Discovering math and physics through MIT OpenCourseWare

Photo of Kyle with his parents, outdoors on a grassy hillside.

Now a PhD student in physics at SUNY Stony Brook, Kyle Lee’s journey began online with MIT OpenCourseWare

By Duyen Nguyen | MIT Open Learning

Within two weeks of taking his first college-level physics course, Kyle Lee knew that he wanted to be a physicist.

Now a PhD candidate at SUNY Stony Brook, Kyle says that the way physicists think, combining physical intuition and mathematics to find creative solutions to problems, is what drew him to the field. He would quickly learn to problem-solve like a physicist. While he enjoyed his first physics course, Kyle found the classes at his community college to be insufficient and began looking online for other resources. That’s when he came across MIT OpenCourseWare, and his newfound dream started to become a reality.

“OCW and MIT’s digital resources have definitely changed the way I learn and my educational experience,” he says.

After graduating from high school, he wasn’t sure about what he wanted to study — or even if college was the right path for him. His family came to the United States from South Korea when he was young so that he could have better opportunities. But despite doing well in school, Kyle received little guidance. He owned a telescope and would drive to the California deserts to look at the stars, but his interests in exploration hadn’t yet taken shape. He took a semester off before enrolling in a nearby community college.

“I became desperate to find something to be passionate about,” he says. “I didn’t think about grades and just took classes I thought I would enjoy.”

An aptitude test pointing him to electrical engineering — a career he’d never even heard of — landed him in the physics class where he’d find his calling.

“I knew I had to distinguish myself if I wanted to be a physicist,” he recalls.

Through OCW, Kyle discovered not only MIT’s physics and math courses, but the world of free and open digital educational resources. With the advanced knowledge he gained from the lectures and other course materials on OCW and similar platforms — and the confidence that this gave him — Kyle knocked on the door of a physics professor at UC Irvine to ask for a research position.

After that, the doors continued to open for Kyle. He was accepted to Chapman University’s newly established physics program, where his excellent grades and the research he was doing at UC Irvine earned him a full scholarship. For Kyle, coming from a working-class immigrant background, this was the only path to affording an education at a four-year institution. It’s a path that he’s worked hard to pave.

But along the way, OCW has been there to help. Today, Kyle still consults OCW resources to remind himself of certain concepts. “During my PhD, I took Effective Field Theory,” a graduate-level course available on both OCW and MITx, “which has had a huge impact on my work,” he says. And recently, the MIT department of physics invited Kyle to speak at the Theoretical Physics Seminar on campus, where he shared his work on quantum chromodynamics, a theory of the strong nuclear force. There, he met many of the leading physicists whom he’d admired for years.

As he prepares to complete his PhD, Kyle reflects, “I strongly believe in OCW’s mission to make this sophisticated knowledge available globally. It really has changed the entire path of my educational career.”

Explore the New MIT Open Learning Library

Now even more opportunities to learn from MIT at your own pace.

Screenshot of Open Learning Library webpage.

MIT Open Learning Library (OLL) is a new home to selected educational content from MIT OpenCourseWare and MITx on edX courses, available for free to anyone in the world at any time. We’re glad to share this prototype, combining some of the most important characteristics of the OCW and MITx experiences.

Interactive Assessments and Progress Tracking

One advantage to using the MIT Open Learning Library is that, by creating a free account, you will be able to keep track of your progress as you work your way through a course and to see the answers you’ve submitted to problems within the course – just as you can with MITx on edX courses. However, Open Learning Library does not include discussion forums, certificates, or the ability to transfer your progress to MITx on edX. 

How OLL Compares to OCW and MITx

You can think of OCW, MITx, and OLL along a spectrum of learning scenarios, in which MIT content is presented in different formats to meet different user needs. 

  • MITx courses on edX are end-to-end course experiences with optional certificates available for you to earn, live teaching support and interaction with other learners in discussion forums, and start and end dates.
  • MIT OpenCourseWare offers a completely self-guided experience with published content from MIT courses that is open all of the time and licensed for download, remix, and reuse, but does not offer certificates nor interaction with teachers and learners. 
  • MIT Open Learning Library sits in between MITx on edX and OCW. As in many MITx courses, OLL provides interactive course experiences that include auto-graded assessments that give you instant feedback and allow you to track your progress as you work your way through the subject matter. Like OCW, this content is always open and self-guided and includes no live support, discussion forum, or certificates.

Open Learning Library resources designated as OCW content are free to download, remix, and reuse for non-commercial purposes.  Resources designated as MITx content have varying licenses: some are All Rights Reserved, others Creative Commons, and some have mixed licenses. You will see the license type indicated on the About Pages.

