Thanks to you – OCW for the Win!

Dear Friends of OCW,

We are so grateful to the more than 200 OCW learners who were able to donate yesterday during the MIT Pi Day Giving Challenge.

Because of their support, we were able to reach our goal and earn an additional $4,000!  This support along with the challenge prize will help:

  • Sustain OCW’s unique mission of sharing MIT’s teaching materials openly with the world.
  • Publish updated and new course publications reflecting the entire gamut of instruction and student experience.
  • Increase the impact of OCW’s publications on learning and teaching around the world.
  • Raise awareness of OCW’s unique course offerings and resources.

A special thanks to OCW supporter Richard Soley, for believing in OCW and providing the challenge prize.


Joseph Pickett
Publication Director
MIT OpenCourseWare

P.S. If you weren’t able to donate during the Challenge Day, you are in luck! We appreciate and accept donations on our giving site, every day and at any time!

Greatest Hits of the Humanities, Part III: Linguistics and Philosophy

By Joe Pickett, OCW Publication Director

Now for the third installment in our survey of the most visited courses in the Humanities, this one featuring courses from the MIT department of Linguistics and Philosophy.

The list below has courses from both disciplines housed in this department. As with our other lists of most popular OCW sites, introductory courses predominate.

These course sites are distinguished by fascinating reading and often helpful notes. So be sure to check out their varying arrays of resources.

Photo of a road sign with directions in both English and Welsh.

A bilingual road sign with directions in both English and Welsh. (Image courtesy of Stefan Baguette.)


  • 24.900 Introduction to Linguistics taught by Professor David Pesetsky
    “This course studies what is language and what does knowledge of a language consist of. It asks how do children learn languages and is language unique to humans; why are there many languages; how do languages change; is any language or dialect superior to another; and how are speech and writing related.”
  • 24.901 Language and Its Structure I: Phonology taught by Professor Michael Kenstowicz
    “24.901 is designed to give you a preliminary understanding of how the sound systems of different languages are structured, how and why they may differ from each other. The course also aims to provide you with analytical tools in phonology, enough to allow you to sketch the analysis of an entire phonological system by the end of the term. On a non-linguistic level, the course aims to teach you by example the virtues of formulating precise and explicit descriptive statements; and to develop your skills in making and evaluating arguments.”
  • 24.906J Linguistic Studies of Bilingualism taught by Suzanne Flynn
    “This course studies the development of bilingualism in human history (from Australopithecus to present day). It focuses on linguistic aspects of bilingualism; models of bilingualism and language acquisition; competence versus performance; effects of bilingualism on other domains of human cognition; brain imaging studies; early versus late bilingualism; opportunities to observe and conduct original research; and implications for educational policies among others. The course is taught in English.”
  • 24.902 Language and Its Structure II: Syntax (Fall 2003) taught by Professor David Pesetsky
    “This course will acquaint you with some of the important results and ideas of the last half – century of research in syntax. We will explore a large number of issues and a large amount of data so that you can learn something of what this field is all about . . . At the same time, you will learn the mechanics of one particular approach (sometimes called Principles and Parameters syntax). Most of all, the course tries to show why the study of syntax is exciting, and why its results are important to researchers in other language sciences.”
  • 24.902 Language and Its Structure II: Syntax (Fall 2015) taught by Professor Sabine Iatridou
    “This course covers some of the basic ideas in the subfield syntax, within the framework often referred to as “Generative Grammar” . . . We will explore the hierarchical organization of language and look at a number of syntactic phenomena that are common in completely unrelated languages and try to understand them. We will also look at differences among languages and try to understand what some possible ways are in which languages can differ.”
  • 24.903 Language and Its Structure III: Semantics and Pragmatics taught by Professor Kai von Fintel
    “This course gives an introduction to the science of linguistic meaning. There are two branches to this discipline: semantics, the study of conventional, “compositional meaning”, and pragmatics, the study of interactional meaning. There are other contributaries: philosophy, logic, syntax, and psychology. We will try to give you an understanding of the concepts of semantics and pragmatics and of some of the technical tools that we use.”

Photo of seated man sculpture in front of a museum building.

The Thinker shows a philosopher at work. (Image by asmythie on Flickr.)


