Teaching basic lab skills
for research computing

What About MOOCs?

We frequently get asked whether Software Carpentry would work as a MOOC. The answer is that I think it can work well if it's what Siemens and Downes actually had in mind when they coined the term. They didn't people watching videos and then doing robo-graded exercises; instead, their connectivist model of learning assumed that participants would use the internet to collaborate in exploring ideas, rather than as a faster form of television.

I'm definitely excited about the Siemens and Downes kind of MOOC. In particular, I believe that instructors who don't have time to teach a full workshop might give us an hour a week to help people via one-to-one or one-to-few sessions via Skype and screen sharing. There was a lot of enthusiasm among the instructors for this when we tried it in the spring of 2012; that experiment wound down because we lacked critical mass, but we're five times larger now, and I think it would be worth trying again.

The most interesting question for me is where this fits. Should we start people off this way? Should people do the first day in person (so that we can get them through software setup and configuration issues), then do the rest online? Should this be used as the "day 3" follow-on that everyone keeps asking for? We'd like to try all of this and more; if you'd like to help, please let us know.

Dialogue & Discussion

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