Featured class: Introduction to Haskell

The Class

Nishant Shukla is a third year and computer science and mathematics student at the University of Virginia, where he is teaching a one-credit introductory class on the functional programming language Haskell with the supervision of Professor Jack W. Davidson. Nishant has opted to make his class material public as a UReddit class, posting his detailed lecture slides every week.

Haskell is a relatively new programming language that, though gaining in popularity, is not nearly as widespread as C or Java. As such, very few universities offer any classes on Haskell and, unfortunately, a small portion of computer science students are exposed to this beautiful language that has a strong basis in theoretical mathematics. Nishant is offering material at the college level, publicly and for free. At this time, there are 150 students signed up for the class.

Introduction to Haskell is currently at lecture six of twelve and it is not too late to join. If you are interested in learning Haskell, take a look!

Strengths as an Online Class

Although there are many tutorials about Haskell available online, Nishant is actively teaching this class at the University of Virginia, which means that not only is it at the collegiate level but that he answers questions from his students. This is a great example of taking advantage of the open nature of the internet to reach a wide audience: our web statistics show that the class is being accessed by visitors from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, India, France, Italy, Poland, and a number of other countries. And it’s free.

Furthermore, this class is being taught at a university at the same time. This shows that free and open online education doesn’t have to complete with traditional education – and can, in fact work with it to improve education worldwide.

Potential

Nishant took advantage of the UReddit platform to coordinate this class and show it to a community of people interested in learning. The UReddit platform is very minimal, however. What if we had live lecture streaming and live chat built into UReddit so that Nishant could easily offer office hours for student questions and so that students could more easily and freely discuss with one another? What if there were a centralized area for students to submit code samples for feedback, or even a gradebook to record grades on assignments?

We are, in fact, looking to create a platform that offers all these things and more in order to make open, online, crowd-sourced education everything it can be. We need help getting it off the ground, though; if you are interested in helping us, please check out our Kickstarter for further information on what we’re trying to do.

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