Here’s what OCW has accomplished in the past 100 days

Photo of a person holding up a sign "100" made out of many small pictures.

Photo: Brian J. Matis / Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA

Over the past 100 days, OCW has kept its open sharing promise to you, publishing courses, courses, and more courses. (Not to mention a steady stream of fun and fascinating Tweets and Facebook posts.) This batch of courses is a testament to the diversity and richness of the MIT curriculum.

Anthropology

Architecture

Biology

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Economics

Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Global Studies and Languages

History

Literature

Management

Mechanical Engineering

Political Science

Urban Studies and Planning

Writing

Interdisciplinary

Actively Teaching Active Learning

Image of students

Students in 5.95 engage in “lightning round” discussions.

By Joe Pickett, OCW Publication Director

When you think about education, it’s easy to feel jaded. After all, waves of education reform have swept over American schools and colleges for decades, and tangible improvements—let alone a sea change—don’t exactly spring to mind.

But new hope has arisen in recent years, and with good reason, because for the first time teaching practices are being aligned with how the mind actually works. Studies are showing that there are certain things that teachers can do to make substantial improvements in student learning.

Action and Interaction

One of the key discoveries is that students learn best when they are actively engaged in their own learning, rather than sitting back passively and just listening (or not) to an instructor. And they learn even better when this active engagement is accompanied by interactive exchanges with other students.

How to put this wisdom into practice is at the center of 5.95 Teaching College-Level Science and Engineering, just published on OCW. As taught in Fall 2015, the course surveys all aspects of teaching a STEM course, including what is known about student learning and cognition, how to design a course and develop learning outcomes, how to design effective assignments and assessments, and even how to grade.

The instructor is Dr. Janet Rankin, the acting Director of MIT’s Teaching and Learning Lab, which has been helping to boost effective educational practices on campus for many years.

Well-Informed Practice  

The centerpiece of the 5.95 course site is a collection of videos that show why Dr. Rankin is such an avid advocate of active learning and how she puts active learning to effective use in her own classes. In other words, she doesn’t just preach. She practices.

Three class videos show how Dr. Rankin combines short lectures with a variety of active learning techniques to bolster student learning and knowledge retention.

In a number of video Instructor Insights, Dr. Rankin explains the virtues of active learning in its various manifestations, and footage from her class shows how the different techniques played out. With experience teaching in a variety of settings, from discussion-based seminars to large lectures, Rankin knows how to adapt the techniques to different situations in order to get the best results and avoid missteps.

 

Many Methods to Success

The techniques often have intriguing names: mud cards, think-pair-share, debate, beach ball, personal response systems, lightning round, jigsaw. And they often produce scenes that would surprise STEM educators accustomed to giving non-interactive lectures. How can serious learning take place with students tossing a beach ball around the classroom?  If each student who catches the ball has to say what they think about a given question, discussion is rapid-fire, participation is high, and the often inhibiting dynamic in which the all-knowing instructor puts students on the spot with pointed questions never comes into play.

In the lightning round, students line up face to face so that each person briefly shares with their counterpart their views on a given question. Then students shift places in the line, and begin again. In this way, students can quickly get a sense of how others in the class think about a topic. They get comfortable talking to one another.  They have fun! And their understanding is broadened and made more sophisticated. Knowledge gets reinforced.

Coming up with productive questions can make a big difference in these activities, and Dr. Rankin offers advice on this as well.

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OCW has another version of 5.95, taught in Spring 2009 by Sanjoy Mahajan, also an advocate of active learning. Now a Professor at Olin College, Mahajan was at the time Associate Director of the Teaching and Learning Lab. The course site has full videos of the class sessions and is also worth a visit.

Participating Actively to Shape What Comes Next

Photo from 1909 showing two girls wearing banners that read "ABOLISH CHILD SLAVERY" in english and yiddish.

Children at the 1909 May Day parade in New York City protesting child slavery. This course discusses the history of youth political activism and participation in the United States. (Courtesy of the Library of Congress. This image is in the public domain.)

By Joe Pickett, OCW Publication Director

Students writing their own exam questions? Students submitting questions that will guide discussions in class? Students running discussions based on their own presentations?

What’s going on here? Has the world been turned on its head? Students actively shaping their own education?

Such are the techniques that Professor Jennifer Light uses to teach STS.080 Youth Political Participation, a course that has just been published on OCW. The course surveys young Americans’ participation in political activism over the past 200 years and assesses the impact of young people’s media production and technology on politics.

Why Get Students So Involved?

Professor Light explains the thinking behind her innovative approach to instruction in the Instructor Insights on her This Course at MIT page.

Having students write exam questions, that’s something Professor Light has some experience with, having done this for 20 years. Why? “It encourages students to take a more active role in their own education, consider how course content is related to their own interests, and figure out exactly what they have learned in the class.”

The discussion questions she requires students to send not only ensure that the discussions will be of interest to them, but the questions allow Professor Light to see how well students understand the readings, which are extensive. Writing questions also allows students to let her know when they are confused, without opening themselves to embarrassment in front of the entire class.

The student-led presentations in the Spring 2016 course addressed topics assigned by Professor Light and ranged from young people’s participation in World War I to conservative youth movements to the relationships between cultural and political expression. The presentations “sparked many conversations in class about how to define what ‘counts’ as political participation,” which interestingly “reflects the newly developing consensus that we need to revise our scholarly understandings of the meanings of political participation, past and present.”

