Bringing adaptive learning MOOCs to the classroom

OCR (a UK exam board and part of the University of Cambridge) have joined up with the micro-adaptive learning service provider CogBooks to take our school MOOC project, Cambridge GCSE Computing Online (, to the next level for the 2014/15 school year.

cogbooksCambridge GCSE Computing Online has been running since September 2013 and was developed in partnership with Raspberry Pi and Cambridge University Press. It is based on OCR’s GCSE Computing curriculum; a qualification aimed at 14-16 year olds and normally taught over 2 years. Our objectives are twofold; first, to support non-specialist teachers with a resource for teaching and CPD, and second, to give young people in the UK and the rest of the world access to a structured e-learning experience for school level computing. To date over 100,000 users from 128 countries have accessed the resources at Cambridge GCSE Computing Online, with 14,000 (including 4,000 teachers) registering for the full-course.

Bringing an adaptive learning MOOC to a school audience has presented challenges and raised questions, such as:

  • How do we break down a GCSE curriculum (120 teaching hours) into an adaptive learning network?
  • Given that a large share of the world’s 14-16 education is teacher centred, how do we create a resource that both serves teachers and independent students alike?
  • How do we bring the best of a MOOC experience (peer-to-peer learning etc.) to young people whilst providing adequate support, safeguarding them, and still keeping it free?

Our greatest asset in meeting the challenges above has been the teachers we work with. OCR works with nearly 6,000 schools and 13,000 examiners/assessors, the majority of whom are practising teachers. We’ve engaged teachers from the start and not only have they helped breakdown the curriculum, but they have also helped produce over 80 videos. We have deliberately selected a range of teachers to present the videos (for more information see About Us).

mathsvideoA ‘spine and rib-cage’ content model has been adopted in which videos and assessment exercises act as a spine augmented by a rib-cage of supporting resources. The rib-cage will be developed further. New resources will be added to the CogBooks’ environment from September and there are plans for open educational resource authoring.

Whilst the content and curriculum structure is in place, what is missing is the full forum functionality expected of a MOOC and the classroom analytics wanted by teachers. From September we will be providing both and believe we have a good forum approach in place that meets the challenges above; but we are still learning.

We’re very excited about the project and plan to share the results and experiences as they become available and would like to hear from others who are doing similar things, particularly as we plan to pilot other e-learning projects for additional subjects in 2014/15.

More information about the MOOCs is available from Please feel free to contact Liam via twitter  @OCR_Liam.

Liam Sammon, Director of Education and Commercial Services, OCR (Oxford, Cambridge and RSA Examinations),, @OCR_Liam

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