Next steps for the Mechanical MOOC / MOOC Maker

We talked on Wednesday about the future of the Mechanical MOOC. One of the next steps we’ve decided on was to create a page somewhere to gauge interest in the Mechanical MOOC from a wider audience.

Things that almost qualify are and

Where would the best place be and what type of copy do we want to put up? Also, should the contact us form be email only, or can we include questions about technical skills, etc?

@Erika @1L2P @Carl @bekka @vanessa

I guess the question that first comes to mind is how much information would we need to add to / remove from either or both of those posts to make them appropriate?

I think it also depends on whether we want the Mechanical MOOC to be something we just offer people “off the shelf” or see it as a tool that we use as the basis of partnerships, since those imply different levels of engagement from us.

But to answer some of your questions, Dirk:
I think we should ask about tech skills initially, perhaps some kind of a google form might be useful?

How will you reach most people? If serious about gauging interest, should it be going out on thepeople, with mailblast to advertise? (mailing list still seems to get the most 3rd-party involvement?). At the end of the day, feels like the two options presented are more about recording past achievement not gauging future interest, so query if they’re best suited to being coopted into that role.

Tho if they are the best place to reach people, then based on form alone, I like the first one better ( Short, sweet jumping off point for 'Mech MOOC: here it is, here’s what we’ve done with it, here’s some more reading, here’s where to join the conversation (or ‘if interested, pls respond to poll on thepeople at …’, or similar).

Second option (the lab report) should be linked from the first as further reading.

So some things that may work:

  1. We create a special newsletter with a poll/google form included that people can fill out
  2. We update to include a google form for gauging interest and add links to reports and other relevant places (github).
  3. We write a blog post to gauge interest
  4. We put it on our homepage under the MOOCs section - something like “interested in running your own mooc - click here”

I’m concerned that things we do on and won’t get enough traffic and that we will need to drive a lot of traffic there to guage interest. get’s the most traffic and also a broader audience.

On a side note, I think needs some updating in any case.

Who should do the work? I’m happy to make google forms and update to homepage/reports/info, but I don’t think I’m best suited for writing the copy for any of this?

Perhaps I’ve missed this, but has there been anything reported about the participation rates of Mechanical MOOCs - retention, contributions/activity, etc? I know you’ve run a number of them - have you learnt useful lessons - ideal number of members in automatically created groups, etc? I find the idea very interesting, but I have heard very little about how it actually works out in practice. A clearer explanation of what exactly the mechanical MOOC offers, and what you have to build/cobble together yourself, how easy it is to integrate with various systems, customize, etc might also be useful. I know there’s a number of research projects on MOOCs going on, but often they are stymied by the fact that it’s very difficult or impossible to significantly experiment with the platform itself, which is controlled by Coursera, EdX etc, so much research tends to be post-hoc data crunching, rather than actually experimenting with pedagogical / technological changes. The Mechanical MOOC might thus offer an interesting opportunity for learning researchers.

We do have some of the stats.

@vanessa wrote about the data mooc on the blog and I know June Ahn wrote something about the first Python MOOC.

I don’t know if there was anything done with the data from the learning creative learning MOOC? Maybe @1l2p knows?

I’m also not sure what June is currently working on? He has the data up until the 4th sequence of the Python MOOC.

We decided that we’ll update the MOOC section on the homepage with copy about running your own MOOC and direct people to an updated MOOC page on On the info page we’ll add a contact form that interested users can fill out.

What questions should we ask? Here are some things we can ask, not necessarily the ones we should ask:

  • What are your level of technical competency?
  • someone printed this page out and put it on my desk
  • know how to use a browser and send email
  • comfortable creating a blog
  • write basic HTML
  • write JavaScript
  • setup linux servers
  • write/customize code running on server
  • What would you use the MOOC for?
  • a course part of an official program
  • a brand new course
  • experimenting

It should be useful, but also not too much to discourage users.

I agree short and simple is best. Also agree the tech competency is the most important issue (from discussion to date, seems to be key issue on which our decision re future direction will be made). So as long as we hit that, we have what we need.

My only suggestion would be:

  • adding a question to find out who the person is, eg educator, tech person, open advocate, etc.
  • maybe add a comments box, eg ‘anything else you want to tell us about what interests you / why you are looking at the Mech MOOC’ or similar…

Ok, how does this form look? (what I’m saying is that it needs Vanessification @vanessa)

Had another thought - slightly duplicative but useful and more direct for what we want to know, could also ask:

plesae tick one or more of these that apply to you:
I want to use MechMOOC with one-click deployment
I’m willing to do a small amount of work to deploy MechMOOC for my use
I’m willing to do significant work to deploy/customise MechMOOC for my use
I’m willing to provide ongoing tech support for MechMOOC while my course is running’

[wording may not be perfect…you get the idea…]

Option (4) is the most reliable (and useful) way to collect input.

The button could just take people to the Mechanical MOOC project page. That page might be a little more technical than users expect, and that’s ok. We should say at the top of the page that we are considering to make it easier, but want to make sure there is demand.

Ask questions about hosting themselves vs us hosting and add a question about money (if they want us hosting it). Would frame as covering hosting costs, rather than charging or making money (which is the truth, but when open projects speak of money, it’s important to be super clear).

Ok, I updated the form.

And here is a rough draft for the project page

And on the home page ( a propose that we add a button with the copy “Create your own MOOC” below the paragraph on the left.

@Carl, @bekka could you please have a look at this?

Looks great. I’ve made a couple of edits to the project page text - nothing major, just copy editing, really.

Ok, changes are now live at

If there are things that need to change it is probably best to make the edits directly on that page in wordpress. The form can be edited using the link in this thread.

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Hi @dirk,

Just a little grammatical error on the mechanical-mooc page.

“The Mechanical MOOC has been used successfully run several different courses:”

should be

“The Mechanical MOOC has been used successfully to run several different courses:”


Thanks for the catch, corrected!

Hey @dirk, @shaklev, everyone,
Just came across this thread (I try to lurk on the forums at least once every 2 weeks), but missed this one bc I wasn’t explicitly tagged. Been totally swamped this semester, but slowly coming up for air.

As for analysis of the first 4 sequences of mMOOC; my colleague Brian Butler was taking the lead on looking at it, and latest word from him is that he finally has time to take a more in-depth look over the next few weeks (we’re going to start our winter break soon). I shall update in a more comprehensive post/separate thread.