Google Launches Free Tool To Let You Run Your Own Online Courses

Sensing the excitement from online education tools like edX, Google has just unveiled a (very beta) version of its own course building software. If you’ve ever wanted to run your own online courses, this might be worth your time.

Google’s new Course Builder software comes on the heels of a massively popular online Google class ‘Power Searching With Google‘ hosted by Google’s Director of Research, Peter Norvig.

Click here to get started with Google’s new Course Builder

Why They Did It

Norvig shared a bit more information about the impetus for creating the online course and the power searching course, saying it “was a strong success and also generated some technology that we thought would be useful to share with the world,” says Norvig. “We feel that by sharing the code that we’ve generated, we can impact more people in the education space. There is a lot of experimentation going on in the industry at this point, and we felt that contributing an open source project would be a beneficial starting point that could help everyone.”

It’s interesting that Google is trying to do something completely new rather than help build edX or an already established tool. That being said, the more the merrier as we all benefit when the mega-tech-giants like Google get involved.

Google+ Hangouts Coming Soon

Join Peter Norvig and special guests for two Hangouts on Air. Peter will answer your questions about MOOC design and the technical aspects of using Course Builder. Click here for details.

  • 19 Sept 10:00am – 10:45am PDT (5:00pm UTC)
  • 26 Sept 10:00am – 10:45am PDT (5:00pm UTC)

The Details From Google

From Peter Norvig, Director of Research

In July, Research at Google ran a large open online course, Power Searching with Google, taught by search expert, Dan Russell. The course was successful, with 155,000 registered students. Through this experiment, we learned that Google technologies can help bring education to a global audience. So we packaged up the technology we used to build Power Searching and are providing it as an open source project called Course Builder. We want to make this technology available so that others can experiment with online learning.

The Course Builder open source project is an experimental early step for us in the world of online education. It is a snapshot of an approach we found useful and an indication of our future direction. We hope to continue development along these lines, but we wanted to make this limited code base available now, to see what early adopters will do with it, and to explore the future of learning technology. We will be hosting a community building event in the upcoming months to help more people get started using this software. edX shares in the open source vision for online learning platforms, and Google and the edX team are in discussions about open standards and technology sharing for course platforms.

We are excited that Stanford University, Indiana University, UC San Diego,,, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), and a group of universities in Spain led by Universia, CRUE, and Banco Santander-Universidades are considering how this experimental technology might work for some of their online courses. Sebastian Thrun at Udacity welcomes this new option for instructors who would like to create an online class, while Daphne Koller at Coursera notes that the educational landscape is changing and it is exciting to see new avenues for teaching and learning emerge. We believe Google’s preliminary efforts here may be useful to those looking to scale online education through the cloud.

Along with releasing the experimental open source code, we’ve provided documentation and forums for anyone to learn how to develop and deploy an online course like Power Searching. In addition, over the next two weeks we will provide educators the opportunity to connect with the Google team working on the code via Google Hangouts. For access to the code, documentation, user forum, and information about the Hangouts, visit the Course Builder Open Source Project Page. To see what is possible with the Course Builder technology register for Google’s next version of Power Searching. We invite you to explore this brave new world of online learning with us.


  1. Craig Murphy

    September 11, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    Interesting article, what I haven’t been able to gather is are Google merely providing a course builder application or are they also offering a solution for deployment as well? I’m an elearning advocate rather than a techy so apologies if I’ve missed something simple here.

    • nolai

      September 12, 2012 at 2:44 am

      its a bit of both you deploy with their googleappengine solution so your course will be an app that you deploy with googleappengine.

  2. Katie Jones

    September 12, 2012 at 10:14 am

    A google app for online courses, interesting.

  3. Violetta

    September 12, 2012 at 11:53 am

    Sounds very interesting indeed. I would be very curious to read case studies and some real life examples of how it went.

  4. Nisan

    September 12, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    Try Sparkeo they have great course builder too

  5. Time Flieslikeanarrow

    September 13, 2012 at 1:13 am

    Sounds interesting. It would be useful to give times of the hangouts in UTC which is the global time reference – presumably you are not intentionally being US-centric? Hint: the rest of the world knows their timezones relative to UTC/GMT, not to some US daylight saving zone, so can work out the times off the tops of their heads. Sure, you’re only copying Google.

    • Jeff Dunn

      September 13, 2012 at 11:26 am

      Updated the text so it now displays the time(s) of the Google+ Hangouts in both PDT and UTC. Hope that helps you plan your day and lets you attend!

  6. Ivan Travkin

    September 13, 2012 at 2:46 am

    Google invented… There is also platforms like Lore (CourseKit) and Inversity. These services are not betas :)

  7. Debbie Ruston

    September 13, 2012 at 8:56 am

    There are so many directions that educators can take outside of the traditional classroom form of teaching. Wonderful to see another tool like this for those that are embracing the change in higher ed to consider as a new alternative!

  8. tommcdonald

    September 14, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    When it comes to long term learner centric learning, of critical must know information, we need to be asking the tough questions (Let’s get past the frenzy of a new free app):

    (1) How will this free app advance long term individual learning outcomes of individual students?

    (2) Where is the proven learning research behind the application that empowers the teacher to empower the learner to advance individual learning outcomes long term? Will the traditional pedagogy be changed, as is needed?

    (3) Based on real life, student learning scenarios, what are the measurable, advanced learning outcomes experienced by using this application?

    (4) How does this application differ from traditional, similar applications, beyond being free and how will it additionally advance individual long term learning outcomes?

    As we know long term deep learning in education is a huge problem and we need an application, free or otherwise, that addresses advanced individual student long term learning, transfer and application outcomes

  9. Farah

    September 14, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    Hi Jeff… is that a public domain image? I like it and would like to use it in a totally different blog about Google.


    • Jeff Dunn

      September 14, 2012 at 4:22 pm

      I made it myself but you should feel free to use it too!

  10. ajaypoonia

    September 17, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    hello everyone..
    I wanted to start my own online classes for my city. I was looking for a software which can make my dreams true.Plz help.