This project looks at team-based learning in massive open online courses (MOOCs) to help curb traditionally high attrition rates, as well as increase and diffuse historical and cultural knowledge. Investigation into team-based MOOCs has shown that most teams fail with poor performance starting at the beginning of the course. In the Smithsonian’s The Rise of Superheroes MOOC, Carnegie Mellon University has helped integrate collaborative reflection and problem solving, as well as community building and social support into the course design, to help retain participants and create enduring communities of practice. This study has ties to Project #7.


July 2016 – The fourth run of the Rise of the Superheroes MOOC (POPX 1.4) ran from May 17-July 5, 2016, with 10,000 enrolled students. The Smithsonian tested a new approach to the team-based learning, offering a two week course ‘extension’ to all course alumni, where they could apply what they learned in the course to a team-based project.  This “mini-course,” Rise of the Superheroes and the Heroes of the Future started on July 5th and runs through July 19th.  There are 750 enrolled students, and CMU’s team is assigning students to groups now. CMU is running an additional MTurk study to test the impact of supporting interaction during the group work in addition to team formation procedures. In the initial test of team projects in the Superheroes MOOC, there was not high enough participation to use our team formation optimization procedure, but in the current team component, there are enough people, and CMU has finalized the automated assignment to teams  In their analysis of the team data from the first run of the team component, they noticed that student focus about their superheroes shifts from personal issues to more societal level issues when they work in teams, and they cast their stories more conversationally, dynamically, and interactively in teams than in the individual story telling they do when they work individually.

April 2016 – POPX 1.3 ran from February 16-April 6 2016, with 6,500 enrolled students.  For this run of the course, the Smithsonian introduced a “team track” option in partnership with the Carnegie Mellon team.  Students who selected the team track were asked, two weeks into the course,  to answer and discuss a questions by posting in the discussion forum.  They were then asked to provide feedback to the posts of at least two other students.  Using the data from the discussion, the Carnegie Mellon team assigned students to groups of 3 or 4, and those groups worked together on their final project for the course.  The initial data was encouraging, but there was not much participation.  Students told us that the team track seemed like a lot more work, and that they would prefer to do the team work after they had taken the course and worked individually. Based on this feedback, we are offering the team track as a course extension.