Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Experimenting with social education.

I've been talking about and believing in"social business" for several years.  However, I've also been watching some of the changes to the education system--it's becoming more social too.

Recently, MIT and Harvard joined together with others to form EdX.  EdX, along with offering online courses, will research how students learn and how technology can transform learning–both on-campus and worldwide.

I was discussing this with a peer, and he said I can't talk about the concept if I haven't taken an online class.  He didn't think the online classes  would be successful because it would be too isolating.  After much back-and-forth, I'm taking up the challenge--I've enrolled in CS50.  It's a introductory class, designed to teach people not just to program, but how to think.  And not just one, or a hundred people.  But over 50,000 53,000+ students.  Obviously, the class has been designed to scale and it's not a trivial class.

The syllabus is the same for the on-campus class.  There's lectures, extra help, and community-support.  Of course, there's assessments too--8 problem sets (15 - 20 hours each), 2 quizzes, and a final project. Obviously, it's going to take a team of people to grade the problem sets and quizzes, and projects.

But, there's more differences.  It takes different tools to manage the class.  You can't use a paper grade book.  You need to design the assessments to be graded autonomously or at least with the help of technology. The part that's interesting is not about recording the lectures, that's trivial.  It's all about how to incorporate the lectures with everything else needed to make the class effective.  Keeping interest, and a sense of community.  It's more than just selling class t-shirts and mugs (but feel free!)

Class logo

Online learners who achieve a passing grade in CS50x will earn a certificate of mastery that indicates successful completion of the course, but will not include a specific grade. Certificates will be issued by edX under the name of HarvardX. For CS50x in Fall 2012 – Spring 2013, certificates will be free.

I've watched my first set of lectures and completed my first problem set. I've learned  that the difference between ASCII "A" and "a" is just one bit (0100 0001 vs. 0110 0001; I've never cared to check that before).  I've built a baseball game program in Scratch, a language much more user-friendly than the Basic and Logo I learned on.

I'm not sure that I've been inspired yet, but it is learning.  It's more than the Kahn Academy.  It is collaborative   It is effective.  Who knows, it just might work.

Of course, if you're feeling inspired, then it's not to late to join me in this experiment.  Click to sign up. And if you do, be sure to comment and also join the community! Who knows, we may just collaborate on a project set...