Happiness is filtered sorted course lists

Hot on the heels of last week’s announcement of our new Facebook “Share Quote” tool, we’re excited to unveil an even bigger OCW site enhancement: dynamic sorting and filtering on course lists.

If you’ve spent any time on OCW, you’ve seen these lists. We have several different kinds, to suit different ways of finding courses. Whether you’re browsing by topic, going straight to a particular MIT department like Economics, perusing one of our highlights collections such as the newest courses, or exploring a cross-disciplinary subject like the environment, you’ll find course lists all over the OCW site.

And with over 2400 courses now on OCW, some of these lists have become quite long!

Now you can filter any list to show only those courses with particular types of content – such as complete lecture notes, videos, or example student projects – and also reorder the list to display most recent courses first, rather than in ascending course number sequence.

Say you’re interested in game design. On the Find by Topic page, under the Fine Arts > Game Design subtopic, you’ll currently find a list of 22 OCW courses.

If you’re specifically looking for recent examples of student game design projects, 22 courses might be too many to go through one-by-one. As shown in the animation above: click the ‘Student projects’ content filter and the list reduces to just 10 courses; sort the list by ‘Most Recent First,’ and your most relevant course moves to the top of the list.

We’re confident this enhancement will sweeten your OCW experience. Please check it out and let us know!

Inspire your network with our new “Share Quote” feature

When you read something that’s inspiring, do you want to spread the word?  We hope so!

OCW’s growing collection of Instructor Insights pages is chock full of inspiring ideas for educators, where MIT faculty talk about how they teach. Our brand-new Facebook “Share Quote” tool makes it easy to share your favorite nuggets from these pages.

Simply highlight any text on an Instructor Insights page. When the “Share Quote” bubble pops up, click on it, and a Facebook post window pre-filled with your selected quote will appear. Add optional commentary, click the “Post to Facebook” button, and you’re done!

Technically Speaking, There’s a Lot Going On

By Joe Pickett, OCW Publication Director, and Curt Newton, OCW Site Curator

Frequent users of OCW have some notion of how huge the website has become. It now has 2,370 course sites, plus another 56 Supplemental Resources. With course lists for each of MIT’s 35 departments, a companion site for high school teachers and students (Highlights for High School), and numerous collections (such as audio-video lectures, online textbooks, and most visited courses), OCW presents its vast library of openly published resources in manifold ways to help you make the most of your learning.

Alongside OCW’s growing collection, we are continually enhancing the site’s usefulness with new ways to find and explore content. Listed below are just some of the ways the website has improved in recent months.

Interactive, Searchable Video Transcripts

Screenshot of interactive transcript showing multiple occurances of the word "quantum."We’re making our videos more useful for serious study and social sharing.

Interactive, searchable video transcripts are now active in all three of our video player styles: the  “tabbed” video player (as in 8.04, shown above), the “pop-up” player (as in 6.00SC), and the in-page embedded player (as in the course introduction video for 18.06SC). This new feature allows you to search for any word in the transcript. Clicking on that word will take you to its place in the video. The interactive transcript tool also makes it easy to save and share short video excerpts.

[Why the different video players? The pop-up player is useful when a page has multiple videos, or the videos are listed within a table, along with many other related resources for that session or topic. The tabbed player includes direct access to all the videos in a playlist, offers the transcript as a PDF, and includes a download function. The embedded video is typically used for short, close-up videos that are the main feature of that page.]

Interactive Timelines for Course Navigation

Image of the interactive timeline, with scrolling dates on the bottom and specific individual content - a video- on the top.

This interactive timeline illustrates key dates and deliverables for projects in CMS.611J Creating Video Games. It shows the amount of time instructors allocated for each project and how the projects progressively increased in complexity.

Some courses have a LOT going on. Interactive timelines are one way we help you navigate through such courses.

We incorporated a timeline into CMS.611J Creating Video Games to show how the iterative design process is taught over an entire semester. In another case, we used a timeline to collate videos of the day-by-day video reflections of the lead instructor in 20.219 Becoming the Next Bill Nye: Writing and Hosting the Educational Show.

Other Versions and Related Content

Screenshot of OCW page, with links to MITx versions, archived OCW version, course sequence info and related course collections.

Other versions and related content information for 6.004 Computation Structures.

With so many courses on OCW, one of our top priorities is helping you understand how any given course fits within the overall OCW site and the MIT curriculum.

For instance, about 900 subjects on OCW have had multiple versions published. We now provide direct links to alternate versions of a course on the course home page. And if a course has a counterpart MOOC offered by MITx, we link to that too. These MITx links are complemented by a page (MITx Courses and Related OCW Courseware) that lists all the MITx MOOCs currently being offered along with related OCW courses that help you prepare or support your MOOC efforts.

For even more context, when a course is part of a sequence in the department’s curriculum, we call attention to that. Finally, Course Collections links take you to lists of other OCW courses that share similar topics.

The goal here is to provide more context for how the course fits in the MIT curriculum and maximize your learning opportunities.

[Why multiple OCW versions of the same subject? Usually the other versions have a different pedagogic approach, a different array of resources, or a resource that is especially useful (such as detailed lecture notes or problem sets with solutions), or sometimes a legendary MIT instructor!]

Accessibility Improvements

OCW is committed to supporting our visually and hearing impaired users. We have made extensive changes to our webpage templates to make the pages more accessible to screen readers and other disability-assist devices. Every new feature that we build into the OCW website goes through a thorough review by our accessibility experts and is not published until it meets their satisfaction. As well, we  continue to make new and existing content more accessible on an ongoing basis.