Take a Closer Look

6.042J Mathematics for Computer Science is an example of an OCW course on OLL. As taught at MIT, Professor Albert Meyer used MIT’s residential version of the edX platform to deliver short videos interspersed with interactive concept questions that checked and effectively reinforced student learning — in other words, a structure very similar to MITx courses. This structure was reflected in the the openly licensed OCW version of this course, although OCW’s current platform is not able to track a learner’s progress through the course. Now with the new OLL version of the course, learners have a “best of both worlds” experience where the platform keeps track of their progress, while preserving OCW’s always-available openness.  

This version of Open Learning Library is an evolving prototype. Watch for new content, new site features, and an enhanced user experience. We welcome your feedback on the site, including your thoughts on areas for improvement.

A wealth of OCW content from Nobel Prize-winning MIT economists Duflo and Banerjee

MIT economists Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo. (Photo by Bryce Vickmark.)

The Nobel Prize in Economics just awarded to MIT economists Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee (along with Harvard colleague Michael Kremer) recognizes the transformational results of their antipoverty research and relief efforts. Their work exemplifies the power of creative and practical new approaches to the world’s biggest problems, backed with experimental rigor and analytical insight—all qualities found in much MIT research and the MIT education.

As MIT News wrote:

The work of Duflo and Banerjee, which has long been intertwined with Kremer’s, has been highly innovative in the area of development economics, emphasizing the use of field experiments in research in order to realize the benefits of laboratory-style randomized, controlled trials. Duflo and Banerjee have applied this new precision while studying a wide range of topics implicated in global poverty, including health care, education, agriculture, and gender issues, while developing new antipoverty programs based on their research.

Duflo and Banerjee also co-founded MIT’s Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL)  in 2003, along with a third co-founder, Sendhil Mullainathan, now of the University of Chicago. J-PAL, a global network of antipoverty researchers that conducts field experiments, has now become a major center of research, facilitating work across the world.

J-PAL also examines which kinds of local interventions have the greatest impact on social problems, and works to implement those programs more broadly, in cooperation with governments and NGOs. Among J-PAL’s notable interventions are deworming programs that have been adopted widely…

Duflo, 46, is the second woman and the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel in economic sciences.

“We’re fortunate to see this kind of work being recognized,” Duflo told MIT News, noting that their work was “born at MIT and supported by MIT.” She called the work in this area a “collective effort” and said that “we could not have created a movement without hundreds of researchers and staff members.” The Nobel award, she said, also represented this collective enterprise, and was “larger than our work.”

MIT OpenCourseWare is proud to share with you these courses and resources by Professors Duflo and Banerjee.

  • 14.73 The Challenge of World Poverty
    This undergraduate course, featuring complete video lectures, is for those who are interested in the challenge posed by massive and persistent world poverty, and are hopeful that economists might have something useful to say about this challenge. The questions we will take up include: Is extreme poverty a thing of the past? What is economic life like when living under a dollar per day? Why do some countries grow fast and others fall further behind? Does growth help the poor?…
  • 14.771 Development Economics: Microeconomic Issues and Policy Models
    This graduate course, featuring complete lecture notes and taught with co-instructor Benjamin Olken, covers the productivity effects of health, private and social returns to education, education quality, education policy and market equilibrium, gender discrimination, public finance, decision making within families, firms and contracts, technology, labor and migration, land, and the markets for credit and savings.
  • Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) Executive Training: Evaluating Social Programs 2009
    This five-day program, led with co-instructor Rachel Glennerster, provides a thorough understanding of randomized evaluations and pragmatic step-by-step training for conducting one’s own evaluation. The OCW site features complete lecture videos (including one lecture by Nobel Prize co-winner Michael Kremer) and a set of case studies.
  • Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) Executive Training: Evaluating Social Programs 2011
    A complementary version of the J-PAL five-day program, with other case studies and exercises.

OCW also has two other courses by Professor Duflo:

  • 14.74 Foundations of Policy Development
    This undergraduate course explores the foundations of policy making in developing countries. The goal is to spell out various policy options and to quantify the trade-offs between them. We will study the different facets of human development: education, health, gender, the family, land relations, risk, informal and formal norms and institutions…
  • 14.11 Putting Social Sciences to the Test: Field Experiments in Economics
    This undergraduate course, co-taught with Prof. David Autor, is about field (that is, ‘in situ’) and laboratory experiments in the social sciences – both what these experiments have taught and can teach us and how to conduct them.

And if all this great content on OCW leaves you wanting even more, there’s the MITx MicroMasters Program in Data, Economics, and Development Policy, specifically focused on the methodologies and teaching of Professors Duflo and Banerjee.

