Rixner, Warren, Greiner and Wong honored by trustees

Four members of the Computer Science Department faculty received special recognition at the March 21 Rice Board of Trustees meeting for developing and launching Rice’s first massive open online course (MOOC) on Coursera. Coursera, which launched in 2012, was the first education platform to host MOOC content from multiple world-renowned universities on one website.

Rice University's first Coursera class is taught by computer scientists (from left) Scott Rixner, Stephen Wong, Joe Warren and John Greiner. In their introductory course video, they demonstrate "Rock-paper-scissors-lizard-Spock," the first game that students will program in the class.

The honorees were Scott Rixner, associate professor in computer science and electrical and computer engineering; Joe Warren, professor and chair of computer science; and John Greiner and Stephen Wong, lecturers in computer science. Their course, An Introduction to Interactive Programming in Python, had an enrollment of more than 80,000.

The nine-week course includes more than 70 video lectures, each just a few minutes long. There are also weekly quizzes and assignments called “mini projects,” which involve writing about 100-200 lines of code. If the code is written correctly, the students can play the game they’ve created and even email a link to let friends and family play too.

To determine the best way to teach the class, Rixner, Warren, Greiner and Wong piloted the course with Rice students in COMP 160 before launching the MOOC.

Carolie Allgood, assistant dean of the George R. Brown School of Engineering, said the course is ranked as the best MOOC in any discipline across several popular MOOC rating sites. Some of the biggest praise has been from the students actually enrolled in the course.

“To be completely honest, this is the best online class I’ve ever taken, including ones from my college that I was paying for,” one student wrote.

“You have proven that online education can be a superior mode of learning when the right format is used along with world-class professors,” wrote another student. “If I ever meet you guys in person, I will be asking for your autograph.”


About Arie Passwaters

Arie Wilson Passwaters is a Web editor in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.