2001 was a banner year

Image of New York Times headline about OCW announcement, alongside Wikipedia logo and an image of DNA sequences on a computer screen.

OCW launched in 2001, alongside the creation of Wikipedia and the first publication of the Human Genome sequence.

This week, as we celebrate the 15 year anniversary of  MIT OpenCourseWare’s unveiling, we’re reflecting on other great strides taken in 2001 and in the years since. It wasn’t so long ago, but it can be hard to remember life before these other prominent “firsts.”

January 2001Wikipedia launched with the crowdsourcing concept that no central authority should control editing.

February 2001: the Human Genome Project published its draft sequence and analysis in Nature.

October 2001: Apple released the first iPod, putting “1,000 songs in your pocket.”

2001 was a time of tremendous energy, and also great uncertainty, about the growth and impact of the Internet. The dot-com investment bubble had burst in the previous year, and many early Internet high-fliers were crashing back to Earth.

The MIT faculty and administration were asking, “What impact will the Internet have on education, and what should MIT do about it?” Their answer, in the form of OCW, was a bold bet on the power of openly shared knowledge. Fifteen years later, the 200 million learners and educators around the world who have used OCW are grateful for their foresight and generosity.

Courses from MIT’s 2016 MacVicar Fellows

The 2016 MacVicar Faculty Fellows: (clockwise from top left) Patty Tang, Jeffrey Grossman, Michael Sipser, and Srinivas Devadas.

The 2016 MacVicar Faculty Fellows: (clockwise from top left) Patty Tang, Jeffrey Grossman, Michael Sipser, and Srinivas Devadas.

Each year, MIT’s MacVicar Faculty Fellows Program honors several MIT professors who have made outstanding contributions to undergraduate teaching, educational innovation, and mentoring. Since 1992, over 90 MacVicar Faculty Fellows have been selected on the basis of merit through an annual nomination process.

This year’s awardees are Professors Srinivas Devadas (electrical engineering and computer science), Jeffrey Grossman (materials science and engineering), Michael Sipser (mathematics), and Patricia Tang (music).

OCW is honored to share courses from each of this year’s Fellows.

Srinivas Devadas

Jeffrey Grossman

Michael Sipser

Patricia Tang

Gravitational waves are everywhere, even on OCW

By now, surely you’re heard the dramatic news of the first observations of gravitational waves by the MIT-Caltech collaboration LIGO Laboratories.

While the phenomenon of gravitational waves may be new to many of us, MIT physics students have been learning about and thinking about gravitational waves and LIGO for some time. Here’s a few highlights from OCW.

If you already have some knowledge of relativity, a great entry point is 8.224 Exploring Black Holes: General Relativity & Astrophysics. This advanced undergraduate subject includes video lectures on several key topics. And for Lecture 12, the course includes PowerPoint lecture slides on “LIGO: Detecting Gravitational Waves” by Dr. Nergis Mavalvala, one of MIT’s lead contributors to the LIGO project.

One of the suggested projects for this course was right on target with the big questions (alas we don’t have any samples of the resulting projects).

Newtonian gravity assumes action at a distance, in clear violation of the principle of relativity. How does general relativity fix this? Why and how do gravitational waves stretch space and what does that mean? How are they produced and how are LIGO and other instruments preparing to detect them?

If you want more background on Einstein’s theory of relativity and its connection to gravity, 8.033 Relativity is a good starting point, especially the lecture notes beginning with Lecture 17.

Another fascinating part on this discovery is the groundbreaking sensitivity of Advanced LIGO, capable of measuring a change in its 4 kilometer mirror spacing by about 10−18 m, less than one-thousandth the charge diameter of a proton.

Video screenshot of professor in front of projected diagram of Advanced LIGO detector.

Watch Wolfgang Ketterle discuss the Advanced LIGO system.

In Lecture 7 of 8.422 Atomic and Optical Physics IIWolfgang Ketterle explains that “a lot of things pushing the frontier of precision measurement [are] motivated by the precision needed for gravitational wave detection.” Beginning at about 52:20 in this lecture, he describes some of the issues and solutions employed in Advanced LIGO’s precision Michelson laser interferometer.

MIT announces new learning research initiatives

Photo of student in a library working on papers and her laptop.MIT’s committed efforts to understand learning and improve it at all levels of education took a big step forward yesterday. As reported by MIT News:

MIT President L. Rafael Reif announced today a significant expansion of the Institute’s programs in learning research and online and digital education — from pre-kindergarten through residential higher education and lifelong learning — that fulfills a number of recommendations made in 2014 by the Institute-Wide Task Force on the Future of MIT Education.

Most notably, Reif announced the creation of the MIT Integrated Learning Initiative (MITili), to be led by Professor John Gabrieli, and a new effort to increase MIT’s ability to improve science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning by students from pre-kindergarten through high school (pK-12), to be led by Professor Angela Belcher. The announcement also included a program to support faculty innovations in MIT residential education and new work to enhance MIT’s continuing education programs. Read more >

What does this mean for OCW and other MIT open educational resources? We look forward to providing better opportunities for learners, and sharing MIT’s latest teaching methods through initiatives like OCW Educator. The accompanying FAQ: Reshaping MIT’s programs in online and digital education states that

Research out of MITili will inform MIT’s digital learning and open education efforts, such as MIT OpenCourseWare, MITx, and the new MicroMaster’s program, and seeks to further improve these online learning platforms by applying latest developments in learning scholarship and educational technology. Read more >

Exciting times!

