IAP: A Fusion of Fun and Learning at MIT

A Texas Hold’em game from a player’s point of view. (Courtesy of Peter Hopper on Flickr. License CC BY-NC.)

Every January, MIT students, faculty, and staff come together and design a special learning experience. Infused with creativity, inventiveness and fun, the four week term, known as Independent Activities Period (IAP), gives rise to some of the most ingenious courses that aren’t all part of the MIT curriculum.

From beekeeping to Japanese archery and computational law to academic resilience storytelling, the variety of workshops and sessions are created and organized by MIT members passionate about their subject area.

On OCW, there are more than 100 IAP courses that are available for you to work through at your own pace. The following are a sample of IAP courses, but you can find all of the IAP courses on OCW.

15.S50 Poker Theory and Analytics

This course takes a broad-based look at poker theory and applications of poker analytics to investment management and trading.

This course is offered during the Independent Activities Period (IAP), which is a special 4-week term at MIT in January. IAP provides members of the MIT community including students, faculty, staff, and alums with an opportunity to organize, sponsor and participate in a wide variety of activities and topics that are often outside of the regular MIT curriculum.

18.S097 Applied Category Theory

Category theory is a relatively new branch of mathematics that has transformed much of pure math research. The technical advance is that category theory provides a framework in which to organize formal systems and by which to translate between them, allowing one to transfer knowledge from one field to another. But this same organizational framework also has many compelling examples outside of pure math. In this course, we will give seven sketches on real-world applications of category theory.

6.S095 Programming for the Puzzled

This class builds a bridge between the recreational world of algorithmic puzzles (puzzles that can be solved by algorithms) and the pragmatic world of computer programming, teaching students to program while solving puzzles. Python syntax and semantics required to understand the code are explained as needed for each puzzle.

6.057 Introduction to MATLAB

This is an accelerated introduction to MATLAB® and its popular toolboxes. Lectures are interactive, with students conducting sample MATLAB problems in real time. The course includes problem-based MATLAB assignments. Students must provide their own laptop and software. This is great preparation for classes that use MATLAB.

21W.794 Graduate Technical Writing Workshop

This course is designed to improve the student’s ability to communicate technical information. It covers the basics of working with sources, including summarizing and paraphrasing, synthesizing source materials, citing, quoting, and avoiding plagiarism. It also covers how to write an abstract and a literature review. In addition, we will cover communication concepts, tools, and strategies that can help you understand how engineering texts work, and how you can make your texts work more effectively.

Learn to Build Your Own Videogame with the Unity Game Engine and Microsoft Kinect

This is a 9-day hands-on workshop about designing, building, and publishing simple educational videogames. No previous experience with computer programming or videogame design is required; beginning students will be taught everything they need to know and advanced students will be challenged to learn new skills. Participants will learn about videogame creation using the Unity game engine, collaborative software development using GitHub, gesture handling using the Microsoft Kinect, 3D digital object creation, videogame design, and small team management.

Climate Action Hands-On: Harnessing Science with Communities to Cut Carbon

This course explores how citizen science can support community actions to combat climate change. Participants will learn about framing problems, design ways to gather data, gather some of their own field data, and consider how the results can enable action. Leaks in the natural gas system—a major source of methane emissions, and a powerful contributor to climate change—will be a particular focus.

Understanding the past to prepare for the future

Image of antique map

Leo Belgicus by Petrus Kaerius (Pieter van den Keere), 1617. (This image is in the public domain.)

OCW covers 17 MIT special subject areas in History

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “I believe that the more you know about the past, the better you are prepared for the future.”

At MIT, the study of History teaches different ways to think critically about the past, present and future of the world. Students develop a rich, empathetic understanding of the people, events, and circumstances that ultimately prepares them to be active members of their local communities and an increasingly global society today.

Tailored to put the modern world in historical perspective, MIT History subjects explore the social, cultural, economic, and political transformations that shape the present.

On OCW, you can browse lists of courses on 17 History subtopics:

African History
American History
Ancient History
Asian History
Comparative History
European History
Historical Methods
Historiography
History of Science and Technology
Intellectual History
Jewish History
Latin American History
Medieval History
Middle Eastern History
Military History
Modern History
World History

OCW has recently published these history courses:

21H.102 American History Since 1865, Spring 2018
This course examines the social, cultural, political, and economic history of the United States, from the Civil War to the present. It uses secondary analysis and primary documents, such as court cases, personal accounts, photographs, and films, to examine some of the key issues in the shaping of modern America, including industrialization and urbanization, immigration, the rise of a mass consumer society, the emergence of the US as a global power, and the development of civil rights activism and other major social movements.

