The massive open online course (MOOC) movement is still in its infancy, but some faculty members are already tweaking the format. One form emphasizes interaction between students, whether between high-achieving students and their peers within a MOOC or between online and on-campus students.
“In a classroom or a learning setting, people want to connect with others,” Tina Seelig, executive director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program, told University Business. “My big insight is not that they want to connect with the teacher. It’s that connecting with other students is equally important.”
Seelig taught a MOOC last spring that had 25,000 registered students. She reported that 50% of the students who completed the first assignment finished the course, but she also recruited the most active students onto a teaching team to respond to the thousands of comments that appeared on the discussion board for the course.
Gordon Mitchell, associate professor of communications at the University of Pittsburgh, has developed a hybrid open online course that gives online students the chance to interact with graduate students on campus. The graduate students teach lessons, which they prepare themselves to the online students, who participate by posting comments on Twitter.
“It’s a symbiotic evolution for two courses that are happening at the same time,” Mitchell explained. “They’re working on a parallel, evolutionary path.”