Security Enhancements

The OCW website now incorporates SSL, which employs cryptography to make the site more secure. This will ensure that the OCW content can be trusted and will help in its discoverability. The only way you might have noticed is that OCW now loads into your browser as “https” and not “http.”

More “Find Courses” Options

Screenshot of "Find Courses" megamenu, highlighting new links to courses by Instructional Approach and Teaching Materials.In the Find Courses “megamenu” at the top of every OCW page, you’ll see two new categories. These are the two search capabilities that we added to our Educator Portal earlier in the year: search by Instructional Approach and search by type of Teaching Materials. Why should we change the megamenu? We figured you would benefit from having all the search functions in one place, and we were wondering if more people would visit the Educator Portal as a result. Turns out, our hunch was correct. Traffic to the Portal doubled almost overnight, and now gets about 30,000 visits every month.

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These are just a few of the ways we’ve upgraded the OCW site in recent months to enhance your experience. Stay tuned for more improvements in the coming months.

New Feature: Interactive Video Transcripts

By Joe Pickett, OCW Publication Director

Great news for video fans!

OCW is introducing a new way to watch videos: by interacting with their transcripts. This innovative feature provides a powerful way to search within a video and share clips.

The first course to receive this capability is 8.04 Quantum Physics I, whose lead instructor is Allan Adams.

Screenshot of video player with interactive transcript window collapsed.

The interactive transcript appears as a light gray bar beneath the video window. Click the down-arrow to open it up.

Screenshot of interactive transcript with window expanded, showing the text.

With the transcript box opened, the text of the audio scrolls along as the video progresses.

Search Within a Video

Screenshot of interactive transcript showing multiple occurances of the word "quantum."

Type any word in the search box, and every occurrence of the word in that video will be shown on the timeline bar as a white stripe. In the example above, we’ve found 10 uses of the word “quantum.” Mouse over any stripe, and a cluster of words at that point in the video will pop up, giving some brief context. Clicking on any stripe takes the transcript and the video itself to that moment in the video.

You can also click on any word in the interactive transcript, and the video will immediately jump to that moment.

Share and Save Clips

Screenshot of interactive transcript, showing how to Share a short clip based on selected text.

Supplementing this search capacity is the capacity to share favorite passages in the video via Facebook and Twitter. You can create links to specific places in a video and share them (or save them for later reference). Just highlight the passage in the transcript, click on the scissors icon located on the upper-right corner of the transcript box, and share away!

The interactive transcripts will be an additional capability on the OCW site and will not replace any of the familiar features, such as subtitles that appear in the video window (enabled by clicking on the “CC” box) and the capacity to download the course’s transcripts in toto.

OCW will be rolling out interactive transcripts for many more courses, amounting to hundreds of videos, over the next six weeks.

So stay tuned!

Introducing OCW Educator

If you are a keen observer of MIT OpenCourseWare, you may have noticed a new feature beginning to appear on some of our course publications, the “This Course at MIT” page.  The “This Course at MIT” pages are a return to MIT OpenCourseWare’s original vision.  While a large number of our visitors are independent learners—and we’ve embraced this audience through OCW Scholar courses and other efforts—the original concept for OCW was to provide a repository of MIT’s core materials for classroom instruction, so that educators around the world could download, modify and use our materials as they structure their own in-person class experiences.

This page, structured like a fact sheet, provides additional information on curricular aspects of the courses we publish as they are offered on the MIT campus.  Information includes course outcomes, photos and descriptions of the physical classroom setting at MIT, and key student activities broken down by time spent on each during the course. Some “This Course at MIT” pages feature extensive commentary from the instructor(s) on pedagogical approaches employed.  You can view a complete list of courses with “This Course at MIT” pages here.

OCW has always done well in sharing what materials faculty use in their teaching, but we’ve felt for some time we could do a better job of sharing how those materials are used.  “This Course at MIT” pages are one answer to this challenge.

The "This Course at MIT" page for 4.241J Theory of City Form.

The “This Course at MIT” page for 4.241J Theory of City Form.

The “This Course at MIT” pages are also one aspect of a wider effort we are undertaking to return OCW to its roots in supporting educators more explicitly, an effort we call OCW Educator.

The two goals of OCW Educator are:

  • To articulate and share the educational ideas, practices, and expertise of those who teach at MIT, and
  • To help users understand the context and manner in which the materials were originally used on campus.

In addition to the “This Course at MIT” pages, OCW Educator will include courses with a deep focus on pedagogy and faculty commentary throughout the publication, such as the recently-released 18.821 Project Laboratory in Mathematics, and other efforts to provide an in-depth look at how teaching actually takes place on the MIT campus.

Please feel free to tell us what you think of “This Course at MIT” and OCW Educator by e-mailing us at ocw@mit.edu, or commenting on this post.

 

Help us sort through what you like about OCW

Our staff is trying a unique new sort of survey to help us better understand what our site visitors like about courses on OCW and how they use them.  We’re looking for 100 intrepid respondents to give this new sorting survey a try and share with us their view on what makes OCW useful to them.  Give it a try.

Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 3.26.43 PM

Introductory programming courses on OCW

You may have noticed:  OCW is a huge site.  We have materials from more than 2,180 courses across 33 disciplines.  It’s a tremendous collection, but it can be difficult to navigate through all that goodness.

We’ve recently put dedicated staff time into curating the content, and the fruits of that labor are beginning to appear on the site.  Here’s a particularly tasty morsel:  the Introductory Programming Courses page.

Screen Shot 2013-10-09 at 3.00.15 PM

This page provides one-stop shopping for some of the key introductory programming courses on OCW, helpfully sorted for quick and easy access.  Check it out, and keep an eye out for other enhancements coming out of our site curation efforts.