As an OpenMatters blog post wouldn’t be complete without some related OCW content, we heartily recommend MITili founding director John Gabrieli’s popular 9.00SC Introduction to Psychology. This OCW Scholar course takes you on an engaging scientific journey through human nature, including “how the mind works and how the brain supports the mind.”

If they were a nation, MIT entrepreneurs would be world’s 10th-largest economy

Infographic: as of 2014, MIT alumni have launched 30,200 active companies, employing roughly 4.6 million people, and generating roughly $1.9 trillion in annual revenues.

Illustration by Christine Daniloff/MIT.

A report released yesterday says that, as of 2014, living MIT graduates who have started and built for-profit companies:

  • launched more than 30,000 active firms,
  • created 4.6 million jobs,
  • and generate roughly $1.9 trillion in annual revenue.

As MIT News reported:

That revenue total falls between the world’s ninth-largest GDP, Russia ($2.097 trillion), and the 10th-largest, India ($1.877 trillion), according to 2013 data on those and other countries from the International Monetary Fund.

“The report confirms what has long been clear: Our community’s passion for doing, making, designing and building is alive and growing,” President L. Rafael Reif wrote in an email today to the MIT community. “As we do our part by continuing to foster our students’ natural creativity and energy, it is inspiring to see the potential our alumni hold to extend MIT’s power to do good for the world.”

Read more >

Entrepreneurship and innovation opportunities abound at MIT, affording students from all disciplines many ways to learn, gain experience, make connections and unleash their inspiration.

Inspired to learn more about entrepreneurship?  See OCW’s popular Entrepreneurship collection for a hand-picked selection of entrepreneurship courses, plus links to many videos and other online resources.

Over one billion works use Creative Commons

Graph of # of work vs. years, showing dramatic increase.

Creative Commons licensed works have nearly tripled in the past 5 years, recently exceeding 1 Billion total works. (Image courtesy of Creative Commons, license CC BY 4.0)

Open sharing? We couldn’t do it without you, Creative Commons.

Since OCW adopted a Creative Commons license in 2004, we’ve shared materials from thousands of MIT courses with hundreds of millions of people around the world. All those pageviews, file downloads, remixes and translations, and passing along to friends and colleagues have been enabled by Creative Commons’ clear and widely-accepted terms of use.

Today, Creative Commons announced a major milestone: over 1 billion works have been licensed using Creative Commons since the organization’s founding, and the size of the commons has nearly tripled in the past five years alone. Read more about Creative Commons’ impressive growth and impact in their just-released 2015 State of the Commons Report.

Creators are choosing to share many of their works with the world, free of or with limited restrictions, to support global collaboration. MIT OpenCourseWare is proud to support the Creative Commons’ vision of the world, and proud of our contributions to this vibrant community powered by collaboration and gratitude. The benefits are a world of free and open content that creates more equity, access, and innovation for everyone.

Bringing synthetic biology education to life (MIT News)

BioBuilder lab among students, Kuldell says, is called “Eau That Smell,” which involves examining bacteria engineered to smell like ripe bananas at a certain stage of their growth. Students also enjoy “What a Colorful World,” a lab where students study E. coli programmed to change colors. Another lab, “Golden Bread,” has students add beta-carotene to baker’s yeast. (Image: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT)

BioBuilder labs include “Eau That Smell” (bacteria engineered to smell like ripe bananas at a certain stage of their growth),“What a Colorful World” (E. coli programmed to change colors), and “Golden Bread” (adding beta-carotene to baker’s yeast). (Image: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT)

Bringing Synthetic Biology Education to Life

Rob Matheson | MIT News Office
December 4, 2015

Synthetic biology — which involves engineering biological systems for new uses — has become an increasingly prominent, and promising, field of study in colleges and universities worldwide.

Research has yielded, for example, viruses that attack harmful bacteria, yeasts that produce biofuels, and engineered microorganisms capable of detecting toxins in the environment, among many other innovations.

Yet high school students rarely learn about synthetic biology at all, says Natalie Kuldell, an instructor of biological engineering at MIT. The issue, she says, is lack of accessible, hands-on curricula for such a rapidly developing field.

“With subjects like physics, for instance, you can demonstrate engineering by building Rube Goldberg machines or model bridges,” Kuldell says. “But it’s hard to think how to bring engineering to biology for high school students.”

In partnership with high school teachers, Kuldell launched the BioBuilder Educational Foundation in 2011 to provide schools with lab kits and lesson plans — adapted from her own MIT curriculum and MIT research labs — to boost interest and innovation in the field.

Today, more than 400 teachers in 43 states are using the formal BioBuilder curriculum. Some have also adapted the coursework for middle school students. Many other teachers worldwide incorporate some of the material, which is freely available online, into their lesson plans.

Read more >

In Dr. Kuldell’s OCW course 20.020 Introduction to Biological Engineering Design, you can see how she introduces MIT undergraduates to synthetic biologyIn addition to BioBuilder animations, this content-rich course includes detailed week-by-week notes on each design and lab activity, examples of student project work, and teaching notes that fill in pedagogical background.