“It was awesome, I’m exhausted.” Baptiste Gaultier, engineer at Télécom Bretagne, comments on the success of the first French MOOC FAB.
The very first MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) dedicated to digital fabrication has just ended as a victim of its own success, one week behind its originally scheduled March 17 to May 28. Baptiste Gaultier, who taught this freely shared online course launched in March by Mines-Télécom Institute, tells Makery how it exploded in popularity: After quickly attracting 2,000 pre-registrations, the MOOC that promised to teach you “how to appropriate the tools and techniques of digital fabrication—electronics, Arduino, connected objects, Internet and 3D printing”, was followed by 11,000 students by the end of the term. If not all of them were equally diligent, he says, “an average of 15,000 views per video is very satisfying.”
Baptiste Gaultier got the idea for this program in 4 modules (“Arduino electronic prototypes, digitally controlled machines, sharing and documentation, Internet of things”) as it was an increasing concern during his workshops on digital fabrication (he teaches at the School of Fine Arts in Rennes, the engineering school Télécom Bretagne as well as the Rennes LabFab): “And if I can’t be there on that crucial day, will there be anything online?” The MOOC allows him to reach a potentially huge audience—those who don’t have the confidence to enter a lab, who don’t have one in their area, who don’t have the time or means of transportation… Many were just getting their feet wet before diving into the ocean.
Along with Télécom Bretagne and a handful of local labs in Brittany, the team wanted to create a MOOC that would be interactive, participative and contributory. “It’s a successful success,” Baptiste confirms. “One of the exercises was to make a tricolor fire. All on their own, the students connected the fire to a computer and completed it with a motorized fence, while sharing their progress on the wiki and the forums!” The hyperactive forum accumulated hundreds of thousands of contributions from French-speaking regions worldwide. “The wiki, created by students alone, is a gold mine,” Baptiste beams. Dozens of labs have complemented its success by offering real-space practice sessions. Thanks to the Mooc Fab, a few participants got together to open the first lab in Guadeloupe!
So what’s next? “The Mooc is now one week behind schedule. We’ll finish it, then we’ll take a rest, we’re exhausted,” says Baptiste, thinking about its second season. “We have quite a few options, as the universities of Brittany have contacted us. We’d like to continue the call for projects #moocfab, which is very popular [More than 170 pitches were Tweeted –Ed.], further develop the subjects from season 1, or focus the classes on creating finished, functional objects.”
But first, the Mooc will disappear. That’s the way it works with the FUN (France Université Numérique) platform. Meanwhile, some participants are working on a “MOOC vaccuum to save all the content, especially the wiki and the forums!”
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