MOOC Jams and Clark’s Filtration Nation

This post on a recent MOOC jam posed these questions:

How can we create ways that encourage learners to support one another? and  “What can we build into the design that supports and encourages peer-peer learning?”

Here’s an idea for MOOC platforms that I’ve been tossing around: what if there were algorithms built into discussion forum functionality for filtering, following, and/or group formation? Could this increase the ability of learners to use discussion forums to their advantage, filter out the noise and form groups with peers?

For example, let’s say you are looking at a discussion forum where thousands of students are participating. How do you filter it out to what you really want and need? Most platforms right now only have a search function at best, perhaps an ability to like, vote up, or favorite a thread. What if you have a series of check boxes that could blend automated and customized filtering mechanisms? You could follow or add fellow learners (like Twitter) as you see them post things you like, and only see their posts? Or you could follow them and set up “circles” like in Google Plus, and see only posts from various circles you have set up. On the automated side, you might see things like “filter out small talk” or “show me only posts from people who live within 40 miles of me” or “posts from people whose posts I have liked” Or only show posts from people you have replied to, voted up, liked, etc….

Here’s an quick draft example from a student perspective – which has both “My Groups” – that I set up and named, and system automated examples…



And here’s an example of how such algorithms and filters could be used by faculty:


The next phase of MOOC technology platforms will need to be more adaptive, more social, and build in algorithms and filters such as these in order to better support teaching and learning.


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Clark Shah-Nelson
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