How Do Students See It?

And how do the students view all this participatory classwork that Professor Light demands of them? You can see one student’s reflections about her own learning experiences in STS.080 on the This Course at MIT page.

Professor Light’s approach seems to have worked beautifully. Regarding the exam questions, the student says, “Even modern history can seem detached from students’ lives when we are learning it, but in this way, Professor Light made what we had just learned applicable to something we cared about. Not only that, but it made it easier to remember and to appreciate the history as well!”

What else can you say but, “Right on!”?

OCW Educator: New Ways to Search, New Ways to Find

By Joe Pickett, OCW Publication Director

OCW has just released a new portal for its Educator project that provides two new ways to search OCW’s collection of course sites. We’ve made a short video that gives an overview of the Educator project, shows how to get to the portal, and explains how it works.

20160224_EdPortal_Active Learning

Search by Instructional Approach allows users to look for courses by pedagogic topic. The search results produce a list of courses that have This Course at MIT pages with Instructor Insights explaining the course’s pedagogy. OCW currently has some 90 courses with Instructor Insights, with more being published every month.

The search topics cover a range of concepts, from “Active Learning” and “Assessment” to “Instructional Design” and “Learning Communities” to “Teaching Problem Solving” and “Teaching with Technology.” In seconds you can discover how individual MIT faculty members have gone about teaching their courses and how their approaches to teaching have evolved.

20160224_EdPortal_ChemistryNotes

Search by Teaching Materials opens OCW’s vast library of resources to targeted queries by content type. You open the search in a given subject (e.g. Chemistry), then identify a content type (Assignments, AV lectures, Lecture Notes, etc.), and then, in some cases, a specialty (Video, e.g.). So if you want to find exams or projects for Mechanical Engineering classes, the Finder instantly takes you to all of OCW’s courses with these features.

The OCW staff has long known that users can face frustration trying to find what they need in OCW’s vast library of teaching materials for 2,330 courses. The new Educator portal lets users know that OCW has been listening. After all, we’re users too!

Eight new courses in January

A man in a suit and mask standing outdoors next to a computer

Explore topics like digital hacktivism by groups such as Anonymous in the new OCW course Current Debates in Media. (Image courtesy of Stian Eikeland on flickr. License CC BY-NC-SA.)

OCW added eight new courses during the month of January 2016, bringing the current collection to 2,325 courses in total.  Of these latest courses, six are brand new subjects on OCW and two are updates of previously published subjects.

New Courses

Updated Courses

 

Shh! (But we need your help!)

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Image by Shreyans Bhansali

Dear Friends of OCW,

MIT OpenCourseWare is celebrating our 15th anniversary this year – and we need your help!

To celebrate, we’re creating a “surprise” thank you video to the MIT faculty who’ve made it possible for OCW to reach this milestone.

The video will star YOU and other OCW learners from around the world.

We would be forever grateful if you could record a video-selfie answering some (or all) of our questions below. There’s also a couple of technical guidelines below to help with the making of your video.

We need your submission by Friday, January 15, 2016 Wednesday, January 27, 2016 (new deadline)!

Thanks in advance for giving back!

Sincerely,

The MIT OpenCourseWare Team

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QUESTIONS:

  • What is your name and where are you from?
  • Who told you about OCW?
  • What motivated you to use OCW?
  • Were the materials covered the hardest part about OCW?
  • What was your gut reaction (first sentence/thought) when you heard MIT class content was available online, free?
  • Have you built anything using your OCW learning? If so, can you show us?
  • Have you used anything you learned with OCW to give back to your community?
  • If you had to put a value on what you learned from OCW, how much would you say it’s worth?
  • What was your impression of MIT before knowing about OCW?
  • Can you remember the exact number of the course(s) you looked into?
  • Have you ever had a chance to thank MIT or your MIT professor?
  • Is there anything else you’d like to tell MIT or the world about OCW?

 

Would you please read the following lines:

Thank you, MIT.

For opening your books.

For opening your doors.

For opening your hearts.

I am course 14.01SC (Please fill in your course name/number – if you remember it)

I know you may not know me,

But I am your student.

And you are my professor.

Thank you!

 

Technical details:

  • Shoot horizontally.
  • Hold your phone steady – putting it on a mantel or something would be great, but don’t stand too far if that’s what you’re doing.
  • Don’t shoot from below the face.
  • Don’t shoot with a direct light source behind you – a window, the sun, a lamp etc.
  • Avoid noisy places – from waterfalls to kids or busy streets and cars.
  • Try incorporating the question into your answer, to give context (i.e. “When I first heard OCW materials were online and free, I thought….”)
  • If there’s a setting on your camera, set it (and then send it as large/best quality as possible).
  • Please upload your video(s) to this Link: WeTransfer.com

 

How to Send Your Videos

  1.  Go to WeTransfer.com
  2.  Click on the “+” symbol and attach the video file right from your smartphone that you would like to send us
  3. Type in MITOCW15@gmail.com as the recipient
  4. Type in your own email address
  5. In the “Message” section, please provide us with your name, email address and phone number. Only your first name, educational role (student, educator, independent learner) and Country will accompany your video. Please remember that anything published on our site is made available under a Creative Commons license that permits reuse and redistribution for non-commercial purposes.
  6. Click “Transfer” to send your video to us