There's yet another approach to providing free online learning. In this model there's no course instructor but you still get to study with other people, if you choose to do so. There are no certificates but you can earn badges.
The idea behind Mechanical MOOC is that given a "light amount of co-ordination" it is possible to harness existing online tools rather than develop new delivery platforms. The approach is to "unbundle" content, community and assessment, each of which is handled by a separate entity.
Mechanical MOOC's inaugural course, starting October 15 and lasting 8 weeks, is A Gentle Introduction to Python and it combines four well respected partners:
- Content - MIT OpenCourseWare
- Exercises and Assessment - Code Academy
- Community - OpenStudy
- Co-ordination - Peer 2 Peer University
Co-ordination is perhaps the key to the success of this operation and this relies on an e-mail scheduler and a mailing list - and this is the part that is "mechanical".
If you sign up to the introductory Python course on the Mechanical MOOC site you are rewarded by a three-minute video of pop music and then a confirmation email from "The Machine" that simply says Hello - which seems appropriate for the initial step on the road to learning a Python but runs a high risk of going into an automatic spam bin.
So will this class gain MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) status of thousands of participants and what will the learning experience be like? There are no certificates on completion, but you can earn badges for exercises and assessments. Will this be enough to motivate students to complete the course?
Time will tell.