  • 24.00 Problems in Philosophy taught by Professor Richard Holton
    “The course should really be called “God, Knowledge, Consciousness, Freedom, Survival, and Doing the Right Thing,” because that is what we’re going to be talking about. One goal is to give you a sense of what famous philosophers have said about these topics . . . A second goal is to get you thinking, and writing, and arguing, in a philosophical way yourself.”
  • 24.200 Ancient Philosophy taught by Professor Sally Haslanger
    “This course will acquaint the student with some of the ancient Greek contributions to the Western philosophical and scientific tradition. We will examine a broad range of central philosophical themes concerning: nature, law, justice, knowledge, virtue, happiness, and death. There will be a strong emphasis on analyses of arguments found in the texts.”
  • 24.241 Logic I taught by Ephraim Glick
    “In this course we will cover central aspects of modern formal logic, beginning with an explanation of what constitutes good reasoning. Topics will include validity and soundness of arguments, formal derivations, truth-functions, translations to and from a formal language, and truth-tables.”
  • 24.01 Classics in Western Philosophy taught by Rae Langton
    “This course will introduce you to the Western philosophical tradition, through the study of major figures such as Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hume, and Kant. You will get to grips with questions that have been significant to philosophy from its beginnings: questions about the nature of the mind or soul, the existence of God, the foundations of knowledge, ethics and the good life.”
  • 24.235J Philosophy of Law taught by Professor Julia Markovits
    “This course examines fundamental issues in the philosophy of law, including the nature and content of law, its relation to morality, theories of legal interpretation, and the obligation to obey the law, as well as philosophical issues and problems associated with punishment and responsibility, liberty, and legal ethics.”

See all Linguistics and Philosophy courses on OCW >

See all posts in this Greatest Hits of the Humanities series:

Courses from MIT’s 2018 MacVicar Fellows

Four faculty portrait photos.

The 2018 MacVicar Faculty fellows are (clockwise from top left): Shankar Raman, David Autor, Merritt Roe Smith, and Christopher Capozzola.
(Courtesy of MIT Registrar’s Office.)

By Sarah Hansen, OCW Educator Project Manager

For the past 26 years, the MacVicar Faculty Fellows Program has honored several MIT professors each year who have made outstanding contributions to undergraduate teaching, educational innovation, and mentoring.

This year’s awardees are Professors David Autor (economics), Christopher Capozzola (history), Shankar Raman (literature), and Merritt Roe Smith (history).

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

David Autor

14.03 Microeconomic Theory and Public Policy

14.661 Labor Economics I

14.11 Putting Social Sciences to the Test: Field Experiments in Economics

14.662 Labor Economics II

Christopher Capozzola

21M.630 Black Matters: Introduction to Black Studies

21H.223 War & American Society

21H.221 The Places of  Migration in United States History

21H.105 American Classics

21H.225J Gender and the Law in U.S. History 

21H.224 Law and Society in US History

Shankar Raman

21L.451 Introduction to Literary Theory

21L.704 Studies in Poetry: From the Sonneteers to the Metaphysicals

21L.009 Shakespeare

21L.703 English Renaissance Drama: Theatre and Society in the Age of Shakespeare

21L.017 The Art of the Probable: Literature and Probability

Merritt Roe Smith

STS.462 Social and Political Implications of Technology

21H.116J The Civil War and Reconstruction

STS.050 The History of MIT

STS.001 Technology in American History

STS.025J Making the Modern World: The Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective

STS.427 The Civil War and the Emergence of Modern America, 1861-1890

Through the OCW Educator initiative, we have also collected Instructor Insights from Professor David Autor about how he teaches 14.03 Microeconomic Theory and Public Policy. His roundabout path to teaching labor economics is both fascinating and encouraging to those of us on a winding path toward finding our passions!

Interested in more Instructor Insights from past MacVicar Fellows? Visit our OCW Educator portal to search for Insights from MIT Teaching Award Recipients. Delve into the minds of Lorna Gibson, Catherine Drennan, Arthur Bahr, Dennis Freeman, and many other MIT professors advancing teaching and learning in their fields.

Greatest Hits of the Humanities, Part II: Literature and Writing

Head-on photo of Buster Keaton crouched on the cowcatcher of a steam locomotive.

Buster Keaton in The General (1926), one of the films explored in 21L.011 The Film Experience. (Public domain image.)

By Joe Pickett, OCW Publication Director

Herewith, Part II of our list of the most visited OCW course sites in the Humanities, this part featuring Literature and Writing courses. [See Part I here.] Naturally, most writing courses entail a healthy amount of reading, so there is some natural overlap between these two academic ventures, and instructors often sail their boats on both ponds.

Literature and writing are fed and replenished by many related disciplines. So it’s worth noting how many of these courses also venture far upstream into other territories, such as film, history, biology, cooking, photography, and mobile technology.

While assignments distinguish all academic courses, in literature and writing courses they form the heart of the experience, so be sure to check those out.

