100 Reasons to Be Thankful

Photo of a smiling woman holding a plate with two cupcakes decorated with

OCW Educator Project Manager Sarah Hansen celebrates the publication of the 100th “This Course at MIT” page.

By Joe Pickett, OCW Publication Director

OCW reached a new milestone last month with the publication of its 100th This Course at MIT page.

The staff marked the occasion with 100 cupcakes (shared, of course, with other members of MIT’s Office of Digital Learning) and with a “thank-a-thon,” in which staff members wrote thank you notes to the instructors of the 100 courses.

Part of OCW’s Educator project, This Course at MIT provides contextual information about how the course was taught on campus—course outcomes, prerequisites, what kind of students took the class, what kind of assessments were used, and so on. About two-thirds of the pages also have instructor insights into how the course was taught—for example, why the course is structured the way it is, what methods are used to engage students in learning, how the instructor has met challenges that the course presents, what kinds of projects students undertake.

This Course at MIT pages are now published for courses in every school at MIT and in a wide variety of disciplines, from computer science to literature. Here is a sampler of recently published pages:

  • 9.00SC Introduction to Psychology
    Professor John Gabrieli shares how he incorporates demonstrations and the latest research results into his lectures introducing the concepts of psychology.

In another first, OCW piloted an online Roundtable discussion of a This Course at MIT page.  Drs. Jeremy Orloff and Jonathan Bloom spoke with other mathematics educators about their thinking behind 18.05 Introduction to Probability and Statistics, which they reconceived for active learning. (You can see their insights on their This Course at MIT page.) The Roundtable was a great success, and more are in the offing.

Please help us improve This Course at MIT! Take our brief survey.

NSF video showcase honors two MIT digital learning projects

The National Science Foundation has just announced awards for its 2015 Teaching and Learning Video Showcase: Improving Science, Math, Engineering, and Computer Science Education.  Two projects involving our MIT Office of Digital Learning partners in the Strategic Engineering Initiatives unit are among the winners.

Screenshot of MIT-Haiti video player.

Click to see video for MIT-Haiti Initiative: Opening up education in Haiti: Local language for global impact in cyberlearning and development.

The MIT-Haiti Initiative started in response to the destruction of Haitian universities by the earthquake of January 12, 2010.  They are working to open up education in Haiti, by translating and developing digital learning technologies and active learning pedagogy in the local Kreyòl language.

In many developing nations, one barrier to quality education is the fact that the community language is not used in formal education while the primary language of instruction is a formerly colonial language that few speak fluently. In Haiti, everyone speaks Kreyòl, but the language of instruction is French which is spoken by no more than 5% of the population. This language barrier is: (i) a root cause of academic failure and emotional distress among students; (ii) a chronic violation of human rights; and (iii) a roadblock to socio-economic development. In order to improve and open up education in Haiti, we are developing digital tools in Kreyòl for active learning of STEM, and we are evaluating and disseminating these tools among Haitian faculty through a workshop series that started in March 2012.


Screenshot of video player for Ink-12 project.

Click to see video for Ink-12: Expressive Digital Tools for Elementary Math Education

Ink-12, a collaboration of TERC and MIT, is developing tablet software to support elementary grade students learning multiplication and division. The software, Classroom Learning Partner (CLP),

…allows students to use a tablet pen to create and manipulate mathematical representations and wirelessly send them to the teacher. The complete history of students’ interaction with the computer is saved along with the final representation and is thus available for analysis by teacher and researchers. CLP also performs automatic analysis and sorting of students’ work to help teachers choose appropriate examples for class discussion.

These are just two of the many high-impact projects coming out of MIT’s Strategic Engineering Initiatives unit, spanning innovative digital learning and worldwide education transformation efforts.

Calculus for the Aspiring Mind

Photo by Andrés Monroy-Hernández on Flickr

Photo by Andrés Monroy-Hernández on Flickr, license CC BY-SA.

By Joe Pickett, OCW Publication Director

Two MIT mathematics professors have designed a new online series of short introductory calculus courses for high school students and recent graduates. The first of these MITx on edX courses, Calculus 1A: Differentiation, starts on June 2.

