In July, Research at Google ran a large open online course, Power Searching with Google, taught by search expert, Dan Russell.  The course was successful, with 155,000 registered students.  Through this experiment, we learned that Google technologies can help bring education to a global audience.  So we packaged up the technology we used to build Power Searching and are providing it as an open source project called Course Builder.  We want to make this technology available so that others can experiment with online learning.
The Course Builder open source project is an experimental early step for us in the world of online education.  It is a snapshot of an approach we found useful and an indication of our future direction.  We hope to continue development along these lines, but we wanted to make this limited code base available now, to see what early adopters will do with it, and to explore the future of learning technology.  We will be hosting a community building event in the upcoming months to help more people get started using this software.  edX shares in the open source vision for online learning platforms, and Google and the edX team are in discussions about open standards and technology sharing for course platforms.

We are excited that Stanford University, Indiana University, UC San Diego,,, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), and a group of universities in Spain led by Universia, CRUE, and Banco Santander-Universidades are considering how this experimental technology might work for some of their online courses.  Sebastian Thrun at Udacity welcomes this new option for instructors who would like to create an online class.  We believe Google’s preliminary efforts here may be useful to those looking to scale online education through the cloud.

Along with releasing the experimental open source code, we’ve provided documentation and forums for anyone to learn how to develop and deploy an online course like Power Searching.  In addition, over the next two weeks we will provide educators the opportunity to connect with the Google team working on the code via Google Hangouts.  For access to the code, documentation, user forum, and information about the Hangouts, visit the Course Builder Open Source Project Page.  To see what is possible with the Course Builder technology register for Google’s next version of Power Searching.  We invite you to explore this brave new world of online learning with us.

By Peter Norvig, Director of Research