One of the most commonly asserted objections to MOOCs is that there’s only so much you can learn by passively sitting in front of a screen watching bite-sized video clips of a talking professor. Without a lecturer and classmates to bounce ideas off of, to push each other to new discoveries, the criticism goes, no true learning is possible. There have been attempts to address this fault through better platform design (with things like web forums and small group setups via chat and email), but engagement remains the Achilles’ Heel of the MOOC modelNovoEd, a new MOOC platform designed to encourage collaboration and team-based learning, thinks it has a solution for this problem. The platform has just finished its first course, a 40,000 person course on entrepreneurship, for which it claimed generally good reviews. PanoDaily explains how this MOOC platform’s collaborative aspects set it apart from others:
The NovoED MOOC platform was built from the ground up with collaboration in mind.This matters because one of the big criticisms of MOOCs is that students aren’t engaged. Static online learning—watching videos and answering quizzes—does not beat in-person classroom interaction and dialogue. NovoED is banking that the social nature of the platform will give MOOC students a certain level of accountability, and lower the dropout rate. “It’s not just some abstract professor,” Eesley says. “They don’t want to let down their teammates.”
In the early days of internet-based journalism, the MSM scoffed at bloggers as a bunch of losers in their pajamas banging away at a keyboard; in many cases they were right (and in many cases they still are). But the medium evolved, yielding some powerful new voices along the way. MOOC designers, likewise, are still in the experimental phase.