Free programming class at UNI has gained international attention

UNI NEWS SERVICES – A University of Northern Iowa professor has been offering free online courses for teachers to learn "Scratch," a graphical programming language that runs completely in a web browser. Students can use Scratch to create interactive artwork, tell digital stories and create games. Ben Schafer, an associate professor in the computer science department, developed this free course geared toward elementary and middle school teachers who are interested in learning how to integrate computer science into their curriculum.

"In the six years we’ve offered this course, we’ve reached a wide variety of teachers,” said Schafer. “They range from brand-new programmers who want to introduce programming into their classrooms, all the way to experienced programmers who want to learn more about how to work with Scratch.” This year, teachers are enrolled in the course from 35 different U.S. states and 23 different world countries (including the U.S.).

The online course was initially developed through a grant from Google in 2014 meant to spread computer science to new audiences. It has been active since that time, and it has recently been rebuilt to reflect the upgrade to Scratch 3.0.

"I’m most proud of the continued demand and reach of the course," said Schafer. “In 2014, the course reached mostly teachers in Iowa, but by the second year, we were nationwide. Now, we are global, and I think that’s incredible.”

Other contributors to the course include Philip East, a faculty emeritus in the computer science department.

For more information about Scratch, visit



Ben Schafer, associate professor, computer science, 319-273-2187,

Office of University Relations, 319-273-2761