses and tutorials. The use of games in teaching occurs elsewhere in the School with excellent outcomes (McCrindle, 2013). The use of a simple game App was conceived as the vehicle to teach the fundamentals of programming to beginners, in a fun way providing an exciting learning experience.

Deterding et, al. (2011) defines "Gamification” as the use of design elements characteristic for games in non-game contexts. In designing this MOOC, the team used elements of the game to create visual appeal to learners. So learners are able to apply the concepts they learn on the course to the provided game framework to develop their own game over the duration of the MOOC. However, this approach carried high risk because it required complete beginners to install and setup different software on their machines thus having the potential to lose learners at the first step.

This approach presents both opportunities and challenges. The game appeals to a wider audience including leisure learners as well as younger learners. Learners in a MOOC are diverse, they make progress at different rates; some unable to meet the challenge of unzipping and installing the software, while others appear to have become addicted spending many hours improving “their” game. As reported elsewhere, in #FLMobiGame learners from developing countries faced difficulties with access (Liyanagunawardena, Williams, & Adams, 2013). Facilitating community building, moderating comments and supporting a large number of learners working on different machine configurations on a beta-platform with limited capabilities and tools for facilitation was challenging for the team.

Only a proportion of the initial registrants completed all steps in the course. However the feedback from learners indicates that the MOOC had positive learning outcomes, and there is analysis to show that registration in a MOOC should not be directly compared to registration in traditional courses (Liyanagunawardena, Parslow, & Williams, 2014).

This experiment has shown that a modified form of gamification can be used in a MOOC and that it could potentially be a good way to introduce difficult concepts to a wider audience spanning across cultures, ages, ethnicity, and prior educational backgrounds as shown by McCrindle (2013) and Dale (2010). Programming games helps learning, but the challenges caused by needing a complex infrastructure for the game to work in should not be overlooked.


Dales, R. (2010). Software engineering: learning through innovation and interaction - Teaching Award 2010 Case Study. Higher Education Academy Engineering Subject Centre, Loughborough University.
Deterding, S., Dixon, D., Khaled, R., and Nacke, L. (2011). From game design elements to gamefulness: defining “Gamification.” In Proceedings of the 15th International Academic MindTrek Conference: Envisioning Future Media Environments , 9–15, Tampere, Finland: ACM.
Liyanagunawardena, T.R.,Parslow, P, and Williams, S.A. (2014). Dropout: MOOC participants’ perspective. EMOOCs 2014, the Second MOOC European Stakeholders Summit, Lausanne, Switzerland (forthcoming).
Liyanagunawardena, T.R., Williams, S, and Adams, A.A. (2013). The impact and reach of MOOCs: developing countries perspective. eLearning Papers, 33, (Special Issue MOOCs and Beyond).
McCrindle, R. (2013). Educational inclusiveness through Ludic Engagement and Digital Creativity. In C. Stephanidis & M. Antona (Eds.), Universal Access in Human-Computer Interaction. Applications and Services for Quality of Life - 7th International Conference, UAHCI 2013, Held as Part of HCI International 2013, Las Vegas, NV, USA, July 21-26, 2013, Proceedings, Part III , 195–202, Springer.


Recap recording

This presentation is available to view at https://campus.recap.ncl.ac.uk/Panopto/Pages/Viewer/Default.aspx?id=26643572-4e82-5db1-91ce-40e39256a088 ©University of Reading 2014 Tharindu Rekha Liyanagunawardena cc-by 4.0

Further details

Keywords: MOOC, #FLMobiGame, MOOC Case Study, Begin Programming

Website: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/begin-programming/todo/143

Dr Tharindu Rekha Liyanagunawardena, Sessional Lecturer and Research Assistant, University of Reading

Twitter: @Tharindu__

Twitter abstract: #FLMobiGame from @UniOfReading on @Futurelearn offers gamified learning approach giving beginners opportunity to learn p