open source

What is a MOOC?

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012 | trends | Comments Off

MOOC is the new buzzword in education – particularly in the higher education lexicon.

What is a MOOC?  It is an acronym for a Massively Open Online Course.  Let’s unravel the meaning of this phrase in reverse order:

It is a course, since it is courseware prepared by universities (or other education institutions) for accredited programmes of study.

It is online, since anyone with an internet connection can access it.

It is open, since you don’t have to pay for it.  Well, most of the time a MOOC is free; sometimes you are only charged for assessment and/or accreditation.

It is massive(ly),since internet access makes the course available to anyone, anywhere on the planet.  The student body is no longer restricted by location or accommodation.  In theory, hundreds of thousands, even millions of people can enrol for a particular course.

One may wonder on what technology platform MOOCs will be made available.  This is not altogether clear at this stage; the idea of free, open, online courses is appealing to many but the definition  of the technology engine is still in its development phase.

The movement towards MOOCs seems like an attractive option for the beleaguered education system in South Africa, but time will only tell how useful it will be.  Poor internet connectivity, a lack of access to technology devices and low levels of understanding of e-learning are some of the barriers that we have to overcome to make MOOCs viable alternatives to class-bound courses.

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What is a computer virus … for dummies!

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010 | technology | 3 Comments

The computer virus lends its name from the field of biology.  In medical terms a virus is a minute infectious agent which lacks independent metabolism and is able to replicate only in a living host cell.  A virus acts in a similar way in a computer.

A virus is a small software program, which has really no purpose other than to cause harm.  It is infectious – that means it is transmitted from one computer to another.  Like a biological virus, it has the ability to replicate – make copies of – itself, while it is within your system. A computer virus can therefore be defined as:

A malicious piece of software that is designed to spread from one computer to another with the intent of causing damage.

Some viruses bring about more harm than others.  The damage may range from being a mere nuisance to causing system failure.  Some of the effects that you could experience if your computer is affected by a virus are:

Unsolicited e-mails are sent to everyone in your address book from your laptop.

Your computer restarts constantly so that it becomes impossible for you to work on it.

Some of your documents are e-mailed to strangers.

Some of your data files are erased or corrupted.

All the data from your hard disk are erased.

Where do these viruses come from?  Clever programmers who want to cause wilful harm to as many computers as possible write these programs – the Microsoft Windows environment is their main target.  If you are working under Apple Mac or an open source operating system, you are unlikely to be infected by a nasty virus.

Even if you are using Microsoft Windows, you don’t have to be haunted by the fear of virus attacks – protection is possible!

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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