Painted portrait of woman seated in front of a dark background.

Portrait of Mary Shelley by Richard Rothwell. (Image courtesy of


  • 21L.011 The Film Experience taught by Professor David Thorburn
    “Through comparative reading of films from different eras and countries, students develop the skills to turn their in-depth analyses into interpretations and explore theoretical issues related to spectatorship.”
  • 21L.448J Darwin and Design taught by Professor James Paradis
    “This course covers social development, social behavior, social cognition and social neuroscience, in both human and non-human social animals. Topics include altruism, empathy, communication, theory of mind, aggression, power, groups, mating, and morality. Methods include evolutionary biology, neuroscience, cognitive science, social psychology and anthropology.”
  • 21L.707 Reading Cookbooks: from The Forme of Cury to The Smitten Kitchen taught by Ina Lipkowitz
    “ . . . students will visit the past through cookbooks to learn about what foodstuffs and technologies were available and when, and how religious and nutritional concerns dictated what was eaten and how it was cooked. Students will also learn about the gender dynamics of culinary writing and performances and the roles people played in writing and cooking recipes.”
  • 21L.003 Introduction to Fiction taught by Wyn Kelley
    “This course investigates the uses and boundaries of fiction in a range of novels and narrative styles–traditional and innovative, western and nonwestern–and raises questions about the pleasures and meanings of verbal texts in different cultures, times, and forms.”
  • 21L.000J Writing about Literature taught by Wyn Kelley
    “Through the ways they engage with their own texts and those of other artists, sampling, remixing, and rethinking texts and genres, writers reflect on and inspire questions about the creative process. We will examine Mary Shelley’s reshaping of Milton’s Paradise Lost, German fairy tales, tales of scientific discovery, and her husband’s poems to make Frankenstein (1818, 1831); Melville’s redesign of a travel narrative into a Gothic novella in Benito Cereno (1856); and Alison Bechdel’s rewriting of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) in her graphic novel Fun Home (2006).”

See all Literature courses on OCW >

Photo of a handwritten diagram on sheet of paper, with numerous blocks of text interconnected with arrows.

Planning diagram for a short story. (Image courtesy of Simon Scott on Flickr.)


  • 21W.755 Reading and Writing Short Stories taught by Shariann Lewitt
    “Students will write stories and short descriptive sketches. Students will read great short stories and participate in class discussions of students’ writing and the assigned stories in their historical and social contexts.”
  • 21W.730-2 The Creative Spark taught by Karen Boiko
    “Under what conditions does [creativity] flourish—what ignites the creative spark? Attempting to answer these questions, this class explores ways creativity has been understood in Western culture: what we prize and fear about creativity and its wellsprings; how writers, artists, scientists and inventors have described their own creative processes; how psychologists and philosophers have theorized it; ways in which creativity has been represented in Western culture.”
  • 21W.735 Writing and Reading the Essay taught by Dr. Rebecca Blevins Faery
    “This is a course focused on the literary genre of the essay, that wide-ranging, elastic, and currently very popular form that attracts not only nonfiction writers but also fiction writers, poets, scientists, physicians, and others to write in the form, and readers of every stripe to read it.”
  • 21W.789 Communicating with Mobile Technology taught by Dr. Edward C. Barrett and Frank Bentley
    “Students work in small collaborative design teams to propose, build, and document a semester-long project focused on mobile applications for cell phones. Additional assignments include creating several small mobile applications such as context-aware mobile media capture and games. Students document their work through a series of written and oral proposals, progress reports, and final reports.”

See all Writing courses on OCW >
(MIT recently combined its Writing program with Comparative Media Studies into the CMS/W department, but has kept the 21W numbering for writing courses.)

Greatest Hits of the Humanities, Part I: Anthropology and History

Painted portrait of a man in dress military clothing, holding some papers in one hand.

Général François-Dominique Toussaint Louverture, a leader in the Haitian Revolution who helped to overthrow the institution of slavery and turn Haiti into an independent state. Learn more in 21H.001 How to Stage a Revolution (This image is public domain. Source: NYPL Digital Gallery.)

By Joe Pickett, OCW Publication Director

Most OCW fans are familiar with our list of most visited courses.  We update this list every month, but the courses on it typically don’t change very much. Given MIT’s reputation as a premiere engineering institution, it should come as no surprise that the list is dominated by Mathematics and Computer Science courses. Introductory courses are especially well-represented.

This led us to wonder: What are the most visited OCW courses in MIT departments not included in this list? In a series of posts, we’ll present the top five most visited courses in Humanities departments, starting here with Anthropology and History.


