November 8th, 2012 — In August of this year, a group of leading open education projects announced the launch of a massive open online class (MOOC) that had no instructor or central learning platform. This so-called “mechanical” MOOC combined the offerings of three leading open education projects—MIT OpenCourseWare, OpenStudy and Codecademy—loosely linked together by an e-mail list to create a free and open course on introductory Python programming. The initial offering of the course, managed by Peer 2 Peer University, attracted 6,000 learners from around the world. A second round of the course will begin in late November, even before the first has concluded.
Sign up for the next offering of A Gentle Introduction to Python at http://mechanicalmooc.org
The vision for the course is that the e-mail list helps participants to keep moving through the materials together, but also provides flexibility supporting the differing pace of individual learners. “There’s no penalty for working faster or slower than the e-mail schedule,” notes P2PU Executive Director Philipp Schimdt. “Since the resources are all openly available, our job is more about creating community than enforcing rigid schedules.” The e-mail list driven model also means that new rounds of the course can be started at any time, allowing multiple cohorts of students to move through the materials and even support one another.
“There are tremendous advantages to our approach,” comments OpenStudy’s co-founder and CEO Preetha Ram. “The learners from the first round are now four weeks into the course. They’ll be a tremendous resource for the learners starting in the second round. And for students in the first round who are struggling, they have the option of dropping back to the second round.” P2PU’s Schmidt also notes that the Mechanical MOOC model supports very rapid iteration and improvement. “We’re folding what we learn from the first round directly into the second round six weeks later. We don’t have to wait for a semester to end or course to conclude.”
The Gentle Introduction to Python course combines content from MIT OpenCourseWare’s 6.189 A Gentle Introduction to Python class, with a study group supported through OpenStudy and instant feedback and practice projects from Codecademy. Learners earn badges demonstrating mastery through Codecademy and earn recognition of collaborative skills through OpenStudy’s SmartScore.
The Peer 2 Peer University is a grassroots open education project that organizes learning outside of institutional walls and gives learners recognition for their achievements. P2PU creates a model for lifelong learning alongside traditional formal higher education. Leveraging the internet and educational materials openly available online, P2PU enables high-quality low-cost education opportunities. P2PU – learning for everyone, by everyone about almost anything.
OpenStudy is a social study network where students can ask questions, give help, collaborate and meet others. Founded by professors and students from Georgia Tech and Emory University, and funded by the National Science Foundation and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, OpenStudy believes that students can teach other students through collaborative learning. OpenStudy believes in making the world one large study group where students can work together in a single place regardless of their school, country or background.
Codecademy is the easiest way to learn to code. Since its launch in August of 2011, Codecademy has been used by millions of users in more than 100 countries. Users learn to build websites, create web applications, and to understand the fundamentals of computer science through an innovative, interactive interface. Codecademy is funded by top tier investors like Union Square Ventures and Kleiner Perkins.
About MIT OpenCourseWare
MIT OpenCourseWare makes the materials used in the teaching of substantially all of MIT’s undergraduate and graduate courses—more than 2,100 in all—available on the Web, free of charge, to any user in the world. OCW receives an average of 1.75 million web site visits per month from more than 215 countries and territories worldwide. To date, more than 125 million individuals have accessed OCW materials.