For each of the three sites that provide the bulk of the Gentle Intro to Python course (four really, counting the Downey text), there exists an immense infrastructure of technology and process that brings each of the offerings to the Web. As President Obama might say, however, we didn’t build that.
Instead, the Mechanical MOOC uses a relatively light infrastructure to stand on the shoulders of these giants. All of the tools we are using are off-the-shelf and free services, with the exception of the mailgun tool to manage the mailing list. This means that apart from the volunteer effort and P2PU staff time that goes into managing the course, the out of pocket costs to support our thousands of learners is around USD $5,000. Not bad, huh?
Here’s a basic map, if you are thinking of rolling your own Mechanical MOOC-style course:
Most of the internal coordination of the course sequence and e-mail drafts is done using Google tools, and we ran the test group of learners on Google groups as the mailgun tool was not ready. We’re tracking to-dos and issues using Github for the mailer and Trello for the course logistics.
Note how we can take advantage of MIT’s video distribution infrastructure to deliver offline video content, and MIT’s download features to provide the course materials offline. We’re also using Twitter and WordPress (obviously) for communication, and have recommended Github’s Gist as an accessory tool for the students.
The clear question is: Given all of this, can we construct a coherent student experience? Stay tuned…