Making good use of the things that we find


Dr Ben Dudson in the Department of Physics curated a series of video lectures created by MIT on their OpenCourseWare YouTube channel to use as part of the Python Programming component of the core ‘Professional Skills’ module for first year undergraduates. The videos were used to supplement traditional teaching content and activities in lab sessions, providing differentiated support to students with varying degrees of programming experience.

Keywords: video, Open Educational Resources, OER, programming, MIT.

Aims and Objectives

Python Programming is a component of a core 1st year Undergraduate module in Professional Skills. The module is mainly based around hands-on practical lab sessions and formative activities with only one introductory lecture providing an introduction to programming. As students will come from a variety of background with varying degrees of programming experience, it is important that materials are provided for students who are new to programming, outlining key concepts and techniques while more experienced students can focus on developing their skills further through the self-directed activities and differentiation tasks.


There are a number of publicly available, high quality resources providing overviews of programming techniques and detailed tutorials and demonstrations. Rather than attempt to replicate these existing resources or address these issues in valuable face to face contact time, the instructor has curated a number of video lectures and tutorials and made them available on the VLE as supporting resources for the formative activities in the lab sessions.

MIT OpenCourseWare playlist screenshot

MIT OpenCourseWare on YouTube


A number of HE institutions, from the US and UK routinely record lecture series and make them available as open courseware for the public to consume or educators to reuse. In this instance the videos used have been made available on YouTube, allowing them to be easily embedded into a VLE module using the YouTube “Mashup” tool. With the video lectures and tutorials forming the basis of “input” or “content” within the module (supplemented with explanatory text from the module leader), students are required to complete short multiple choice quizzes to test their understanding of the topic and submit an assessed assignments to the VLE for marking and feedback. Performance on both the quiz and assignment contribute to the final mark on the module. Additional support for students who are new to programming on module is provided through links to appropriate areas of the codeacademy website and other free online, open resources with interactive exercises and tutorials to support self-directed learning of programming skills.


The targeted use of high quality content created by reputable third parties has been invaluable in providing support for the full range of abilities of students on this module, while allowing timetabled face to face contact to focus on the active application and development of programming skills.

Exploiting the abundance of existing materials support widely used professional skills has allowed the module leader to focus their efforts on developing appropriate activities to drive student work without the need to “recreate the wheel” in reproducing content that is already openly available.

Transferable lessons learned

  • Consider looking for high quality open courseware available to support core areas of learning before investing time in creating content yourself.
  • Use content to drive student work and formative activities.
  • Using video lectures can help create space in the timetable for more valuable face to face activities.
  • Make supplemental or optional resources available to support weaker students.

Next Steps

Case study last updated: February 2014

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