21H.132 The Ancient World: Rome, Spring 2017
This course covers the history of Rome from its humble beginnings to the 5th century A.D. The first half covers Kingship to Republican form; the conquest of Italy; Roman expansion: Pyrrhus, Punic Wars and provinces; classes, courts, and the Roman revolution; Augustus and the formation of empire. The second half covers Virgil to the Vandals; major social, economic, political and religious trends at Rome and in the provinces. There is an emphasis on the use of primary sources in translation.

21H.357 South Asian Migrations, Spring 2018
This course provides a global history of South Asians and introduces students to the cultural, social, economic, and political experiences of immigrants who traveled across the world. It studies how and why South Asians, who have migrated to America, Europe, Africa, the Caribbean and the Middle East, are considered a model minority in some countries and unwanted strangers in others. Through literature, memoirs, films, music, and historical writing, it follows South Asian migrants as they discovered the world beyond India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

21H.155 Modern Japan: 1868 to Present, Spring 2017
This course surveys Japanese history from the establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate in 1603 to the present and explores the local and global nature of modernity in Japan. It highlights key themes, including the emergence of a modern nation-state, the rise and fall of the Japanese Empire, the development of mass consumer culture and the middle class, and the continued importance of historical memory in Japan today.

>Peruse all History courses on OCW

OCW YouTube Subscribers: Because you mean so much to us.

Dear YouTube Subscriber,

We ♥️ you! Thank you for hitting our subscribe button. You are an amazing community of learners.

Passionate, opinionated, grateful, and inspirational, you watch and learn and become experts of your own knowledge. You are fiercely loyal and ‘get’ that sharing makes us better for one another and for the world.

You mean so much to us. Let us count the ways:

  1. You really watch our videos! You’ve watched them more than 187 million times!
  2. You discover us and want to learn more. More than 3 million of you have dived into our resources.
  3. You ♥️ us more than you troll us.
  4. You helped make us the #1 dot.edu channel.
  5. You tell us how we’ve changed your lives.
  6. You have some of the most interesting handles.
  7. You make us want to be better.
  8. You share us with your friends and family.
  9. You inspire us.
  10. You show how learning can happen along side great entertainment videos.

Thank you for being an incredible community and a strong force for learning.

Sincerely,

The MIT OpenCourseWare Team

 

Bridging the digital divide

Students learning to use eTekkatho at Taungoo University

Duyen Nguyen | MIT Open Learning

Myanmar’s education landscape is changing, thanks in large part to the efforts of the  Tekkatho Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that uses digital technologies to bring world-class educational resources to local institutions and communities. Supported by a grant from the Omidyar Network, Tekkatho sets up free, self-contained digital libraries—eTekkatho—and other education infrastructure across the country, making access to materials like MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) possible even in places with little to no connectivity.

eTekkatho is able to include OCW content among its many resources through OCW’s Mirror Site Program, which delivers free copies of the OCW website to over 400 non-profit educational organizations working in under-resourced parts of the world, for installation on their local networks. Currently set up in 23 universities and six community libraries across the country, eTekkatho’s impact on learners in Myanmar has been remarkable. Over 10,000 people—from students to educators—have attended an eTekkatho training course, where they learn how to access, browse, and download educational and research materials. With thousands of resources now at their fingertips, students grow confident in taking the initiative in their education, becoming proficient in self-study and independent learning. As of 2017, over 100,000 individual ebooks, video lessons, datasets, lectures, and other educational content have been downloaded from eTekkatho library.

OCW is one of the most popular resources that eTekkatho provides. At Phaung Daw Oo, a monastery school in Mandalay that offers free education to over 7,000 children, students like Kyaw Win Khant turn to the eTekkatho digital library to research their assignments, develop their IT skills, and prepare for college and work. “Of course I use eTekkatho! It’s really useful for my studies,” says Kyaw, who was motivated to study chemistry after finding resources on the subject through the digital library. Through watching OCW lectures, Kyaw says he also improved…

>Read the complete story on OCW

Study Aids for Students Taking the Joint Entrance Exam

Instructor writing on a light board

Ankur Gupta solves mathematics problems at the light board.

By Welina Farah, MIT Open Learning

This month, students across India are prepping for the Joint Entrance Exam (JEE), a two-part rigorous and thorough national-level standardized test for future engineers.

Twice a year, these test takers hope to do well enough to be accepted into top-tier undergraduate engineering programs at elite institutes across India. These institutes include the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT), National Institutes of Technology (NIT), Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), and various other Centrally Funded Technical Institutions (CFTIs) across the country.

