Rice University logo
Top blue bar image
Computer Scientist at the Department of BioSciences, Rice University

Archive for March, 2013

Anatomy of a MOOC, Seminar talk by Scott Rixner

March 8th, 2013 by Boanerges Aleman-Meza

Professor Scott Rixner gave a seminar talk where he summarized his experiences in co-teaching a MOOC (Massively Online Open Course) that was taken by Rice Students in Computer Science and 80,000 other people world-wide (at its peak).

Key points from his talk, in no particular order:

  • It consumed 6-months of his time where it was the only thing he did (70+ hours per week of work was mentioned)
  • Students wrote computer programs online using CodeSkulptor, which provided a unified platform and enabled showing results to any one by just sending a link
  • Discussion forum (in Coursera) was active all the time though only a fraction of people participated (enough for critical mass)
  • Rixner said that he has incorporated things that benefit his regular teaching, such as requiring students to view video and answer graded quiz (at least) 1 hour before class
    • The value of  quizzes in the course grade is super tiny but it is known that Rice students would not want to miss any possible point (or fraction thereof)
  • Lots of feedback was really good and satisfying, minor small feedback was bad and nasty
  • Including some ‘fun’ aspects in the course was key to keep people interested
  • Decline of participation was somewhat linear but a few thousands did complete everything in the course