Of headless MOOCs

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Kim’n’Cris Knight

A little-known fact about the Mechanical MOOC:  it was originally going to be called a “headless MOOC,” owing to the lack of instructor presence. The good folks at P2PU gently suggested that that might not be the best image for the class, and came up with the term “Mechanical MOOC,” which we are all relieved to have gone with.  Imagine what MOOC-E might have looked like.  It makes my bolts shudder.

We are thrilled, though, to see the folks at DS106 Digital Storytelling at the University of Mary Washington—one of the true landmark open education courses out there—exploring the headless approach with a recent experiment.  From the DS106 site:

Since January 2011 ds106 has been taught at University of Mary Washington (UMW) and other institutions as a course for credit but also has at the same time been open to participants from the web (learn more about ds106). However, for someone new to ds106 as an open participant, it has not been very clear what they can do (we’ve made some suggestions as a starting point).

Because UMW is not offering a formal course for Fall 2013, I had a thought– what if we set up a syllabus based on the previous iterations of class, set the weekly assignments as scheduled posts, and invited people to participate in it as a course w/o a teacher?

Alan Levine has some nice analysis of how the course went on CogDogBlog:

For the long haul, you need a continual flow of people reaching their own peak ds106 experience…

I sometimes use the phrase “infection” for the manic state some people get when they immerse themselves into ds106. My peak experience was the Spring of 2011 when I probably did every bit and more of the open course, and the only reason for my stay in here is I have gotten infected with the insides of the operation.

So what was refreshing this time was seeing a solid group of people more new to ds106 and watching their peak experiences roll out. Some peaked out, my new mantra is all glasses are pleasantly partly full.

I can see packaging the headless syllabus and assignment posts as an on going, self paced option for people who want to go through ds106 at its own pace. I wonder, ponder, and still cannot say for sure whether the weekly pace of an open course needs to be at that pace.

I like Levine’s notion of “peak experience.”  That sounds like what we are trying to accomplish with the Mechanical MOOC.  Not the rigid structure of a classroom course, but a framework that will generate a flow of people grooving on code.

Doesn’t matter if everyone keeps up with the prescribed pace.  The materials and the structure are always there.  It’s likely better if some fall behind and some forge ahead–it gives a nice mix of expertise to the community, allowing folks to help one another.  And hopefully we have people from prior rounds of the course still hanging around.

If you like the Mechanical MOOC Python course, definitely check out the headless DS106.

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Week 8 – Tell us what you think #mooc #mmooc #seq21oct13

Seq21Oct13: Mailed 19 December 2013.

Mechanical MOOCians,

We’ve distributed our last assignment e-mail, and we hope that wherever you are in the course progression, you are enjoying the journey.  Don’t worry that the course assignments are all out, we’re in no hurry for you to go.  Take your time and finish up at your own pace.

In the mean time, we’d love to get your thoughts on the course.  Your input can help future learners have a better experience and help us learn about learning.

We have a short survey we’ve pulled together (30 questions) that should take about ten minutes to answer.  We’d really love your feedback, and as always, participation is voluntary and data will only be shared anonymously.  Here’s the link:

(Note: link removed to prevent responses from non-enrollees.  If you missed the survey and want the link, e-mail mooc-e@p2pu.org.)

Thanks, now go forth and code!

–The Mechanical MOOC

Tweet #mmooc | Follow @MOOC_E | MMOOC Blog

The Mechanical MOOC’s A Gentle Introduction to Python is a collaboration between Peer 2 Peer UniversityMIT OpenCourseWareOpenStudy, and Codecademy. For this course, Peer 2 Peer University has developed an email scheduler that coordinates student activity across the participating sites to facilitate collaborative learning. This email was generated by the scheduler. A full archive of emails for this course sequence is available here. For more information, please visit http://mechanicalmooc.org. For questions regarding the logistics of the course, please e-mail mooc-e@p2pu.org.

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Week 8 – The final countdown #mooc #mmooc #seq21oct13

Seq21Oct13: Mailed 16 December 2013.

Mighty MOOCers,

This is it.  The final week’s assignments.  We hope that you’ve learned some Python, made some friends and enjoyed this experiment in a new model for learning.  The final assignment:

That’s it.  When you’ve done that, you’re done.  But fear not–we’re not going anywhere, so neither should you.  If you are running behind a little, take your time.  If you are done, feel free to hang with us on OpenStudy and continue to help out other learners.  And if you have thoughts about other Mechanical MOOC courses we might offer, let us know.

Thanks for joining us for this leap into a new world of learning.

–The Mechanical MOOC

Tweet #mmooc | Follow @MOOC_E | MMOOC Blog

The Mechanical MOOC’s A Gentle Introduction to Python is a collaboration between Peer 2 Peer UniversityMIT OpenCourseWareOpenStudy, and Codecademy. For this course, Peer 2 Peer University has developed an email scheduler that coordinates student activity across the participating sites to facilitate collaborative learning. This email was generated by the scheduler. A full archive of emails for this course sequence is available here. For more information, please visit http://mechanicalmooc.org. For questions regarding the logistics of the course, please e-mail mooc-e@p2pu.org.

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Week 7 – Less reading, more coding #mooc #mmooc #seq21oct13

Seq21Oct13: Mailed 9 December 2013.

MechMOOCsters,

Week 7–less reading and watching, more coding. This week we will finish up the readings, videos and most of the Codecademy exercises, and begin to focus intensively on projects that will put what we’ve learned to practice in a series of projects. The training wheels are coming off.

