Ever since Coursera-type MOOCs (as opposed to the original cMOOCs from 2008) turned two last spring, we’ve seen a rush of innovation in the courses, greatly extending what many people thought were the limits of online education.
Earlier this year, we saw science experiments moving online, as well as personalized one-on-one learning. Moocdemic combined a MOOC with a massive multiplayer online game, and Trauma! took a “Netflix approach,” splitting a MOOC into 10 one-week mini-courses.
The newest area emerging now is project-based courses. In the early days of MOOCs, most assessments were machine-graded multiple-choice tests. While programming courses used more practical assessments (i.e., machine-graded coding problems), most other courses focused on theory rather than the application of knowledge.
But that is changing. All of Coursera’s Specializations culminate in a capstone project, and for a new Educational Technology XSeries that just started this month on edX, all of the courses are project based. The XSeries focuses on game design. According to MIT’s Education Arcade website, “each of the courses is project-based, incorporates collaborative group as well as individual work, self-assessment as well as peer review, and concludes with a culminating project.” Students in the second course (which started today) will develop paper and digital prototypes for an educational game as well as engage in design iteration and user testing.
Project-based work, which results in students having a digital portfolio, is the next step in legitimizing MOOCs in the eyes of employers. Earning a certificate of completing from a MOOC doesn’t tell employers any more about what people know and can do than taking a face-to-face course, but projects can be clear demonstrations of learners’ knowledge and skills and they could pave the way for MOOCs to play a role in new efforts toward competency-based learning.
If you’ve taken any project-based MOOCs, I’d love to hear what you thought about them. Leave your impressions in the comments.