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.