I’m still mullling over the issues of complexity and how learners deal with it in the context of a MOOC. Stephen, George and Dave have spent a lot of time and effort in making the process easy for newcomers. But, I’ll push a bit and say that to open the MOOC experience to a broader set of learners (esp. those technically challenged) we need to make it simpler.
A recent article on Human Computer Interaction that Thad Starner, one of my colleagues at Georgia Tech, told me about, distilled the issues of humans interacting with machines. A trivial change to a web shopping system resulted in a company increasing its sales on the web by $300,000,000 per year. The point of the article was that the developers who originally made the web page thought they were making it easier for the user to shop but in fact they were discouraging the users to the point of their taking their business elsewhere.
I’m beating on something that is being worked on by many people. Human Computer Interaction issues with tools for learning is a more complex problem than tools for shopping or reading. Why? Learning is not easy and is a more complicated problem for the learner engaged in self-directed learning. It requires dedication, perseverance, desire and initiative among other things. We do not want to discourage the learner. We want to encourage the learner by making it as easy as possible for them to acquire the knowledge they desire.
The article is at: