An incredible project is changing the way MOOCs will be used to support innovation in the classroom. This is happening right now in Israel in secondary schools. It is launched in partnership with the Ministry of Education by the team of Yaacov Hecht, founder of the Democratic Schools, and also a very good friend that was with us in Barcelona for the last three days.
700 high school students from the 9th and 11th grades are at this moment taking two MOOCs courses, one from Georgia tech on robotics, and the other from Rochester University on astronomy. Both courses are well above the theoretical level of knowledge of the students, and even teachers! However, they have decided to take the course and more importantly, to complete it.
The students don’t work in an isolated way but together in their classrooms, and also in a cooperative way between them (see videos).
Teachers work with their students in the classroom: they learn together from the same videos, the same on-line materials and all take the exams individually. All the videos that are produced weekly by the two US Universities are subtitled in Hebrew by the Ministry of Education four hours after they are released.
The minimum objective is to have a 50% completion rate (vs. the “usual” 4%)! What is remarkable is that the students are not University students, but ordinary high school students from all over Israel. This shows that MOOCs represent a real opportunity for all learners (and not only for graduate students).
The main fear was that most of the students would fail after the first week’s exam because the level of the course is very high, and students need to have a strong background knowledge in both algebra and calculus. It didn’t happen like this. The collective effort in each class enabled them to pass the first week: students worked together and enhanced their learning together.
The incentives for the students to complete the course are also very interesting to look at: if they finish the course, not only do they receive a certificate from Coursera/a major American University, but also a grade that will count towards their national high school degree. Moreover the organisers have introduced a competition between schools to further enhance their engagement.
Certainly a model to get a lot of inspiration from!
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