Getting Started with Google Course Builder

Course Builder Wiki:

Quickstart videos are available at

1. Download the software

  • Note: Over time, you may be prompted to upgrade App Engine,  it is not recommended that you do so until a new version of Course Builder is released.

2. Start the Google App Engine Launcher

  1. Open the Google App Engine Launcher application (logo on right)
  2. The first time you start the Launcher on Mac, you may see a dialog box asking you about symbolic links. For Google App Engine to work, you must agree to set up symbolic links.

3. Register your app with Google App Engine

  1. You must be logged into your account to register an App Engine app.
  2. Register your app in one of two ways:
  1. Once you login, you should see your Google App Engine dashboard.
  2. Click on Create Application

4. Update your app.yaml file

The file app.yaml is the configuration file for your Google App Engine app.

  1. Edit the app.yaml file found in the Course Builder folder you downloaded in step 1.

The first line of the app.yaml file is:  application: mycourse

  1. Replace mycourse with the app ID you created in step 3.

Note for Windows 7 users: Do not use Notepad to edit Course Builder files. If you do, every Course Builder file appears to be one long line. Please use another text editor, such as WordPad.

5. Add your Course Builder application to Google App Engine

  1. In the Google App Engine Launcher, from the File menu, choose Add Existing Application.
  2. For the Path, select the Course Builder directory you downloaded in the first step.
  3. Click on Add.

A new line appears in the Launcher. Its name is the name you put in the app.yaml file.

6. Set up an app-specific password

Course Builder uses 2-step authentication to ensure the security of your courses. This means that to deploy your application, you must create a password that is specific to this application.


  1. Navigate to
  2. Click Security and then Review Permissions under Connected Applications and Sites.
  3. Follow the instructions at the bottom of the page to create an app-specific password for App Engine.

7. Upload (or deploy) your app

  1. Click Deploy on the Google App Engine Launcher.
  2. Enter your username and application specific password from step 5.

8. Create your course(s)

  1. Navigate to your instance of Course Builder. It is most likely at

  1. Click the Admin link in the upper right hand corner. Login if you do not see Admin and Dashboard.
  2. Click Add course

  1. Name your course, create its namespace, and assign admins, click Add new course to close.
  2. Click on the course title and click Dashboard to begin adding content to your course.
    Each course has its own namespace, and can be found at e.g. Advanced Power Searching can be found at and Power Searching at

9. Build your course

  1. In the CourseBuilder Dashboard, click on Add Unit. Give the Unit a name and select whether the course should remain private (used while the Unit is in development) or public to registered users. Click Close to return to the dashboard.
  1. Note, your entire course is private until you make it available for registration by clicking Settings, and checking Make Course Available
  1. Click Add Lesson and enter a title.
  2. The first text box is the lesson editor. You can add in your content via the rich text editor or switch to the HTML editor.
  1. In addition to various formatting buttons, clicking the toolbox button   provides additional options for embedding your content.
  1. The second text box is the activity editor. Activities are opportunities for students to interact with content and receive feedback.
  1. See box on next page for sample code to try
  2. More information on activity creation can be found at
  1. Assessments are graded tests in Course Builder. These can be used to determine whether or not the student has completed the course.
  1. Assessments can be automatically graded, or peers can review each other’s work.
  2. More information on creating assessments can be found at

Go to the Course Builder wiki for more information and best practices:

Sample Activity code from Power Searching with Google: Unit 1 Lesson 6

var activity = [

  '<table border="1"><tr><td><b>Search Tips:</b><p>In the last video, you learned how to quickly find text on a page:</p><ul><li>Windows computers: press the control and F keys at the same time. <p><li>Apple computers: press the command and F keys at the same time. <p><li>Android tablets: in a browser window, touch the menu button in the top right of the screen, then select "find on page". <p><li>Safari on iPad tablets: click the cursor in the search box in the upper right corner of the screen. Directly above the keyboard, a "find on page" box will open. </tr></td></table><p>For the following questions, go to the <a href="" target="_blank"> US Geological Survey’s list of Historic World Earthquakes</a>.</p>',

  { questionType: 'multiple choice group',

    questionsList: [ {questionHTML: '<b>1.</b> In the United States, the state of California is known for its earthquakes. Have there been earthquakes in Iowa?',

                      choices: ['Yes', 'No'],

                      correctIndex: 0},

                     {questionHTML: '<b>2.</b> Has there ever been an earthquake in Maine?',

                      choices: ['Yes', 'No'],

                      correctIndex: 0},

                     {questionHTML: '<b>3.</b> Which state (Iowa or Maine) had an earthquake more recently?',

                      choices: ['Iowa', 'Maine'],

                      correctIndex: 1}


    allCorrectOutput: 'Hopefully you used Control-F to find the information quickly.',

    someIncorrectOutput: 'Remember, you can use Control-F to find information like this more quickly. Please try again.'},

  '<p><b>4.</b> When was the last historic earthquake in your area? Share your answer in the <a href="LINK_TO_COURSE_FORUM" target="_blank">forum</a>.</p>',