These courses—or modules—are similar to what is taught in MIT’s on-campus introductory calculus course, but they are redesigned for a more forgiving pace. As on campus, students apply what they learn to real-world problems, such as how fast a plane should fly to minimize fuel use and how accurate a GPS positioning system really is.

The courses are taught by Professors David Jerison and Gigliola Staffilani. Students will learn how to:

  • evaluate limits graphically and numerically
  • interpret the derivative geometrically
  • calculate the derivative of any function
  • sketch many functions by hand
  • make linear and quadratic approximations of functions
  • apply derivatives to maximize and minimize functions and find related rates

Professor Staffilani is Associate Department Head of the MIT Mathematics Department. Professor Jerison will be familiar to the many OCW users who’ve visited his courses 18.01SC Single Variable Calculus and 18.02 Multivariable Calculus (taught with Professor Arthur Mattuck).

The second MITx on edX module Calculus 1B: Integration will start in Fall 2015; Calculus 1C: Coordinate Systems & Infinite Series will start in early 2016.

2.007 robots compete in “Hack to the Future” (MIT News)

Photo of woman at controls of her robot, with plastic human figure sliding down a cable.

First-place finisher Ali Edwards, a sophomore in mechanical engineering, scores the game-winning points by getting the plastic figure of Dr. Emmett Brown to slide down a cable. Prof. Amos Winter, dressed as Dr. Brown, applauds. (Photo: Tony Pulsone)

As MIT’s spring semester wraps up, we always look forward to the latest installment in this classic MIT event.  Congratulations to Allison and all the participants!

Robots compete in “Hack to the Future”
Final competition in MIT’s course 2.007 pays tribute to classic time-travel movie.
David L. Chandler | MIT News Office | May 8, 2015

The future, as defined in the first sequel to 1985’s classic time-travel saga “Back to the Future,” is this year: 2015.

So, appropriately enough, that movie was selected as the theme for this year’s version of the annual competition that marks the end of the MIT mechanical engineering course 2.007 (Design and Manufacturing). The popular head-to-head competition between student-built robots is an MIT tradition that goes back even farther than the three-decade old film — all the way back to 1970.

Last evening’s 2.007 finals were open to the public, and attracted hundreds of cheering spectators of all ages. The competition, as always, featured many a suspenseful moment as students competed side by side in controlling the robots they had spent a semester designing, building, and testing. Students used a wide variety of clever approaches to score points on a complex field built in the shape of a DeLorean car and clock tower — both of which figured prominently in the 1985 movie.

But, as is often the case in 2.007 competitions, while some unusual designs scored astonishingly high point totals, it was ultimately a relatively slow — but efficient and reliable — design that made its way through the single-elimination tournament to emerge as the winner.

That robot, called “Rafiki,” was the design of Allison Edwards, a sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering. While other robots scored much higher point totals in certain matchups, none produced such consistent performance.

Read the full story >

Learn more about how students design and build these robots with OCW’s version of 2.007 Design and Manufacturing I from the Spring 2009 term.  That year, students created robots to clean up a model environment.  The OCW site includes lecture notes, recitation notes, assignments and exams with solutions, and lots more about the robot project and the final competition.

OCW Gift Challenge – Can We Count on You?

OCW Gift Challenge
Dear Friends of OCW,

This spring, we’ve been given another special challenge:

The OCW Gift Challenge Circle Members, a group of donors who strongly support MIT OpenCourseWare’s mission, have issued this challenge because they believe the thousands of people who use OCW’s site every day and can afford to donate, should be active members of our community of supporters.

OCW is an expression of MIT’s commitment of advancing knowledge around the world. Through OCW, educators improve courses and curricula, making their schools more effective; students find additional resources to help them succeed; and independent learners enrich their lives and use the content to tackle some of our world’s most difficult challenges, including sustainable development, climate change, and cancer eradication.

To date, more than 200 million people from just about every country have accessed lecture notes, videos, problem sets, and other core MIT teaching materials—at no cost—through OCW for more than a decade.

Your support is critical to the success of this challenge.

This is a participation challenge and so every person who donates counts toward our goal (and any donation, large or small, makes a difference)! Please help us reach our goal by donating today and encourage your friends, colleagues and family to do the same.

