How to Create Engaging Online Courses for Computer Science Educators?

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With our online course program, launched in 2017, we have made it our mission to provide IT educators with the best possible free training we can devise. Five years later, here are some of the key statistics on price impact:

  • We produced and launched 35 free online courses
  • We have created more than 650 instructional lesson videos
  • More … than 234,000 learners participated in the courses
  • More 19,000 teachers in England participated through the National Computer Education Center

Designed and created in-house, each course is a real team effort that involves careful planning and a number of different steps. Here we take you behind the scenes to show you how we design our courses, introduce you to the people involved and explain how we ensure our courses are of high quality.

But first, here are some quick answers to questions you might have:

Our Free Online Courses — Key Questions Answered

What are the courses?

These are online training courses to help you learn more about computer science and computer science education. The courses are hosted on the FutureLearn website. They’re asynchronous, which means you can take them whenever and wherever you want.

Are the lessons free?

Yes! All of our courses are free when you register for time-limited access, giving you full access to the learning materials for the duration of the course. FutureLearn also offers an “unlimited” paid option, where you receive a certificate for each course you take.


Are the courses right for me?

They are aimed at educators, especially classroom teachers, but they are also useful for anyone who wants to learn more about computing.

How long does a lesson last?

To help you structure your learning, our courses are divided into three or four weeks, but it’s up to you how quickly you go through them. You can take a course in one afternoon or spread out your learning and study 30 minutes a day for three or four weeks. This flexibility makes it easy to fit a course into a busy schedule.

How to access the courses?


What goes into creating an engaging online course?

Creating our online courses is a team effort involving writers, videographers, illustrators, animators, copy editors, presenters, and subject matter experts working together over months of production. The entire process is guided by our online course producers, Martin O’Hanlon, Ross Exton and Michael Conterio, who know a thing or two about creating high-quality learning experiences. We talked to them about what it takes to create an engaging course.

Educators working at the Raspberry Pi Foundation.
Raspberry Pi Foundation educators. On screen: Ross Exton. From left to right in person: Michael Conterio, Martin O’Hanlon.

Hi guys. You have created courses on a wide range of IT topics. How do you decide on the direction of your next course?

Martin: We are guided by the needs of teachers. “What do teachers tell us they want to learn? Or what are the program gaps where our learners need additional support? »

For example, our Introduction to machine learning and AI The course was introduced following feedback from teachers that, although the topic was not necessarily on the curriculum, they felt under-prepared to answer student questions or provide context when teaching other subjects.

A woman holds a Raspberry Pi computer in front of a laptop screen.

How do you then proceed to plan it and transform this plan into a real course structure?

Michael: Working with the course authors, we will usually agree on the broad topics we want to cover or the questions we want to answer. We will often also have individual elements that we want to integrate somewhere, for example an activity of making a learning resource more accessible. From there, it’s about taking the most important topics and figuring out how we can break them down into smaller chunks, until we get to the individual learning activities.

Ross: But then we’ll end up mixing things up until we’re satisfied – not only that we have everything we wanted to cover, but that the overall structure makes sense. We often speak of the “narrative” of a course.

What is your approach to pedagogy in online courses?

Martin: At the Raspberry Pi Foundation, we have a set of 12 pedagogical principles that we use through our learning resources (including online courses). We take special care to lead with concepts, model processes and activities; add variety for our learners; and include opportunities to create projects.

Can you tell us about some of the course writing pitfalls you learned along the way?

Michael: Because the learner isn’t present, you have to be incredibly specific with the instructions because you can’t help the learners directly while they’re working on the content. And even if you think something is obvious, it’s easy for learners to accidentally miss an instruction, so it’s usually a good idea to try to keep them together rather than scatter them.

Martin: Fortunately, it’s often possible to tell from the feedback that learners have shared when something is difficult to understand so that we can improve future versions of the course.

How important are the media you add to courses, such as animations and videos? What is the process for creating this type of content?

Ross: It’s essential! It brings to life the abstract concepts of computing. Our course media helps our learners visualize the ideas we present in an engaging and relevant way.


As we write the course, we capture every creative idea that will best help our learners acquire the knowledge and skills they need. Whether it’s how-to guides with live coding, physical computer demos, or robot animations, we think carefully about every image and video and how we don’t just say teaching him something, but showing their.

We then work with a brilliantly talented team of illustrators, animators, videographers and presenters to create all of this media.

A videographer preparing to film a course facilitator.
And… action! We film all course video content in-house, working closely with the educators presenting the content.

There are many opportunities for social learning in the courses. Can you tell us more about its importance and how we integrate it?

Ross: Social learning is a very important part of our online course experience. Over the past year, we’ve made significant investments in making it easier for participants to share programs they’ve written as part of their learning, for example, and for facilitators to provide support.

Martin: It’s important that people have the opportunity to share their learning with others. This is something that is often lost when taking an online course and it can feel like being “alone”.

In the Raspberry Pi Foundation Online Course learners have the opportunity to ask questions, share what they have created and give their own opinion in the comments. Foundation educators host classes – responding to feedback and providing advice is a big part of what they do.

Thank you Martin, Michael and Ross.

What new online course would you like us to create? Tell us in the comments below.

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