Testing out the Mechanical MOOC – the unplatform
I’m working with a group of testers to run through the initial draft of the course sequence for the upcoming Mechanical MOOC Intro to Python course, and I have to say, I am really loving the unplatform aspects of it. I live in one of the more wired cities in the US, and I still spend a fair amount of my time outside of WiFi range. I tried to complete the Udacity Stats course this summer, but one of the challenges was that I always had to be connected. My biggest blocks of free time are during my train commute, when theoretically I have wireless service (from AT&T) but practically I have at best spotty cell coverage (from AT&T). This meant no working on the Stats course during the ride.
Because the Mechanical MOOC depends on existing open content outside of an enforced platform, I have other options. MIT OpenCourseWare helpfully provides a course download option, so I have the 6.189 course installed locally. The text for the course is an open resource downloadable as a PDF. The videos from 6.00 are available through iTunes U, so accessible offline on both my laptop and phone. As an added bonus, OpenStudy just released a mobile interface, so I can even ask and answer questions without a WiFi connection. Codecademy even seems to be functional on my iPhone at some level, though I doubt I’ll try to complete those lessons on that platform.
By not creating and enforcing a single platform, the Mechanical MOOC gives up the opportunity to harvest lots of tightly integrated data about the learners, but it allows us to take advantage of all the hard work that the content and community providers have put into making their environment accessible and inviting. Hopefully this model is going to allow us to meet the learners where they live.