15 years ago, the big idea was announced

People hear about OpenCourseWare for the first time every day (I see the comments on Twitter!), but can you believe that the idea of OCW was announced 15 years ago?!

Screenshot of a New York Times articleIf you’d like to learn about MIT OpenCourseWare’s origins, read the story in the New York Times that announced the big idea to the world.

4 Fun Facts from “Fundamentals of Biology”

Magnolia petals stained with methylene blue and shown at 100 times magnification.

(Original image courtesy of kaibara on Flickr.)

Fundamentals of Biology is an OCW Scholar course that’s designed to help you learn the principles of the basic mechanisms of life. Our Digital Publication Specialist Alicia Franke, who works with the Biology Department, has collected a few interesting tidbits from this rich course.

#1: Your genome (assuming you’re human) contains 3 billion base pairs of DNA, and about 20,000-25,000 genes.

Learn about nucleic acids and the structure of DNA, and click over to the Human Genome Project to learn about how the sequence of these 3 billion bases were determined.

#2: van der Waals forces in action: These geckos are able to stick to any surface, even climb up walls. How? Their toe pads contain millions of tiny hairs (known as setae), so tiny that they can interact with surfaces on a molecular level. No glue required.

Learn about van der Waals forces in the video lecture: Proteins, Levels of Structure, Non-Covalent Forces, Excerpt 2. (Skip forward to 25:40.)

#3: Another reptile fact! A species of lizard, known as the Jesus Christ lizard, can actually walk on water. They are able to do this because of the structure of their feet, combined with a very important property of water known as surface tension.

Watch this video of the lizard in action, and then learn about surface tension in the video lecture Covalent Bonds, Hydrogen Bonds. (Start at 20:45.)

#4. You already know donuts are delicious. You also know that fats can be both good and bad for us. Why, exactly, are some fats (like cis-unsaturated) good for us, while other fats like trans-unsaturated (or “trans fats”) are bad for us?

Learn the details of the answer in the video lecture Macromolecules: Lipids, Carbohydrates, Nucleic Acid, Excerpt 1. Prof. Havel Sive gets into saturated fats at 14:45, unsaturated fats at 17:00, and trans fats at 18:25.

Crosslinks: connections across the MIT curriculum

The concepts and skills you learn in an MIT class are never confined to just one class; they build on each other, cross disciplines, and lead to new insights. The website Crosslinks makes these connections clear.


Crosslinks is a website authored by MIT students, edited and checked by MIT faculty, that relates topics across the undergraduate curriculum. Each topic links to reference material, making frequent use of OpenCourseWare resources! Take a look at Block Diagrams, for example:

crosslink exampleYou can learn about block diagrams on OCW in 18.03SC, 6.003, and 16.06. You’re linked not just to the course, but to the specific lecture note or book chapter that’s most relevant to the topic. Once you study the material, you can apply what you’ve learned to a question on a problem set.

If a topic you’re interested in is on Crosslinks, this is a great way to zero in on what OCW material will be most helpful to you. Crosslinks is just getting started, and more topics are added all the time. (You can see all the topics here.) Visit the site and let us know what you think!

#AllAboutOpen: Our OCW Educator Twitter Chat

As part of Open Education Week, Open College at Kaplan University (OC@KU) and the Open Education Consortium (OEC) hosted a 24-hour Twitter event, #AllAboutOpen. We participated in the lively discussion last night for half an hour, talking about the OCW Educator initiative. If you missed the chat (or prefer the blog to Twitter), here’s a recap:

Blend your classroom with edX

Are you an educator who wants to enhance your classroom with educational technology? You may be interested in Blended Learning with edX, an online course actually created by the edX team (instead of by a university partner, like MITx).

The course intro video showcases TEAL, MIT’s Technology Enabled Active Learning classroom. We’ve published a few MIT math and physics courses that use TEAL on OCW:

In particular, the Instructor Insights page at the course site for 18.05 goes into depth about TEAL and how it’s used to teach math in an active way. You’ll see a diagram of the setup of the classroom, and a photograph of the students working. Scroll down to A Day in 18.05 to see a lecture video and a timeline that walks you through each in-class activity. We’ve written about active learning in 18.05 on the blog before, if you’d like even more information.

Why do OpenCourseWare? Why do MITx?

As the former Chair of MIT OpenCourseWare’s Faculty Advisory Committee, Prof. Shigeru Miyagawa has been asked many many times “why does MIT do OpenCourseWare?” He spoke about his answer to this question last month at the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning (CCNMTL).


Prof. Miyagawa’s answer goes back to a quote from former MIT president Chuck Vest:
“If you share money, it disappears, but if you share knowledge, it increases.”

Thousands of Einstein Documents Are Now a Click Away (The New York Times)

a portrait of Albert EinsteinDigital Einstein Papers, an online trove of Albert Einstein’s documents, opened to the public today, according to the New York Times. On the website, anyone will be able to read and access Einstein’s scientific papers, personal letters, and other many documents for free.

As you peruse the collected papers of Albert Einstein, stop by OCW to learn more about the physics he worked to discover, and his place in history.

Related Physics Courses

Other Related Courses