January 31, 2013
A free online science course offered by researchers at UBC and Stanford University has attracted more than 130,000 registrants, including learners from every Canadian province and almost every nation on the planet.
The Massive, Open Online Course (MOOC) on game theory is taught by UBC computer scientist Kevin Leyton-Brown and Stanford's Matthew O Jackson and Yoav Shoham. It's the largest MOOC involving a Canadian university delivered via the U.S.-based Coursera platform.
"What's exciting for me is that we’re reaching a very different set of students, a large fraction of whom aren't enrolled in traditional universities," says Leyton-Brown. "It's great to find that so many among this group share my passion for a rigorous, academic subject like game theory."
The online course, which launched three weeks ago and runs until the end of February, has attracted learners from every Canadian province (including 400 from BC), every U.S. state, and from 183 nations, according to server logs.
One student participating in the course's video conference chats lives in the Faroe Islands, situated between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean. “The student was taking the course to learn about how to counter the islands' isolation by bringing more information in from the outside--and he wanted to model this problem using material from the course," says Leyton-Brown.
The game theory course looks at the mathematics and models behind strategic decision making and interactions. It's an outgrowth of a textbook Leyton-Brown wrote with one of the co-instructors of the course. "Yoav and I wrote several books together back in 2009, which have become fairly widely adopted in our field. MOOCs are the next generation of the textbook. This is the wave of the future."
"When you write a textbook you don’t tell people the only real way to read it is from beginning to end. They’ll engage in it in a number of different ways. We designed the course to be very modular, hoping that others will remix it."
In May, UBC will pilot three additional MOOCs: Useful Genetics with Rosie Redfield from Zoology, Computer Science Problem Design with Gregor Kiczales, and Climate Literacy: Navigating Climate Conversations with Sarah Burch, UBC Continuing Studies Centre for Sustainability and Sara Harris, Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences.
Facts on the Game Theory MOOC
- Four times as many Canadians have registered for the online course than Leyton-Brown has taught over the past 10 years as an instructor at UBC.
- Over 100 learners from Nepal have registered.
- More learners from Iceland, Kyrgyzstan and the Palestinian Territories have registered for the online course than are registered in Leyton-Brown's UBC class this term.
Founded in 2011 by two Stanford University professors, Coursera provides more than 200 free, online courses, across a wide range of subject areas.
For more information on UBC's Coursera offerings: