A Nebraska–based company is trying to address MOOC retention and interaction with an online platform originally built to help encourage engagement during town hall meetings.

As a fairly nascent method of learning, massive open online courses (MOOCs) are still working through a number of growing pains.

Arguably, two of the larger challenges that educators face when adopting MOOCs are fostering interaction between participants and improving the typically low retention rate, which is usually about 5 percent, according to a report by Educause.

A Nebraska–based company is trying to address both issues with an online platform originally built to help encourage engagement during town hall meetings. The platform, called MindMixer, was used during a recently-concluded Coursera MOOC.

“We’re an engagement platform designed for government, education and health entities so they can scale meaningful conversations online,” said Nick Bowden, MindMixer’s chief engagement officer. “From cities, to the federal government, to school districts, to MOOCs, we get people engaged around a set of topics.”

The platform’s founders, Bowden and Nathan Preheim, created MindMixer when they were urban planners. The pair noticed that very few people showed up to town hall meetings and they wanted to take that process, and atmosphere, and put it online where it was quickly accessible.

They soon realized, Bowden said, that the same kind of engagement issues also plagued other types of communities.

“School districts and universities face the same thing,” he said. “They have trouble engaging parents, students and faculty in a useful and quick way. It’s the same with hospitals and patients. This started with government entities but moved pretty quickly to education.”

See Page 2 for how the platform made the leap into MOOCs.


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