High school students are getting a head start on university-level computing studies thanks to an innovative online learning project launched by UNSW lecturer Richard Buckland.
Mr Buckland, an award-winning lecturer in the School of Computer Science and Engineering, has made his first-year Higher Computing course available to 16 high school students this year, via a combination of online video lectures and face-to-face tutorials. The program will expand to a new intake of students next year.
The students range from Year 10 to Year 12 and are doing the computing course in addition to their high school studies. After watching the first-year lectures online - they were all filmed and uploaded to the web in 2008 - they then attend tutorials on-campus once a week after school.
Mr Buckland said his reason for setting up the free-of-charge program was to get more people excited about computing, as often high school level computing education is much more general than it is at university level.
"In this course students will learn the C programming language and how to write and analyse programs in C, and they will also learn the craftsmanship of writing a beautiful program," he said.
"A lot of the kids in my class wouldn't have done computing at school."
Mr Buckland's first-year computing lectures are posted on iTunesU and YouTube and have proved enormously popular - gaining an international following and logging up 135,000 hits from places as diverse as Iran, Turkey, Egypt and Nigeria.
His appeal for participants attracted significant interest, including a story on the Sydney Morning Herald website, and Mr Buckland was swamped with applicants but had to limit his intake to just 16 students.
Mr Buckland's enthusiasm for teaching has led to him winning the Australasian Association of Engineering Educators 2007 Teaching Excellence Award, a 2007 Carrick Award For Teaching Excellence and 2006 NSW Quality Teaching Award. That same enthusiasm has also spawned "The Richard Buckland Appreciation Society" on Facebook with more than 320 members.
The online education program will continue next year. Second-year lectures filmed during 2009 will be uploaded, meaning students next year can have access to two years of lectures online.
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