It’s Alive! The Mechanical MOOC offers “Gentle Intro to Python”

We’re delighted to announce a new experiment in online learning: MIT OpenCourseWare, Codecademy, OpenStudy and P2PU are partnering together to offer a new kind of massive open online course (MOOC). Our first course is “A Gentle Introduction to Python.”

The Mechanical MOOC is a man (or machine) of mystery. It sends out emails to thousands of small groups pointing them to lectures, tutorials, and exercises – but also encourages learners to think for themselves and share additional resources with each other. It provides a map to learning Python, but doesn’t discourage folks from careening off the beaten path. This is the open web, after all.

These weekly messages will loosely tie together great resources that exist on the open web. We are not creating new content, but connecting it in interesting ways. We build on MIT OCW lectures and notes. We point people to a Q&A forum on OpenStudy. And we point users to great python tutorials on Codecademy.

The approach will reach a large audience of learners, but also nudge them to share and support each other in smaller groups. Because the strong relationships that form from working together are important for learning, and motivate peers to move forward together.

The Mechanical MOOC is by no means perfect. But it is a step in the direction towards innovative pedagogy on a massive scale.

And it helps us address some of the big questions about how to create optimal learning experiences, and scale learning to more people. How do we match learners into groups that have the right mix of expertise and learning styles? How important is synchronous interaction to form strong relationships between online learners?

The Mechanical MOOC is a model for online learning and an invitation for more people to get involved in creating their own. The Mechanical MOOC is open, content to source code, soup to nuts, and we are happy to help others build on it.

Check out the article in the New York Times about the Mechanical MOOC: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/21/education/mechanical-mooc-to-rely-on-free-learning-sites.html
Sign up for Mechanical MOOC here: http://mechanicalmooc.org/
Follow Mechanical MOOC on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MOOC_E