Materials:

Tasks:

As always, ask for help for help on OpenStudy or from your cluster peers. And remember to hand out medals on OpenStudy to anyone who helps you out!

Keep on coding!

– The Mechanical MOOC

Tweet #mmooc | Follow @MOOC_E | MMOOC Blog

The Mechanical MOOC’s A Gentle Introduction to Python is a collaboration between Peer 2 Peer UniversityMIT OpenCourseWareOpenStudy, and Codecademy. For this course, Peer 2 Peer University has developed an email scheduler that coordinates student activity across the participating sites to facilitate collaborative learning. This email was generated by the scheduler. A full archive of emails for this course sequence is available here. For more information, please visit http://mechanicalmooc.org. For questions regarding the logistics of the course, please e-mail mooc-e@p2pu.org.

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Week 6 – P2PU tip jar #mooc #mmooc #seq21oct13

Seq21Oct13: Sent 5 December 2013.

Mechanical MOOCers,

You may be wondering what it costs us to run the Mechanical MOOC course–after all, we’re helping hundreds of people to learn Python programming. The answer is not much, which is why we can afford to offer the course for free. It costs more or less the fees for our mailgun account, which we estimate to be around a thousand dollars per offering the course. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that the Mechanical MOOC is a volunteer effort without the kind of multimillion dollar backing some other MOOC ventures have. And we’re okay with that. We like it when education is a community effort. Peer 2 Peer U, the group running the mailing list, is paying the fees for it out of their (very modest) non-profit budget. If you are enjoying the course, and learning Python, we’d appreciate any help you can provide in offsetting the program costs. You can donate at: http://info.p2pu.org/donate/

And if you can’t—or don’t want to—hey, we’re cool with that too. We just ask that you use your newfound Python powers for good.

Keep on MOOCin’

–The Mechanical MOOC

Tweet #mmooc | Follow @MOOC_E | MMOOC Blog

The Mechanical MOOC’s A Gentle Introduction to Python is a collaboration between Peer 2 Peer UniversityMIT OpenCourseWareOpenStudy, and Codecademy. For this course, Peer 2 Peer University has developed an email scheduler that coordinates student activity across the participating sites to facilitate collaborative learning. This email was generated by the scheduler. A full archive of emails for this course sequence is available here. For more information, please visit http://mechanicalmooc.org. For questions regarding the logistics of the course, please e-mail mooc-e@p2pu.org.

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Week 6 – Let the projects begin! #mooc #mmooc #seq21oct 13

Seq21Oct3: Sent 2 December 2013.

Mechanical MOOCers,

Hope everyone had a good break, however you spent it. On to week 6. Here we begin a shift in the course materials from a focus on reading and exercises to project work. Now we’re gettin’ (more) real.

Here are your materials and tasks:

Materials:

Tasks:

  • First: Complete sections 3.10 and 3.11 from Written Exercises 3
  • Second: Complete sections 3.6 and Optionals Exercises 1 & 2 from Handout 3 of 6.189 A Gentle Introduction to Computer Science
  • Complete Project 1

As always, ask for help for help on OpenStudy or from your cluster peers. And remember to hand out medals on OpenStudy to anyone who helps you out!

Show off them mad skills!

– The Mechanical MOOC

Tweet #mmooc | Follow @MOOC_E | MMOOC Blog

The Mechanical MOOC’s A Gentle Introduction to Python is a collaboration between Peer 2 Peer UniversityMIT OpenCourseWareOpenStudy, and Codecademy. For this course, Peer 2 Peer University has developed an email scheduler that coordinates student activity across the participating sites to facilitate collaborative learning. This email was generated by the scheduler. A full archive of emails for this course sequence is available here. For more information, please visit http://mechanicalmooc.org. For questions regarding the logistics of the course, please e-mail mooc-e@p2pu.org.

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Break week – Take it easy #mooc #mmooc #seq21oct13

Seq21Oct13: Sent 25 November 2013.

Mechanical MOOCians,

We are hoping you’ve enjoyed the course so far, and we know you’ve been working hard.  We know from previous offerings of the course also, that some of you may be running a bit behind by now, so we’ve built a one week break into the middle of the course.  It’s also Thanksgiving week in the US and Hanukkah for our Jewish participants, so many of your classmates are spending time with family.

Our goal is to help you learn Python, not to enforce a rigid schedule, so whether you are ahead, keeping pace, or running behind, think of this as your week to do what suits you.  If you are behind, take the time to catch up; if you are on pace or ahead, take a breather, or continue working ahead if you like.  The assignments for the whole course are posted on the course blog.

We’ll resume our regular programming next Monday with the assignment e-mail for Week 6.  Until then, enjoy this week however you choose to spend it.

Yours MOOCfully,

The Mechanical MOOC

Tweet #mmooc | Follow @MOOC_E | MMOOC Blog

The Mechanical MOOC’s A Gentle Introduction to Python is a collaboration between Peer 2 Peer UniversityMIT OpenCourseWareOpenStudy, and Codecademy. For this course, Peer 2 Peer University has developed an email scheduler that coordinates student activity across the participating sites to facilitate collaborative learning. This email was generated by the scheduler. A full archive of emails for this course sequence is available here. For more information, please visit http://mechanicalmooc.org. For questions regarding the logistics of the course, please e-mail mooc-e@p2pu.org.

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