Seven New Courses in September

Photo of a girl holding up a boot to which she has added a sensor, processor, and flashing lights.

Girls built and programmed their own light-up shoes as part of the Girls Who Build workshop. (Photo courtesy of Jon Barron, MIT Lincoln Laboratory.)

The courses keep coming! During the month of September, OCW published seven courses. Six are brand-new subjects on OCW, and one is an update of a previously published course.

New Courses

Updated Courses

MIT’s Mars experts are giddy about the planet’s water discovery (

Image of mountain range or hills with swirling pattern of light and dark streaks.

In this image of Mars, the dark downhill streaks indicate the presence of flowing water. (Courtesy of NASA/JPL/University of Arizona.)

This week’s announcement by NASA confirming liquid water flowing on the surface of Mars is big news. Several MIT faculty who study Mars shared their thoughts with’s Eric Levenson:

“I’m excited about this,” said Kerri Cahoy, an MIT assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics who has done research for NASA. “They have made, in my opinion, a milestone step forward.”

J. Taylor Perron, an MIT Associate Professor in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, has studied the ancient history of water on Mars. The planet’s terrain shows evidence that it once had rivers and lakes, and possibly an ocean, billions of years ago, which have long since dried up.

“The new thing and the exciting thing about this discovery is that liquid water is still flowing now, even though Mars, otherwise, is basically a cold desert,” Perron said. “News like this, that hopefully gets people excited about Mars, is fantastic.”

Ben Weiss, an MIT Professor of Planetary Sciences, has focused his study on Mars’s ancient magnetic field, which died billions of years ago. He and other scientists have hypothesized that the magnetic field’s death is related to the destruction of the planet’s atmosphere and climate.

“This kind of discovery reopens the possibility that Mars is not some kind of dead body,” Weiss said. “To actually see liquid water or at least a brine flowing on the surface, that’s kind of mind-blowing.

Read the full story > 

Like to learn more?  Start with these introductory courses on OCW by Professors Perron and Weiss.

  • 12.001 Introduction to Geology, co-taught by Prof. Perron and Prof. Oliver Jagoutz introduces students to geological study through lecture, lab, and fieldwork.  The OCW course includes lecture notes, image galleries, and extensive instructor commentary on how they teach this course.
  • 12.002 Physics and Chemistry of the Terrestrial Planets, co-taught by Prof. Weiss and Prof. Leigh Royden, introduces the structure, composition, and physical properties of the planets, including Mars.

Video intro to MIT Architecture

The MIT Architecture department just released this video introduction to their undergraduate program, known on campus as “Course 4.”  In their words, the program “brings together architects, designers, artists, historians and engineers around concepts and ideas that transform how we build and construct our environments,” and “emphasizes the interconnected relationship between architectural design, building technology, computation, history, theory and criticism of architecture and art.”

If this gets your creative juices flowing, be sure to explore the extensive course materials that MIT Architecture faculty and students have published on OCW. At the OCW Architecture department page, you’ll find over 100 courses from across their curriculum, spanning both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Congratulations OPENPediatrics, a Tech Awards 2015 Education Laureate

Image of a computer screen with image of a young patient connected to ventilator, and simulation of the ventilator displays.

Screen shot from a video overview of the OPENPediatrics Virtual Ventilator. (Courtesy of OPENPediatrics.)

The Tech Awards is an annual program run by The Tech Museum of Innovation in Silicon Valley to honor a select group of innovative projects and high-impact young companies working in education, healthcare, economic development and the environment. In 2005, MIT OpenCourseWare was named a Tech Awards Education Laureate.

The 2015 Laureates have just been announced, and as always they’re an inspiring group. See the full list.

Congratulations in particular to OPENPediatrics, a fellow member of the Open Education Consortium that provides “free, online medical education content to pediatric health care providers and is used by more than 800 hospitals worldwide.”  Highlights of OPENPediatrics’ content include:

  • The virtual ventilator, an interactive mechanical ventilation training tool. In the coming weeks, the virtual ventilator will be joined by a new peritoneal dialysis simulator that has already received recognition.
  • A recently released Nursing Cardiac Intensive Care Unit guided learning pathway, including 36 videos and associated assessments, available on their clinician community site.
  • World Shared Practice Forum series of videos that feature world experts on the forefront of pediatric care, structured to foster global asynchronous discussion.
  • A public multimedia library of animations and illustrations drawn from OPENPediatrics’ videos, openly licensed and available for free download.

Going Green in Supply Chains

Two people in orangutan costumes holding a sign that says "Nestle, Give us a break!"