The first round of exams (JEE Main) took place from April 7 to April 12, 2019. Students that passed the first round move on to the second round, (JEE Advanced) taking place on May 27, 2019.

At OpenCourseWare, we have two resources available for those studying for the JEE: a series of videos on the “Highlights for High School” website titled “IIT Joint Entrance Exam Preparation” and a quick blurb on the exams themselves.

These videos came to the OCW page in a great way, stemming from “somebody who knew somebody” and blooming into a much-used and vital resource.

The Senior Educational Technology Consultant at MITx Residential built a lightboard (also known as a learning board). At the time, the technology consultant was helping then-grad student Ankur Gupta to use the lightboard to make the videos, as you may have guessed, hosted on the OCW site.

Gupta decided to continue making these videos as a side project.

There are many more videos on their YouTube page, but putting them on OCW’s YouTube page helped amplify their efforts.

The 9 videos hosted by OCW and created by Gupta have been viewed over 66,000 times.

> Check out the “IIT Joint Entrance Exam Preparation” videos

Gender diversity leads to better science

Photo by Christopher Harting

By Welina Farah | MIT Open Learning

The value of diversity in the workplace, especially as it pertains to women in STEM, can have a profound impact in advancing science and research.

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) published an article in February of 2017 titled, “Gender diversity leads to better science” where 10 researchers sought to add empirical data to the truism “gender diversity enhances knowledge outcomes.” What they found was that “teams may benefit from various types of diversity, including scientific discipline, work experience, gender, ethnicity, and nationality… [that] gender diversity matters for scientific discovery [by] broadening the viewpoints, questions, and areas addressed by researchers.”

For Women’s History Month, we celebrate contributions by women in the field, including those from the past, current scientists, and future innovators of science, technology, engineering, and math.

The following course offerings—from two day-long workshops to a semester of history—provide a lens into the roles women have and can play in STEM.

  • WGS.S10 History of Women in Science and Engineering – This course provides a basic overview of the history of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Students will learn about the specific contributions of women across a variety of disciplines and will gain a broad perspective on how these contributions played a larger role in the advancement of human knowledge and technological achievement. The class also discusses how both historic and modern biases within the STEM disciplines, as well as in representations of women and girls in media and popular culture, can affect outcomes.
  • RES.2.006 Girls Who Build Cameras: One-Day Workshop – In this workshop, high school girls have a one day hands-on introduction to camera physics and technology at the MIT Lincoln Laboratory Beaverworks Center. The workshop includes tearing down old dSLR cameras, building a Raspberry Pi camera, and designing Instagram filters and Photoshop tools. Participants also get to listen to keynote speakers from the camera technology industry, including Kris Clark who engineers space cameras for NASA and MIT Lincoln Laboratory, and Uyanga Tsedev who creates imaging probes to help surgeons find tumors at MIT. During lunch, representatives from the Society of Women Engineers and the Women’s Technology Program at MIT will present future opportunities to get involved in engineering in high school and college.
  • RES.2.005 Girls Who Build: Make Your Own Wearables Workshop – This workshop for high school girls is an introduction to computer science and electrical/mechanical engineering through wearable technology. The workshop, developed by MIT Lincoln Laboratory, consists of two major hands-on projects in manufacturing and wearable electronics. These include 3D printing jewelry and laser cutting a purse, as well as programming LEDs to light up while walking. Participants learn the design process, 3D computer modeling, and machine shop tools, in addition to writing code and building a circuit.

On Pi Day, A Chance to Make an Impact

Digits of Pi on a whiteboard

Digits of Pi on a whiteboard

By Megan Maffucci, MIT Open Learning

On March 14, math enthusiasts everywhere will take a moment to appreciate 𝛑 (pi), that irrational number equaling the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. Pi Day (3.14) is marked annually worldwide with creative pi-themed classroom projects, nerdy baking contests, and other pi (and pie!) filled activities to recognize the importance of this elusive and never-ending number to mathematics and science.

Inspired by the power and possibility of pi, March 14 has become a significant day for MIT, giving way to two special MIT Pi Day traditions. First, it is the long-awaited day every year when MIT announces its admissions decisions for the incoming undergraduate class. It is also MIT’s annual giving day, when alumni, parents, and friends of MIT around the world come together to support the Institute during the 24 hours of Pi Day. The Pi Day giving challenge celebrates important initiatives like OpenCourseWare (OCW) and MITx, which carry out MIT’s mission to advance knowledge worldwide. By giving to OCW and MITx on Pi Day, learners can be part of our efforts to expand these educational resources to empower learners worldwide.

