Monday, 21 October 2013

Can a MOOC teach you how to write a novel?

+David Meulemans taught philosophy at Sorbonne University, then quit to set up a publishing company, then launched a startup to cure writer’s block.
The Good MOOC interviewed him back in July but he’s got a new project we were keen to hear about.

  • Can you tell us about your latest project?

We've just launched an online creative writing course. I suppose it's a first. Our MOOC is an introduction to fiction-writing. My goal is to give a small push and a daily routine to people who want to write fiction, but lack the self-discipline to go through with it. We've opened on the forum on the 18th of October - the first week will start on the 28th and it will last eight weeks, ending on the 14th of December.
We will post a short video every day and a longer set of videos on Saturdays.
We will ‘hack’ peer-review to increase collaboration and at the end of the MOOC, my publishing company (Les Editions Aux forges de Vulcain) will pick one of the novels written during the class.

  • Why did you decide to jump on the MOOC bandwagon?

We have launched the beta version of DraftQuest on April 4th 2013. And, since then, I've been testing and improving the tool - thanks to our numerous testers. But I realized that some users wanted more. They wanted a class. And it occurred to me that they have the same recurring questions. So a MOOC seemed like the next logical step. Moreover, I used to be a university professor, and loved teaching. So it felt like going home, even if the MOOC allows me way more freedom than the classes I used to teach, back in the old days. I made up my mind fairly quickly but designing and recording the class took a lot of work.  

  • Can you share what creating the course involved?

I had to change the way I teach, be very rigorous and always keep the users in mind. The people from Neodemia have been a great help when it came to design the syllabus.

  • For most MOOCs, success is measured through basic quizzes, do you really believe everybody will finish your course with their own novel?

No. And, to be honest, if every student completes a novel, that would mean a mass of more than a thousand novels... Completion of the class will have several key indicators. For example, did it help students to overcome the writer's block? Did they find time in their daily routine to write? Do they feel better about themselves? But I would love to see a hundred first-time novelists!

Less than 10%. I believe it's a great class, and I think Neodemia helped me come up with something that will be truly useful to our students. But writing is hard, takes time, patience, and commitment. Even if I work hard to find ways to make it easier, it will always require commitment. Above 10% seems good. It will be a great success. 1% would be a disappointment...

  • Any plans for an English version of this course?

I see the French version as a test. Most of my readings about writing are in English. So I really want to produce an English version of this MOOC. That's one of my goals for 2014. I think english-speaking audiences will enjoy this class. It's both informative and fun.

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