I blame Andy Rush. It’s all his fault I found myself signing up for another MOOC today. And who knows, maybe I’ll fail this one like all the others. I signed up for MIT’s Learning Creative Learning course, which they’re bringing online with help from P2PU’s open source Mechanical MOOC software. It features an A-list of panelists from week to week including Joi Ito, Alan Kay, and many folks involved in the Lifelong Kindergarten group. But that’s actually the least of the reasons I’m signing up. Maybe I’m more drawn to what it proudly proclaims it isn’t than what it is.
The first thing I noticed when I went to the homepage was that dead center they write:
This is a big experiment. Things will break. We don’t have all the answers. Sometimes we plan to rely on you to make it work. But we’ll try our very darndest to make sure you have a good time, and get something out of it.
What a great way to set expectations. I’d rather see a thousand MOOCs crash and burn because they weren’t afraid to experiment wildly with new tools and ideas than find the trajectory of online education become one of standardized course spaces. We have LMS’s for that, and most people find they suck. How about this line from the About page:
In the spirit of learning and technology, we hope that participants will jump in as collaborators rather than passive recipients. We want to tinker together.
I truly hope their able to maintain that kind of spirit if they do reach massive numbers of participants (and considering it’s MIT I wouldn’t be surprised to see very high enrollment). Indeed when signing up to participate you are given a code that you can pass off to friends that will pair you in a group with them. That means I can bring part of my network with me along for the ride and work together with them. That seems to be much more powerful than the randomized peer-grading you see in Coursera. And perhaps my favorite part of their description of the course:
Check out our shiny new platform
Actually, don’t, because we didn’t build a shiny new platform. Our platform is the web and we like things distributed and open. We also wanted to create a model that is easy to replicate for anyone. We use off-the-shelf Google+ tools, like Hangouts and Google+ communities; and open source software like the Mechanical MOOC. You have no excuse not to build a course like this yourself!
I may not be a huge fan of Google+ but I have to give credit to a group who is willing to try and work with tools that are available to anyone and model them in a large way to help others do the same at their institutions. I haven’t dug into Mechanical MOOC at all so I’m interested in how that works. Ultimately I always find how a course is run much more interesting than the course itself, but maybe that’s why I chose the profession I did. One last awesome example that bodes well for the start of this course: after filling out the signup form, in addition to the standard “Congratulations, you’ll get an email soon” script they also embedded this video:
These are my people.