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.

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

Notes from the Overground

Illustration from the lecture notes for module 1, session 4, of 5.07 Biological Chemistry 1, showing how penicillin inhibits cell wall biosynthesis in bacteria by inhibiting the enzyme transpeptidase.

Illustration from the lecture notes for module 1, session 4, of 5.07 Biological Chemistry 1, showing how penicillin inhibits cell wall biosynthesis in bacteria by inhibiting the enzyme transpeptidase.

By Joe Pickett, OCW Publication Director

In the days of high resolution video, lecture notes may not seem like a flashy way to learn, but they represent one of OCW’s most valuable and portable learning resources.  Currently, almost 650 course sites in the OCW collection have complete lecture notes, and many other sites have selected notes. Another 67 courses have full online textbooks.

At their most robust, lecture notes can mimic textbooks, with clearly written prose, crisp mathematical notation, and graphs or illustrations.

A good way to zero in on class notes in a subject that interests you is to visit the Teaching Materials search on the OCW Educator portal. Here you can call up a specific subject area, and find all the courses within it that have lecture notes, complete or selected.

Teaching Materials Search

But see for yourself in this sampler of recently published courses with lecture notes:

This course discusses theoretical concepts and analysis of wave problems in science and engineering. Examples are chosen from elasticity, acoustics, geophysics, hydrodynamics, blood flow, nondestructive evaluation, and other applications.

This course examines the chemical and physical properties of the cell and its building blocks, with special emphasis on the structures of proteins and principles of catalysis.

This course provides students with the basic tools for analyzing experimental data, properly interpreting statistical reports in the literature, and reasoning under uncertain situations. Topics organized around three key theories: Probability, statistical, and the linear model.

This course studies information and contract theory, encompassing decision making under uncertainty, risk sharing, moral hazard, adverse selection, mechanism design, and incomplete contracting.

This course presents a computationally focused introduction to elliptic curves, with applications to number theory and cryptography. It works its way up to some fairly advanced material, including an overview of the proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem.

This is the first semester of a one year graduate course in number theory covering standard topics in algebraic and analytic number theory.

This course is the continuation of 18.785 Number Theory I. It begins with an analysis of the quadratic case of Class Field Theory via Hilbert symbols, in order to give a more hands-on introduction to the ideas of Class Field Theory.

New season of “Science Out Loud” sparks curiosity

Photo of woman in a lab coat being video'd, surrounded by lighting and camera equipment, with two production people assisting.

Left to right: Elizabeth Choe ’13, executive producer; George Zaidan ’08, director; and Whitney Hess PhD ’16 film “Choose-Your-Own-Chemistry-Adventure” for “Science Out Loud” from MIT+K12 Videos.

By MIT Office of Digital Learning

No equations allowed. This basic rule drives the thinking behind “Science Out Loud,” an original web series hosted and co-written by MIT students. The fun, engaging videos are geared towards middle and high school students and designed to bring scientific concepts to life through research, experiments, and demos performed by real scientists and engineers. No chalkboards. No textbooks. Lots of learning.

The new season of Science Out Loud – now live on YouTube – pushes the boundaries of video production to turn academic education into curiosity-sparking interactive experiences.

There’s a choose-your-own chemistry adventure where viewers can click through the video to change the ingredients of a chemical reaction (yeast, soap, and hydrogen peroxide) and create the best foam explosion.

Another video explores how virtual reality works, which viewers can watch in 360 degrees on YouTube and Google Cardboard. Yet another showcases MIT’s Scratch programming to make a video game, with the option to watch in English or Italian.

Science Out Loud is part of MIT+K12 Videos, an educational outreach program from the Office of Digital Learning that seeks to encourage a lifelong love of learning through original digital media and live programming. The program aims to promote STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) literacy while opening the world of MIT to as many people as possible.

“The foundation of MIT+K12 is not video, camera work, or editing,” explains program director Elizabeth Choe. “It’s about what the videos enable. We want to leverage the amazing community of students and people at MIT to challenge people’s notions of what scientists and science look like while sparking curiosity and agency among young people.”

Originally launched by the School of Engineering in 2011, MIT+K12 Videos has produced more than 150 videos that have garnered close to 10 million views on YouTube. The program fits within MIT’s larger pK-12 vision to bring the university’s immersive, hands-on approach beyond the campus and deliver STEM education to pre-kindergarten through grade-12 learners and educators.

For MIT students participating, the program is about developing the skills not just to make a video but to clearly communicate their research and share their passion with a non-STEM audience. All to complement what they’re learning in the classroom.

“K12 Videos gave me such a variety of practical experience,” says K12 Videos Educational Media Fellow and recent graduate Ceri Riley ’16. “Every project was different so I got to try out new skills — from producing and editing to animating and filming. It really acted as a springboard for me.” Post-graduation, Riley is already working for SciShow, an extremely popular science channel on YouTube.

“I’m proud of putting myself out there. It challenged me to step outside of my comfort zone, to try new things, and to appreciate the process as much as (or more than) the final product,” says Whitney Hess PhD ’16 and “star” of the choose-your-own chemistry adventure video.

MIT students can get involved with MIT+K12 Videos in a variety of ways, from hands-on hosting and writing to behind-the-scenes education outreach or content consultants to becoming an Educational Media Fellow. For Science Out Loud, students can either directly pitch a video idea or enroll in 20.219 (Becoming the Next Bill Nye) to earn course credit. Volunteers from freshmen to graduate students are always welcome. MIT faculty can also play a role — hosting the #askMIT Q&A series, supporting student-run videos, or collaborating on new projects.

Curiosity sparked? Watch the new season of Science Out Loud or email mitk12videos@mit.edu to get involved. You can also explore materials from previous seasons on PBS Learning Media (including teacher supplementary resources), Khan Academy, iTunes U, and Curiosity.com. All videos are freely available and downloadable under a Creative Commons license.

In the Spirit of Open

Logo graphic for Open Education Week 2016.By Sarah Hansen, OCW Educator Project Manager

OCW is participating in Open Education Week 2016 (March 7-11)!  We’re sharing a video to introduce you (and your teaching colleagues around the world) to our new OCW Educator portal, which allows users to now search OCW content by instructional approach and teaching materials.

 

Use the portal to find new examples, explanations, and simulations to make concepts in your classroom come to life. Enrich your students’ experiences with OCW images, lecture slides, and video. All of these resources come straight from the classrooms of MIT’s leading researchers and teachers. Because OCW is Creative Commons licensed, these materials are made for sharing. Download files for later. Share with students. Modify, remix, and reuse in your teaching.

Through Instructor Insights pages, MIT faculty share their thinking, methods, and tips about the art and science of teaching with the global educator community. Use the portal to discover new ways to motivate your students with active learning. Get students more deeply engaged in problem solving. Help your students learn to work in teams. Weave communication skills into STEM subjects. Refresh your approach to large-class lectures.

Explore

Explore a few of our latest OCW Educator videos:

Share

Help us share this resource. Tell a teacher about OCW Educator. Share resources you find on OCW with students and colleagues. Let’s keep open going!

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.”

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.