UBC instructor develops free AP psychology classes

UBC psychology instructor, Steven Barnes, has developed six Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in order to help high school students prepare for the Advanced Placement psychology exam. The first course will be available on September 13 to students from over 150 countries and subsequent courses will become available a month later.

“What these courses offer is either a free tool for teachers to use in their classrooms, or if the student doesn’t have access to an AP psychology class, they can take these courses for free online and hopefully it will prepare them well for the AP exam,” said Barnes.

These six online courses are also beneficial for post-secondary students in first year psychology classes. Although, according to Barnes, these courses cannot be considered a substitute for face-to-face learning, but instead offer an "alternative approach to learning."

“This basically involves a series of videos of some kind and those videos might be formal lectures, screen captures or they might be something that’s more involved. These courses that I’ve developed have quite a mixture of video lectures, as well as a free textbook that’s embedded in the courses,” he said.

The course also provides access to interviews with psychological researchers, demonstration videos, practices questions and practice tests emulating the AP psychology exam.

The creation of these courses took one year of continuous work by Barnes and a team of five undergraduate students and two graduate students. One of these students, Cameron Parro, a fourth-year biology student, took on the role of project manager.  

 “I was mostly behind the scenes — coordinating schedules, assigning tasks to various team members and largely my role has been involved in the actual building of the courses on the edX platform,” said Parro.

“I think one of the things that really stands out is how engaging the lectures themselves are. Steven and the whole video production team put a ton of time into making the lectures really interesting and really dynamic,” said Parro. “With these MOOCs, the whole team has done a really good job at making them short and to the point, and really engaging throughout the whole course.”

The process of creating the courses began in May of 2015 after UBC was contacted by edX — a platform which offers free online courses from the world's best universities that is based out of Harvard and MIT. 

“[UBC's] department of psychology itself has a very good reputation internationally,” said Barnes. 

MOOCs like those created by UBC are largely meant to allow more students to have access to high quality educational resources. For instance, 8,000 people from approximately 150 countries and ranging in age from 14 to 70 are enrolled in Barnes's course right now.

“There are people taking it from all walks of life and all educational backgrounds,” said Barnes.