Move over MOOCs

Massive open online courses, or MOOCs, offered by universities have the potential to shake up education. People yearn to learn, but many enroll on MOOC courses only to flunk out after a few lessons, The Economist reports.

MOOCs are ill-suited to their medium: they are long and lack interaction. That is why less formal alternatives are doing well. TED Talks have thrived.

The video lectures, less than 20 minutes long and given by sharp suited penseurs, are devoured by a large audience keen to learn superficial facts about their world (Malcolm Gladwell, the pop science author recently savaged in our paper edition, is a star in the TED firmament). On the average commuter train, chances are that the young man in the flannel shirt and ankle boots peering at his iPhone is plugged into the latest TED Talk.

Coursmos offers videos that are shorter still, generally less than a minute in length and no more than three, which can be combined into several modules to produce a course that can be completed quicker than an entire TED Talk. The month-old Russian start-up’s offerings are sparse at the moment.

A grand total of 12 micro-courses, one of which is a six second video of a still computer screen, are all that prospective learners have to choose from. But courses are user-generated and free to access, so if the concept picks up it has the potential to improve.

Certainly Russian venture capitalists believe Coursmos could be big: a pre-seed funding round raised $150,000. The firm is courting academics to provide more courses, promising most of the income from a new paid-course system.

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