MITx learners on why you should try out 3.032x

Our colleagues at MITx have a big fall planned, with many courses starting during September. Here’s motivation to explore one of those upcoming courses.


Photo collage of several mechanical structures.

By Lisa Eichel, MITx Community and Outreach Manager

MITx MOOC 3.032x Mechanical Behavior of Materials is a fascinating exploration of how engineers create materials for different purposes. In advance of its next run starting September 9th, MITx talked to a few learners from the first run of 3.032x to tell us about their experience and share why someone may want to take the course this time.

Why did you decide to take 3.032x?

The learners we spoke to had a variety of reasons for taking the course.  They were eager to get exposure to subjects not available to them during their own university course of study, or were aiming to fill in gaps in knowledge that could benefit them in their current careers.

But commonly, they were drawn to a chance to learn from Professor Lorna Gibson.  Even across the globe, learner Tri Suseno of Perth, Australia was aware of Professor Gibson’s highly respected profile in this field after taking a materials science course during his undergraduate education. “Professor Gibson is a well-known expert in her area, and a well-known excellent teacher.” Mungo Aiken noted that staff from a related MITx on edX course he had completed recommended 3.032x as a next step and specifically emphasized the excellence of Gibson’s teaching.

What was your favorite aspect of the course?

Learners enjoyed the section of the course on Mohr’s Circle, a method of determining stresses on materials.  While challenging, they could really understand how easily it could be applied to common problems. They also appreciated how Professor Gibson included examples found in nature into the course.  “It’s amazing to see how strategies of mechanical advantage are reflected in evolutionary development — how woodpeckers avoid brain damage, for example,” said another 3.032x learner Steven Frank.

Aiken was also impressed by how much time Professor Gibson and MITx Digital Learning Lab Scientist Jessica Sandland spent answering student questions. “The high-quality answers from the staff really furthered my understanding of the subject and led to me taking an interest in current research in material sciences,” he said, “Lorna’s passion for her research really shines through in her posts.”

How did this course help you, either in your career or in your life?

All of the learners we spoke to really appreciated what they got out of 3.032x.  While the course is challenging and time-intensive, they were happy with the decision they made to stick with it.  For patent lawyer Frank, he felt more equipped to talk with clients: “Familiarity with the underlying mechanisms [of materials] helps me ask smarter questions.”  Seseno also noted that as a business owner, taking part in the course, “helped expand my curiosity and problem-solving skills.”

Aiken experienced an even more profound outcome from the course – the chance to meet Professor Gibson in person and talk to her about a potential science career. “I consider myself incredibly fortunate in the sense that taking 3.032x gave me a massive boost to my career,” said Aiken.  He is happy to share that he has accepted an internship at a science company in Massachusetts, which he was initially introduced to via Professor Gibson’s contacts.

Frank’s final thoughts? “If you’re even thinking of taking the course, just DO IT.”

3.032.1x Mechanical Behavior of Materials: Part 1 – Linear Elastic Behavior starts on on September 9.  The course is formatted as 3 consecutive modules, which make up the full course.


OCW has other examples of Professor Gibson’s teaching, including her recent 3.054 Cellular Solids: Structure, Properties and Applications. This course is a follow-up to 3.032, and spotlights the surprising structure and mechanical behavior of honeycombs and foams. Students apply models for the behavior of cellular solids to applications in engineering and medicine and to natural materials like plants and animal skulls. The OCW course includes a complete set of lecture notes, examples of student projects, and several Instructor Insights videos in which Professor Gibson explains how she teaches.

MIT’s freshman year in OCW: after the core

Photo of three students facing a whiteboard covered with mechanics review notes.

MIT students at a mechanics review session. (Photo by Christopher Harting / MIT Communication Production Services)

As we described in a recent post, OCW gives you a complete picture of the core classes that comprise the typical MIT freshman year.

OCW also gives you plenty of next steps. For instance, check out these courses that might be taken by MIT freshmen who test out of one or more of the core math/science requirements.

Experience MIT’s freshman year with OCW

Photo of several students working together around a table.

MIT students getting to work. (Photo by Christopher Harting/MIT Communication Production Services.)

Best wishes for the new school year! And that goes double if you’re a new college freshman.

MIT’s freshman year is known to be rigorous and challenging; but there’s also plenty of fun, creativity and collaboration. What courses fill the first two semesters here?

  • A required sequence of six core math and science subjects
  • One course per semester in the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (HASS), since undergrads must take at least eight HASS electives before graduation.

Use OCW to get a detailed view of the complete MIT freshmen year. (One of these courses is also about to begin as a MOOC from MITx on edX, as noted below.) Get inspired, prepare for your own upcoming classes, supplement your current studies…or just relive the memories if it’s been a few years.

Core Math and Science Requirements

Each of these requirements can be satisfied by one of several courses. The course options accomodate diverse student backgrounds and interests, with varied ways to learn the key concepts.

Freshmen that test out of one or more of these core requirements are free to move ahead to higher-level math or science classes, or explore other disciplines like programming, engineering, and business. In this follow-up post, we use OCW to highlight some next steps.

Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (HASS) Electives

MIT has great strength in the humanities, arts, and social sciences. Freshmen choose from several hundred introductory HASS courses to round out their schedules. Here’s a representative sample from OCW.

