Over at the Harvard Business Review's blog network, a recent article "A New Use for MOOCs - Real World Problem Solving" by Zafrin Nurmohamed, Nabeel Gillani, and Michael Lenox describes the course Foundations of Business Strategy offered on the Coursera platform from the Darden Biz School at the University of Virginia. The course combines lessons in business strategy with real-world problem solving.
Using an application called Coursolve, the professors connected course students with small and large business organizations. The final project required students to work with their business partners to solve real world problems. 72 % of the businesses involved students in their currently most pressing and challenging problems.
The take-away from this example is that x-MOOCs, frequently critiqued for relying exclusively on the outdated broadcast model of instruction, can selectively use at least some elements of connectivist learning. The connections are not merely one-to-one connections between students and their business organizations. The MOOC itself, through Coursolve, locates business partners through something like a crowdsourcing app. Meanwhile, in their final reports the students will inevitably make use not merely of course materials but the universe of knowledge and expertise on the web.
One concern with this arrangement is that the businesses are making free use of student labor. However, unlike the predatory internships that have recently been uncovered, the project work in this course is a genuine learning experience in a quasi-academic setting.