Leading Open Learning Projects Create a Massive Online Course that Combines Best-of-breed Open Offerings

MIT OpenCourseWare, OpenStudy, Codecademy, and Peer 2 Peer University join to offer "mechanical" MOOC.

CAMBRIDGE, MA, August 21, 2012 — In the past year, schools including Stanford, MIT and Harvard–and spinoffs including Coursera and Udacity–have begun offering massive open online courses (MOOCs) where students numbering in the hundreds of thousands are taught by one or two instructors and a few TAs. Now a group of leading open education projects is announcing the launch of a new MOOC offering in October 2012 with no instructor involved–and in fact no one institution or organization in charge. This so-called "mechanical" MOOC will combine the offerings of three leading open education projects–MIT OpenCourseWare, OpenStudy and Codecademy–loosely linked together by an e-mail list managed by Peer 2 Peer University to create a free and open course on introductory Python Programming.

"The MOOCs that have come out in the last six months are really incredible and have truly moved the needle for online learning," said P2PU co-founder and Executive Director Philipp Schmidt, "but they are based on very sophisticated central platforms and require significant resources to develop. The mechanical MOOC is an attempt to leverage the power of the open web–by loosely joining together a set of independent building blocks. Rather than developing a new platform that does everything–deliver content, support community, provide feedback–we are simply connecting some of the most interesting applications out there, and letting each take care of a particular aspect of the overall learning experience."

The course will combine 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 will earn badges demonstrating mastery through Codecademy and will earn recognition of collaborative skills through OpenStudy's SmartScore.

Participants will register for a mailing list that will coordinate their progress through the content and assessments and signal when discussions on particular topics will occur. The sequencing e-mails will run in multiple rounds, allowing learners who are struggling to fall back into the next round and repeat units and still have a cohort of learners, rather than being left completely behind.

"We want to do more than sign-up tens of thousands of students and have only a fraction succeed," commented OpenStudy co-founder Preetha Ram. "Our goal is to have everyone who participates succeed. We want to help learners remain engaged throughout the course and be supported by a community."

Already, these sites individually draw huge audiences: MIT OpenCourseWare attracts more than 1 million visitors a month, OpenStudy sees 250,000 students coming for help each month, including 16,000 in an introductory programming group, and Codecademy has seen several million users since August 2011. Each program has demonstrated the ability to deliver its particular service at scale, and this offering will seek to build on those successes by building synergies between the offerings.

The course, called "A Gentle Introduction to Python," is slated to start mid-October, 2012, with initial enrollment available starting August 21 at http://mechanicalmooc.org.

About P2PU

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.

About OpenStudy

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.

About Codecademy

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.


Philipp Schmidt
Executive Director
Peer 2 Peer University