MIT Biology and Office of Digital Learning Team Recognized for DNA Video

By Lisa Eichel, MITx Community and Outreach Manager


A DNA structure animation created for the MITx course 7.28.1x Molecular Biology: DNA Replication and Repair won the BioCommunications Association Medical Education Award for Motion Video and a Citation of Merit in the Motion Media: Video category at the 2015 BioImages visual media competition. The annual competition honors still, graphic, and motion media projects that focus on life sciences and medicine.

MITx Biology Digital Learning Fellow Sera Thornton and Office of Digital Learning Science Visualization Specialist Betsy Skrip collaborated on the deep dive video, which marries 2D and 3D representations to present a cohesive picture of DNA structure. The video reinforces the key structural and functional characteristics of DNA and illustrates some often difficult-to-visualize perspectives, such as how the flattened view of the structure is derived from the helix and how the major and minor grooves coil in 3D space.

While initially produced as part of the 7.28.1x MOOC for MITx on edX (offered again starting August 4), the team purposely designed the video to be able to stand alone from the full course so that it could be used by a diverse audience of biology students — from high school to graduate level, and on and off the MIT campus.

On the MIT campus, students enrolled in Professor Steve Bell and Professor Wendy Gilbert’s 7.28/7.58 (Molecular Biology) are utilizing this video, along with other videos and online assessment questions developed for 7.28.1x, as supplementary materials to enhance their classroom learning. The MITx Biology team also plans to circulate the clip more widely so that it can benefit a broader scope of science educators and learners. Already, Skrip’s former professor at The College of New Rochelle has made the video a requirement in their undergraduate Molecular Biology course.

“ODL has brought together under one umbrella a group of people with diverse skill sets,” describes Dr. Thornton. “We’ve really taken advantage of that in this collaboration, and it’s allowed us not only to learn from each other, but also to create exactly the teaching tool we envisioned – a video that is both beautiful and biologically accurate.”

Skrip and Thornton worked closely together on both the scripting and the animation. MIT student Ceri Riley narrated the video, Julian Samal refined the sound, and Professor Steve Bell and MITx Digital Learning Lab members Mary Ellen Wiltrout and Nathaniel Schafheimer assisted with script editing and feedback. MITx Media Specialist Caitlin Stier provided additional support for the entire 7.28x course.

Want to learn more about DNA and molecular biology? 7.28.1x starts on August 4 — register now.

What to Do on Your Summer Vacation

Photo of students walking down a school hallway, with a bank of electronic devices on their right.

By Joe Pickett, OCW Publication Director

The school year has wound down, and summer promises to be a time for recharging batteries and reflecting on how things might go better, or even be different, next time around.

Many instructors, indeed entire school districts, see great potential to transform education by implementing new technology in the classroom.

But the landscape of videos, online assessments, tracking tools, and evaluation metrics remains an intimidating one. How can teachers hope to get up to speed in the vanishing weeks of summer?

Professor Eric Klopfer’s edX course 11.133x Implementation and Evaluation of Educational Technology offers an easy way to get into the pool and make waves.

The course starts on July 15, giving teachers enough time to decompress from the school year before taking on a new assignment. The course should also be of interest to entrepreneurs, developers, practitioners, and leaders in educational technology. Running for seven weeks, 11.133x has a very manageable workload of only 4–5 hours per week.

Professor Klopfer is practiced hand at online teaching. He has developed and led three successful courses on edX already.  11.132x Design and Development of Educational Technology ran last fall. It is not a requirement for 11.133x, which is open to all comers. Two other edX courses offered in the past year tapped into a second area of Professor Klopfer’s research—games in learning: 11.126x Introduction to Game Design and 11.127x Design and Development of Games For Learning.

Students interested in gaining some background might examine Professor’s Klopfer’s courses available now on OCW:

As the course registration page says, 11.133x “provides a practical overview for selecting, integrating, implementing, and evaluating educational technology initiatives in formal educational settings, primarily in the US. It will include the perspectives of stakeholders that make such initiatives possible, and consider how to evaluate for efficacy.”

Like nearly all of Professor Klopfer’s offerings, this one is project-based. Students will learn by doing. Lounging on a beach towel is not an option!

Photographer has front-row seat for big scientific discoveries (Boston Globe)

A collage of some of Felice Frankel's photographs.

A collage of some of Felice Frankel’s photographs.

Photographer has front-row seat for big scientific discoveries
By Nidhi Subbaraman

Ansel Adams earned renown for his landscape photography. Annie Leibovitz became famous with her portraits of the rich and famous. Felice Frankel has staked out her own small corner of the photography world: science.

For two decades, Frankel has claimed a front-row seat to some of the biggest discoveries emerging from both sides of the Charles, photographing experiments from within the labs that created them.

When top chemists and engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard are preparing to reveal new research in the world’s premier journals, they call Frankel. Her subjects have included yeast colonies shaped like daisies, rainbow-colored quantum dots, and soft flexible electronics that can be tattooed onto the skin.

“That one shot can be so compelling that it gets people to not only recognize what’s going on, but excited about it,” said Paula Hammond, an MIT professor who has collaborated with Frankel on several projects. Read the complete article >

Now you can learn some techniques and tips directly from the master. Sign up now for her MITx on edX course Making Science and Engineering Pictures: A Practical Guide to Presenting Your Work. The course begins on June 15.


You can also preview the first week of this course, about using a flatbed scanner to create wonderfully detailed photographs of 3D objects, in the OCW resource Making Science and Engineering Pictures.

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.