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Seb, many thanks for the feedback. It's not often an instructor gets detailed feedback from someone who probably knows more about the subject (e-learning in this case) than her/himself. The weaknesses of the course and of the medium that you point out are exactly the ones I worry about and am trying to fix. I remain optimistic and excited by the educational possibilities MOOCs offer, but there were many major obstacles to be overcome - if indeed they can be overcome! Keith Devlin

Glad to see close scrutiny like this, Seb. Naturally, I'd prefer you'd written it for us. ;) Next time, maybe.

As it happens, I'm working on a piece for a different publication about how community gets built in MOOCs, and many of the people I'm interviewing make the same point you do at the end. Just like teachers in smaller classes at some point need to thing about how to prompt discussion effectively, MOOC teachers probably need to bear down on that also.

Robert McGuire
Editor, MOOC News and Reviews

Here are my comments regarding the failure of peer groups' continuation over the class timeframe due to high attrition and expertise variability:

I am not sure how the peer groups are set up. A way that works well to get people is the "pimping sites" like what they have in Facebook. Even though that may sound silly, I believe that the methodology can work for this course since there is a very high attrition rate in both FB games and this course. You have to keep pulling people in to replace the people who drop out. If this setup is already in place, study how the Mafia Wars pimping sites work for improvements because they work extremely well.

If this class is only intended for students who wish to pursue careers in mathematics or physics, read no further.

Regarding the challenge of differing levels of proficiency about peer grading, I see an opportunity there for the more advanced students to help the folks know know little or nothing about doing proofs. With a mix of both types, each can benefit the other. The mathemeticians-in-training have the chance to cogently express their thought processes in a way that make sense to other students who might turn to other disciplines, but find theoretical mathemematics useful in their careers. The responsibility of the students with little to no experience in solving math proofs is to speak up and ask questions. Facilitators can make that happen. As a result, the students who aren't already experienced have a chance to be brought up to where they might be able to do effective peer reviews, and the mathemeticians in training get practice for teaching non mathematician types, not to mention that they have access to different perspectives.

I see a strong possibility that the students who already know what to do might find this class trivial, since it only covers first order logic and sets. I believe that no one benefits if they stick to people like them. The best ones will blast through and almost everyone else will fail. In both cases, little is learned. In conclusion, mixing up the study groups will benefit all who actively participate.

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