MIT OpenCourseWare videos on YouTube have been restored

MIT OpenCourseWare’s videos on YouTube, which had been blocked around the world since last Thursday evening, are once again viewable.

Just before midnight (EDT) on Thursday June 14, over 5,000 OCW videos on YouTube — including classroom lectures, MIT faculty interviews, and student project presentations — were suddenly blocked to viewers all around the world. Visitors to the OCW channel on the YouTube website, or on the YouTube app, saw an error message: “This video contains content from MIT. It is not available in your country.

While this error message implied that the blockage was somehow dependent on the viewer’s country, we believe the blockage was worldwide.

Visitors to the OCW website, where these videos are embedded within course webpages, got a similar error message that videos could not be played.

OCW immediately requested help from YouTube Support to fix the issue.

On Monday June 18, the YouTube team informed OCW that the videos would be restored upon approving a new “Subscription Offerings Amendment” to our YouTube Partner Agreement. After discussions between MIT and YouTube legal teams, an approved agreement is now in place.

We are glad that YouTube has restored access to OCW’s videos. YouTube has long been a valued partner to OCW in freely sharing our open course materials around the world. We look forward to working with YouTube to ensure that our content remains available to all, without barriers.

NOTE: This post was updated on June 25, 2018, to reflect the approved agreement between MIT and YouTube.

Statement on OCW Videos Blocked on YouTube

At around midnight on June 14, a number of OCW videos on YouTube suddenly became unavailable for many learners.  Instead, they saw the following message from YouTube: “This video contains content from MIT. It is not available in your country.”

As of 3:00pm EDT Monday June 18, we still don’t have a solution.  Learners from the United States, India, China, Egypt, Belgium, Serbia, Kazakhstan – from all around the world – are still unable to access this MIT content. YouTube support is investigating the issue, and we eagerly await a fix.

Media reports show that OCW is not alone in this video blocking problem. Among others, it’s hit the popular YouTube channels of Blender, India’s Press Information Bureau, Czech soccer club AC Sparta Praha, and England Rugby.

We are deeply concerned about the blocking of these videos, as we know that so many OCW visitors rely on this content every day. We appreciate how the YouTube platform has allowed OCW to reach millions of learners from around the globe for free, consistent with our mission: to freely and openly share MIT course materials with the world.

While our YouTube videos are blocked, you can still access our videos through iTunes and the Internet Archive, via links on the OCW pages hosting each video.

We appreciate the outpouring of concern from our global community of passionate learners and educators. You’re the reason we’re here!

We’ll continue to work with YouTube to ensure that our videos are restored and accessible to all, without any barriers.

The Commons rejoices: 375,000 new images from the Met

Photo of ceramic statue of a person, smilling with arms upraised.

This Smiling Figure from the Remojadas region of Veracruz is a hollow ceramic sculpture representing an individual celebrating with music and dance. (License CC 0, from the Metropolitan Museum.)

It’s a great day for art and the Commons!

Today, the Metropolitan Museum of Art unveiled a new Open Access policy for 375,000 images from their permanent collection – spanning 5,000 years of history, from antiquities to photography, and including images otherwise unavailable to view within the museum itself. These images (and their metadata) are provided under the public domain Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license.

Begin to explore the bounty by visiting their Collection page, and selecting the “Public Domain Artworks” filter in the left-hand column.

Learn more about the program, including their partnerships with Artstor, Wikimedia Foundation, Digital Public Library of America, ITHAKA, and Creative Commons, in this Facebook Live video of the announcement.

We look forward to these great artworks enlivening our course home pages, social media posts, and within our course materials. From all of us at MIT OpenCourseWare, and on behalf of our millions of learners around the globe, thank you Met and all those who made this gift possible.

You can change the world!

Submit your idea to MIT Solve

Maybe it’s an idea that’s been rattling around your head or maybe you’re about to have an epiphany that can dramatically improve the lives of hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people.

Now is your chance to make your idea become a reality.

Solve, an initiative of MIT, has launched three new challenges on its open innovation platform and is seeking submissions which could be pitched at the United Nations on March 7th.

Aimed at developing and implementing solutions to major global issues, the current Solve challenges seek innovative solutions that address: 

  • Refugee Education: How can we improve learning outcomes for refugee and displaced young people under 24? Click here to view the challenge.
  • Carbon Contributions: How can individuals and corporations manage and reduce their carbon contributions? Click here to view the challenge.
  • Chronic Diseases: How can we help people prevent, detect and manage chronic diseases, especially in resources-limited settings? Click here to view the challenge.

Challenges are active and open for applications until January 20, 2017. Anyone with innovative ideas and a passion for finding affordable, far-reaching, and implementable solutions is encouraged to apply.

You can find out more information about MIT Solve at http://solve.mit.edu/