Is ‘massive open online research’ (MOOR) the next frontier for education? | Education Technology |

UC San Diego is launching the first major online course that prominently features “massive open online research” (MOOR).


For Bioinformatics, UC San Diego computer science and engineering professor Pavel Pevzner and his graduate students are offering a course on Coursera that combines research with a MOOC (massive open online course) for the first time.


“All students who sign up for the course will be given an opportunity to work on specific research projects under the leadership of prominent bioinformatics scientists from different countries, who have agreed to interact and mentor their respective teams.”


“The natural progression of education is for people to make a transition from learning to research, which is a huge jump for many students, and essentially impossible for students in isolated areas,” said Ph.D. student Phillip Compeau, who helped develop the online course. “By integrating the research with an interactive text and a MOOC, it creates a pipeline to streamline this transition.”


Bioinformatics Algorithms (Part I) will run for eight weeks starting October 21, 2013, and students are now able to sign up and download some of the course materials. It is offered free of charge to everyone.


Another unique feature of the online course: Pevzner and Compeau have developed Bioinformatics Algorithms: An Active-Learning Approach, a e-book supporting the course, while Pevzner’s colleagues in Russia developed a content delivery system that integrates the e-book with hundreds of quizzes and dozens of homework problems.


The U.S.-Russian team, led by Pevzner’s foreign student Nikolay Vyahhi, also implemented the online course using the beta version of Stepic, a new, fully integrated educational platform and startup developed by Vyahhi. Stepic derives its name from the “step-by-step, epic” solution its developers delivered for electronic publishing.


The course also provides access to Rosalind, a free online resource for learning bioinformatics through problem solving. Rosalind was developed by Pevzner’s students and colleagues in San Diego and St. Petersburg with funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Russian Ministry of Education, and Russian Internet billionaires Yuri Milner and Pavel Durov through their “Start Fellows” award. Rosalind already has over 10,000 active users worldwide.


Rosalind — named in honor of British scientist Rosalind Franklin, whose X-ray crystallography with Raymond Gosling facilitated the discovery of the DNA double helix by Watson and Crick — will grade the programming assignments. They come in the form of bioinformatics problems of growing complexity as the course progresses.


“We developed Rosalind to inspire both biologists and computer science students,” said Rosalind principal developer Vyahhi, who worked with Pevzner during the latter’s sabbatical in Russia. “The platform allows biologists to develop vital programming skills for bioinformatics at their own pace, and Rosalind can also appeal to programmers who have never been exposed to some of the exciting computational problems generated by molecular biology.”

Via LilyGiraud, Dr. Stefan Gruenwald