A protest against Nestle over the palm oil plantation controversy is used as a case study in ESD.S43 Green Supply Chain Management for students to learn about multi-stakeholder engagements and corporate social responsibilities. (Image courtesy of Philip Reynolds. Used with permission.)

By Joe Pickett, OCW Publication Director

By now, most people are somewhat familiar with the concept of a supply chain, the complex of systems that make it possible for a product to be developed, manufactured, and delivered to customers. In a global economy, many of these activities—extraction of resources, manufacturing, transportation, warehousing—take place in different countries. Understanding supply chains is thus crucial to success of a dynamic, world-wide enterprise.

You don’t hear much about how the role good environmental practices can play in supply chains and how they can be implemented to minimize the impact a business has on the planet.

Not unless you have explored ESD.S43 Green Supply Chain Management, a course that has just published on OCW. This half-semester graduate course  . . . “focuses on the fundamental strategies, tools and techniques required to analyze and design environmentally sustainable supply chain systems,” as the course site tells us. “Students work on course-long team projects that critically evaluate the environmental supply chain strategy of an industry or a publicly traded company.”

The course site has six video lectures, selected lecture notes, and a full reading list, consisting largely of case studies.

“These case studies reflect over five years of research completed here at the MIT Center for Transportation & Logistics,” says Dr. Edgar Blanco on the This Course at MIT page. “As part of this research, we worked with many companies. I had the opportunity to meet with leaders from these companies who were trying to implement sustainability initiatives. I learned first-hand about the struggles they encountered in this area.”

With co-instructors Dr. Alexis Bateman and Professor Anthony Craig, Dr. Blanco runs a discussion-based class, challenging students to think for themselves and question their own thinking. Typical questions on case studies include:

How much energy is used and how much carbon is released to make paper towels dispensed in a typical restroom? Would you save energy and release less carbon if an electric hand dryer was used? What factors should be included in such a determination?

Does it make sense to offer obsolete cell phones for reuse in other countries? Can this implementation of reverse logistics be sustainable? How?

ESD.S43 takes its place on a growing list of OCW courses on Supply Chains. These courses cover a range of topics, including planning and logistics to systems optimization.

People interested in how supply chains are designed should sign up for the MITx on edX course Supply Chain Design. But don’t delay! The course starts on September 30.

One of the Greatest Mysteries of Science

Professor in front of chalkboard with graph of vibration and equations.

Professor Wit Busza explains how to solve a problem in the video “Traveling Waves without Damping.”

By Joe Pickett, OCW Publication Director

“Why do we solve problems?” asks Professor Wit Busza in the first of his Instructor Insights on the This Course at MIT page for RES.8-005 Vibrations and Waves Problem Solving. “We don’t often explain to students why we solve problems. But shouldn’t we? After all, when you really stop to think about it, the answer to this question is not at all trivial.”

Professor Busza has thought about this question a lot, having taught physics at MIT for many years. In fact, he was honored for his exceptional teaching ability by being made a MacVicar Fellow. His 10 problem-solving videos cover a full range of topics from harmonic oscillators to electromagnetic waves for the course Physics III Vibrations and Waves. Along with each video, Professor Busza has included two sample problems for users to solve. Hints and correct answers are provided, but not full solutions showing all the steps.

In Professor Busza’s view,The primary reason we solve problems is to experience one of the greatest mysteries of science.” That mystery is twofold: our ability to describe physical situations as mathematical equations, and in solving those equations, to be able to predict what will happen in situations we have never seen before.

So one of his goals as a teacher is to help students learn to “take a given situation, convert it into mathematics, solve it, and predict what will happen. We call that problem solving.”

But students, even at MIT, are often ill-prepared for this challenge, since they “have the preconceived idea that problem solving is the same thing as memorizing equations.” Students tend to get hung up on the mathematics, but in Professor Busza’s experience, it’s the physics that really trips them up:

“Although most students think setting up the problem is trivial, it is actually the hardest part of solving a problem . . . The first thing I do . . . is to ask the student to tell me what the problem is in words. You would be amazed how often the student has not understood what the problem is actually asking. So that’s the first thing. It’s very useful for the student to draw sketches at this point, then articulate the situation and explain the question being asked.”

And then? “The next step is to ask the student to explain in plain English what he or she would expect to happen. At each step in his or her explanation, [I] ask him or her to state the laws of nature that are playing key roles.” And so are revealed the key areas of misunderstanding.

Of course, the usefulness of problem-solving extends to other areas of physics. In an ideal world, students would be able to pursue the scientific mystery to their heart’s content in whatever courses they choose: “Even at the university level, I think students do not have enough opportunities to come full circle in problem solving—that is, to implement experiments to test the accuracy of the predictions they derive from their equations.”

No mystery there!