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Science Supercourse Project

Starting out as an online repository initiated at University of Pittsburgh and mirrored at the BA, encompassing more than 3,600 PowerPoint lectures on epidemiology and preventive medicine, the Supercourse represented a useful tool for at least one million students from around the globe. A well established starting point which triggered the emergence of the new Science Supercourse to be of a wider scope to include other areas of science in addition to Public Health. Bibliotheca Alexandrina has set out to create the new Science Supercourse to include more than 168,000 lectures covering four major fields of science; Environment, Agriculture, Computer Science in addition to Public Health- and still counting!

Why Science Supercourse?

The aim of the Science Supercourse is to avail free online accessible educational resources to empower academic students and educators worldwide.
The BA has recently unveiled its new expandable online system which includes more lectures, more personalized functionalities and search features than the parent Supercourse. The BA has been focusing on deploying those functionalities and features reinforced by effective dissemination tools, convenient user access and an efficient retrieval system.

System Functionalities

The Science Supercourse offers  a variety of functionalities for its users. Any user may browse through the full repository of lectures and carry out different types of search which include searching within a certain lecture, carrying out a simple search on the overall repository or an advanced search for more specific results.
Registered users on the other hand, have more advanced privileges, where they have their own space for handling the material of their interest. For example, they can create their own library of favorite lectures in the repository; create their own presentations by compiling slides from different lectures; have a list of their bookmarked slides, receive email notifications of the updates of recently added lectures as per their specified favorite categories, etc.

Where did the lectures come from?

ISIS has been compiling lectures on the Science Supercourse from different sources:

  • Crawled from the Internet; where ISIS has created crawling queries on Google using .edu as the search domain (for rendering the credibility of content) and word strings which are derived from standard classifications:
    • Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) standard classification for Computer Engineering lectures
    • National Agriculture Library (NAL) standard classification for Agriculture and Environment lectures
    • Library of Congress (LoC) standard classification for Public Health lectures
  • Uploaded by Users; where professors and experts may upload their own lectures directly onto the Science Supercourse system

Lectures obtained either from crawling or manual uploading are submitted to a Lecture Processing Workflow where the original data on the slides is converted  into images to prevent its alteration, thus allowing users to use the slides as is, maintaining the original input and intellectual property of the author.

Legacy Lectures

Science Supercourse also contains a special section for Legacy Lectures, which encompasses:
Nobel Lectures, which are authored by or tackling the works of Nobel laureates.
Golden Lectures, which are authored by eminent or VIP lecturers.
Just-in-time Lectures, which are produced in times of disasters or emergencies.

Community participation

Users are the main driving force of the Science Supercourse. Therefore, the system has been built on Web 2.0 technologies, aiming to engage community members at different levels. For example, by just viewing and rating lectures, this allows for automatic display of the best ones on top. The system allows registered users to communicate through submitting comment or aid in filtering the lectures by submitting negative reports for certain lectures that may contain ineligible content to be removed from the system.
On another level, the Science Supercourse is a meeting point where experts share their knowledge and their best lectures by uploading them onto the system to be shared with others worldwide. As such, networking is the main factor of success of the Science Supercourse, where each area will have an authorized network of individuals in the field designated to stimulate the contribution of high-quality lectures and to work on reviewing the relevancy and eligibility of the content on the system.

Management of Content

In order to achieve the goal of rendering the Science Supercourse a credible source of material for teachers and educators worldwide, the BA has developed a back-end application which is meant to be a tool for controlling the content on the Science Supercourse system. The application contains a set of functionalities and privileges involving multiple users on different levels. These include the following:
Experts and specialists in the field:

  1. Reviewing lecture content and either accept or reject lectures
  2. Reviewing and editing classification of lectures
  3. Manual crawling of lectures

General Users:

  1. Reviewing negative reports and comments and control their display on the front-end according to the terms of use of the system
  2. Editing authors metadata
  3. Editing lectures metadata

Back-end users may handle one or more of the above mentioned functionalities which could be requested in an Administration Request,  which is granted with reference to the user’s profile and level of expertise.

Future Plans

While the initial focus of the new Science Supercourse is in the areas of Public Health, Agriculture, Environment and Computer Engineering it is planned to extend the scope to other scientific areas in the next several years. Each area will have a "community of practice" to stimulate the contribution of high-quality lectures and to provide guidance and review on coverage of the fields.
So if you are a professor in any of the currently included areas, be part of the network and outreach more audience through the Science Supercourse!

Have a look at the video on YouTube!


Last updated on 03 Oct 2013