Your support will allow OCW to remain a free, open, current and comprehensive publication of MIT’s core teaching materials. We know that the vast majority of visitors to our site cannot afford to donate, and our core mission is to provide access to exactly these audiences—educators in developing countries, workers displaced by financial crisis, homeschooling parents, independent learners unable to continue formal study.

Your donation supports not only our work, but it also demonstrates to our funders that OCW is a valuable resource for the millions of people who can improve their lives from open access to MIT’s educational assets.

Thank you in advance for helping us reach our goal.


Cecilia d’Oliveira
Executive Director
MIT OpenCourseWare

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MIT unveils Collier memorial

Photo of granite sculpture with a few people nearby.

MIT’s new memorial to police officer Sean Collier, designed by Prof. Meejin Yoon. (Photo by Sarah Hansen.)

By Joe Pickett, OCW Publication Director

Last month MIT dedicated the memorial to MIT police officer Sean Collier, who died two years ago in an attack by the Boston Marathon bombers. (You can see a video of the entire dedication ceremony here.)

Already the monument has become a cherished part of the MIT campus, a special place for quiet reflection, conversation, and just being together.

Officer Collier was no ordinary policeman. The many tributes that have been voiced attest to his remarkable ability to connect with people from all facets of MIT—students, instructors, researchers, staff members. He took a genuine interest in what people were doing, and he did a lot himself, both in and out of uniform, participating enthusiastically in several MIT clubs.

Situated next to the Stata Center, the monument is striking in its elegant simplicity. It consists of five arches connected by a central keystone. The arches are assembled from 32 pieces of shaped granite and arranged to evoke the fingers of an open hand.  The granite pieces offset one other in a precise and stable balance. Their weight alone holds the monument together.

In the words of MIT President Rafael Reif, the memorial is “a new gateway to the campus we share . . .  I hope that in its graceful display of invisible physical forces, it can become a daily reminder of those invisible human forces that create community.”

The monument was designed by the head of MIT’s Architecture Department, Professor J. Meejin Yoon.

A longstanding supporter of OCW, Professor Yoon recently published her fifth OCW course, taught with Professor Neri Oxman,  4.110J Integrative Design Across Disciplines, Scales, and Problem Contexts. Appropriately enough, it “explores the reciprocal relationship among design, science and technology.”

The making of the memorial was recorded in the above video, which shows the shaping of the stones, the painstaking construction (through the massive snows of last winter), and the entwining of art and engineering in the memorial’s design.

MIT geologists in the news

A couple of months ago, we posted a piece about OCW’s new Introduction to Geology course, taught by Professors Taylor Perron and Oliver Jagoutz, and featuring extensive commentary from the instructors about teaching the course. Both professors have been in the news this week.

A crowd of students around a map; a geologist points to the map.

Prof. Jagoutz on a field trip with the introductory geology class. Photo courtesy of Taylor Perron; used with permission.

MIT News published a profile of Taylor Perron, detailing his background and recent research into how landscapes evolve on Earth and beyond:

…[Perron] uses a combination of fieldwork and computational tools to explore the shifting topography of river networks on Earth, as well as elsewhere in the solar system. For instance, he and his group have used data collected by the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft to study landforms on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.

“As you might expect, you see some things that are totally foreign, like nothing you see on Earth,” Perron says. “But the thing that has fascinated me is that you see a lot of other things that look almost exactly like what you see on Earth. That tells you there are some processes — despite the difference in gravity, atmospheric composition, and surface age — that are universal.”

Oliver Jagoutz is coauthor of a paper that explains the mystery of India’s rapid move toward Eurasia 80 million years ago.  MIT News reported on this paper:

Based on the geologic record, India’s migration appears to have started about 120 million years ago, when Gondwana began to break apart. India was sent adrift across what was then the Tethys Ocean — an immense body of water that separated Gondwana from Eurasia. India drifted along at an unremarkable 40 millimeters per year until about 80 million years ago, when it suddenly sped up to 150 millimeters per year. India kept up this velocity for another 30 million years before hitting the brakes — just when the continent collided with Eurasia.

Take this opportunity to learn more about the fascinating world we inhabit from faculty who are pushing the boundaries of what is known; discover more in Introduction to Geology!