Blog Post

How "conventional" MOOCs formed the idea for Crowducate

This is a shortened and modified post for HASTAC from my personal blog how I came up with the idea of Crowducate.

My first post here on HASTAC, explained the concept of Crowducate – interactive crowdsourced courses / learning paths. In short: At Crowducate people can create courses, which are divided into sections and, on the next level, divided into “bite-sized” lectures (note: I think the “unit” might be more appropriate). You consume the courses by reading/watching the material and afterwards you could check your understanding via some quizzes. The key features are that learners can send concrete “change requests” for the lectures and quizzes and furthermore COPY the course to their own profile in order to develop it into a different course (e.g. change the language or just take some of the sections/lectures as basis for a new course). The key features, namely change request and copy course, are inspired by open source software and GitHub (called pull requests and forks).

But how did the idea come into being?

Some of you might have encountered the new phenomena called MOOC (massive open online courses). Most of the greatest universities and many others are offering their courses for free on education platforms (check out edX and iVersity for starters). In some of these courses more than 100,000 online students participate. Yes, hundred thousand! An example from my own experience in this area might give you a clearer picture about the workings of MOOC. In the course of  my “PhD-years”, I decided to  learn more about programming and after my first MOOCs, I stumbled upon one of the greatest MOOCs out there: Startup Engineering by Balaji Srinivasan and Vijay Pande from Stanford. I loved this course. I couldn’t wait until it started. And I learnt a lot. 

However, as Balaji mentioned during the MOOC, delivering an offline course online is not trivial. The lecturers in the course were obviously very busy, having full-time jobs outside the university. It was plainly impossible for them to handle all the students. Some parts of the script or quizzes needed further elaboration. The course’s discussion forum was a tremendous help as loads of knowledgeable people voluntarily helped others out whenever they got stuck. What struck me was their intrinsic motivation. It was the sheer number of volunteers in every course and platform that suddenly made me ask myself: What if we open up the education model in a way that not only the lecturers create a course but also the students? Sure, a discussion forum is a first step but somehow it often seems not enough. It also seems inefficient in some cases as many repetitive questions are answered over and over again. A quick fix of the course’s content could save headaches for future learners. In other words, everybody can copy or request changes and so courses become a little better all the time. This would lead to a decentralized information flow.

Give Crowducate a try and let me know what is the biggest feature to you that is missing here in the comment section.

Cheers from Germany,

Amir

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