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NovoEd Brings Collaboration to Social Learning

04.16.2013
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MOOCs have been huge news over the past year, with sites like Coursera and edX regularly delivering classes to 50,000+ students from around the world. 

Whilst many of these sites have discussion forums and other collaborative environments, the courses do remain largely similar to their offline peers.  The professors deliver the course and the students consume it.

This is where NovoEd come in.  NovoEd are a start-up that aims to make the MOOC experience much more collaborative by allowing students to learn more as a unit rather than as individuals.

It will be launching its service on Monday, using seven courses to begin with before hopefully rolling out with other universities later in the year.

NovoEd emerged out of Stanford, as indeed did fellow MOOCs Coursera and Udacity.  The aim was to allow professors to teach their subject in a more collaborative way than the chalk and talk method currently dominating the MOOC environment.

“It’s about peer learning, social learning – it’s collaborative and experiential. In the transition from brick and mortar to online, you shouldn’t strip away these aspects, you can use the social web to amplify them.” founder Amin Saberi said.

The NovoEd approach blends social networking with online learning.  It sees students assigned to small study groups when they first enroll on a course.  These groups see them matched up with other students based on shared experiences and locations.  The group then works through the course together, rating their team mates as they go, thus providing each team with a 'Team Rank' score.

Whilst many MOOCs have suffered with low engagement rates, Saberi says that NovoEd has done much better at converting registrants into active students.  For instance, in one class of 80,000 students, some 37,000 went on to complete the group project, with 10,000 then going on to complete the course.  This compares to the typical MOOC completion rate of around 10%.

The only glitch at the moment is that the technology is not currently embedded into the main MOOC networks, so you can only utilize it via NovoEd itself.  Whilst the sector is still in its early stages, it would seem sensible for some consolidation to eventually occur, bringing novel learning approaches together with the scale supplied by the existing networks.