Richard Harlow and Parent Connector Michele Sorenson are two such community members who were inspired to take the Pi Day challenge and give back to OCW and MITx. A long-time OCW learner, Richard embraced the opportunity to make a difference as this year’s OCW Pi Day challenge donor and has pledged to give OCW $5,000 if the project reaches its participation goal. Michele, an MIT parent and lifelong learner, is supporting MITx on Pi Day as a way to help expand accessibility for those with limited educational opportunities. Like Richard, she will make a $5,000 gift to MITx if we reach our Pi Day goal.

Get to know Richard and Michele as they share the stories behind their generous Pi Day pledges and reflect on their own relationships to OCW and MITx:

Richard Harlow, this year’s OCW Pi Day challenge donor

What role does education play in your life?

Richard: In the years 1971-73, I was a lecturer in Chemistry at the University of Zambia. The University, as well as the country, were relatively isolated with very few resources, and little communication with the rest of the world: no reliable telephone service and, of course, no internet at that time.

When I returned to the US, a mild recession was in progress and the only jobs available were temporary post-doctoral type positions.  I accepted a Welch Foundation offer at the University of Texas at Austin where, for a period of 3 years, I labored to get my academic credentials re-established. Having accomplished that, I was successful in obtaining a permanent position at DuPont’s Experimental Station in 1977.

How has OpenCourseWare supported your learning goals?

Richard: I kept in touch with the University of Zambia once the internet was available and, one day, I discovered a reference to the OCW offerings on its website.  I checked out some of the lower-level science courses and realized that they would be a valuable asset for any student who was interested in learning science from some of the best professors in the business.  And cost would not be a barrier!

Intensely curious, I have listened over the last 5 years to lectures on chemistry – how was my field being taught these days;  material sciences – technical details of solar panels; quantum physics – I simply wanted to understand the fundamentals; and finance – circumstances that led to the crash of 2008-09.

What inspired you to support OCW in this year’s Pi Day challenge?

Richard: I began to modestly support the OCW program a few years ago as I could see for myself what a treasure these lectures are. I support, and will continue to support, individual initiatives which expand the ability of people to gain free access to higher education.  OCW is well worth supporting.

 

 

Michele Sorenson, this year’s MITx Pi Day challenge donor

What are you learning now?

Michele: Being a lifelong learner, I subscribe to many feeds, ranging from the spiritual to the academic, the cerebral to the practical. As a faith community nurse, attorney, bioethicist and professor of law and ethics, I do almost all of my continuing education online.  It is free and authoritative, and allows me to stay current in all my professional and avocational ventures. These not only keep me fresh in my fields but also take me just about anywhere I want to go for information. I earned a scholarship to attend the University of Virginia/Virginia Commonwealth University, where I am currently working to attain my geriatric education certification, for which much of the training is online.

What inspired you to support MITx in this challenge?

Michele: My life has been devoted to supporting and advocating for the underprivileged, and the underserved. MITx provides for this, and at a location accessible to even the most isolated among us. All that’s needed is connectivity; once you’re plugged in, you own the universe. How inspiring and empowering to those who have little! A life-altering game changer.

[My son] Andrew ’21 spent his IAP (Independent Activities Period) in Kazakhstan, teaching physics to Astanan high school students. He returned home deeply appreciative of MIT. “Mom” he said, “These kids are smarter than I am. When I asked them what they most wanted in life, every one of them said: ‘I want to go to MIT.’ I looked at them and sadly realized how infinitesimally harder it was for them to attend, and realized how incredibly lucky I was to be there.”  MITx affords these talented kids the opportunity to fulfill that dream: to get an MIT education.

What do you think of MITx’s role in shaping education?

Michele: With great gifts, comes great responsibility. MIT has emerged from a dense pack of excellent universities to be regarded as the premier institute of higher learning in the world. Because of this, MIT has an absolute duty to shape education responsibly, to inform its motto of mens et manus with agape, with love and respect for everyone; the duty incarnate in its Better World campaign. MITx takes this concept global, by “expanding access to quality educational opportunities worldwide.”

Richard and Michele’s stories are just two of many powerful examples of why OCW and MITx remain committed to open access and to helping independent learners and educators make the most of their education. You can make the most of your support and help us unlock Richard and Michele’s $5,000 challenge gifts with a gift of any size on Pi Day.

We hope you’ll join Richard and Michele in supporting us on March 14 by giving to OCW or MITx.