Massive open online collaboration gaining ground

The online course and collaboration platform NovoEd has entered partnerships with 16 institutions,  further positioning the company as a popular alternative to more well-known massive open online course (MOOC) sites like Coursera.


NovoEd was late to the MOOC game, launching nearly a year and half after Coursera and Udacity were created. All three platforms were spun out of online learning work done at Stanford University.

The company has tried to differentiate itself from its competitors by putting teamwork and collaboration at the center of its technology.

The platform has a completion rate much higher than many other MOOCs, the company boasts. Between 35 and 65 percent of students who complete a NovoEd MOOC’s first assignment go on to complete the course.

The average completion rate in many other MOOCs is between 4 and 10 percent, though some researchers are now urging educators to focus less on using this metric as a measurement of success.

“We have a tremendous number of students who complete and what they complete with is meaningful work,” said Anne Trumbore, senior online course designer at NovoEd. “The majority of our MOOCs are project-based, so students complete courses with these finished projects like a portfolio or a solution to a health problem they have identified. These are projects that, more than even a completion certificate, are meaningful to them and their work lives.”

The new agreements — which include partnerships with Stanford, Princeton University, and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching — will continue the emphasis on collaboration, a component of learning that many educators feel is lacking in MOOCs due to their size.

A course taught at the Georgia Institute of Technology in February 2013, for example, was suspended after an attempt to organize its 40,000 students into groups using Google Docs devolved into confusion and technical difficulties.

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