Photo of four young children in Halloween costumes.

Children show off their costumes during a Halloween Parade in Tokyo. In 21A.01 How Culture Works, students complete an ethnographic study on Halloween. (Image courtesy of Buz Carter on flickr. License CC BY-NC-SA.)


  • 21A.00 Introduction to Anthropology taught by Professor Graham Jones
    “…anthropology…seeks to understand how culture both shapes societies…and affects the way institutions work…This course will provide a framework for analyzing diverse facets of human experience such as gender, ethnicity, language, politics, economics, and art.”
  • 21A.211 Magic, Witchcraft, and the Spirit World taught by Professor James Howe
    “This class is concerned with the boundaries between everyday life and another order of reality, the world of spirits, powers, and mystical dangers, and with what happens when those barriers ease or break apart.”
  • 21A.265 Food and Culture taught by Professor Heather Paxon
    “…in eating, humans incorporate into our very bodies the products of nature transformed into culture. This course explores connections between what we eat and who we are through cross-cultural study of how personal identities and social groups are formed via food production, preparation, and consumption.”
  • 21A.01 How Culture Works taught by Professor Manduhai Buyandelger
    “This course explores the diverse meanings, uses, and abuses of the concept of culture using historical materials and contemporary examples from around the globe. The word ‘culture’ is used liberally to indicate practices, symbols and representations ranging from a piece of clothing to elusive claims concerning the environment.”
  • 21A.219 Law and Society taught by Professor Susan S. Silbey
    “This course examines the central features of law as a social institution and as a feature of popular culture. We will explore the nature of law as a set of social systems, central actors in the systems, legal reasoning, and the relationship of the legal form and reasoning to social change…We will explore the range of experiences of law for its ministers (lawyers, judges, law enforcement agents and administrators) as well as for its supplicants (citizens, plaintiffs, defendants).” 

See all Anthropology courses on OCW >

Black-and-white photo of the Rome Colosseum in its landscape, highlighting the partially collapsed walls.

The Colosseum. Rome, Italy. (Image courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [reproduction number, LC-USZ62-104882 (b&w film copy neg.)]


  • 21H.101 American History to 1865 taught by Professor Pauline Maier
    “This course…examines the colonial heritages of Spanish and British America; the American Revolution and its impact; the establishment and growth of the new nation; and the Civil War, its background, character, and impact.”
  • 21H.001 How to Stage a Revolution taught by Professors Malick Ghachem, Jeffrey S. Ravel, and Craig Wilder
    “This course explores fundamental questions about the causes and nature of revolutions by looking at how people overthrow their rulers and establish new governments…Examines how revolutionaries have attempted to establish their ideals and realize their goals. Asks whether radical upheavals require bloodshed, violence, or even terror.”
  • 21H.301 The Ancient World: Greece taught by Professor William Broadhead
    “This course elaborates the history of Ancient Greece from the Bronze Age to the death of Alexander…includes discussions on Homer, heroism, and the Greek identity; the hoplite revolution and the rise of the city-state; Herodotus, Persia, and the (re)birth of history; Empire, Thucydidean rationalism, and the Peloponnesian War; Platonic constructs; Aristotle, Macedonia, and Hellenism. Emphasis is on use of primary sources in translation.”
  • 21H.302 The Ancient World: Rome taught by Professor William Broadhead
    “This course elaborates the history of Rome from its humble beginnings to the fifth century A.D. The first half of the course covers Kingship to Republican form; the conquest of Italy; Roman expansion: Pyrrhus, Punic Wars and provinces; classes, courts, and the Roman revolution; Augustus and the formation of empire. The second half of the course covers Virgil to the Vandals; major social, economic, political and religious trends at Rome and in the provinces. Emphasis is placed on the use of primary sources in translation.” 
  • 21H.931 Seminar in Historical Methods taught by Professor Anne McCants
    “We examine how historians conceive of their object of study, how they use primary sources as a basis for their accounts, how they structure the narrative and analytic discussion of their topic, and what are the advantages and drawbacks of their various approaches.”

See all History courses on OCW >

Solving the Assessment Puzzle

Photo of Rubik's Cube on a table, with a man sitting behind it and looking at it.

Education image created by Freepik.

By Sarah Hansen, OCW Educator Project Manager

Assessing students’ learning is one of the most important things we do as educators. It’s also one of the most complicated. There’s a lot to consider:

  • When will assessment happen? (Along the way? At the end of the course?)
  • How will we collect useful information about student learning? (Through writing samples? Surveys? Online reading questions? Student self-assessments? Performance assessments? Something else?)
  • How will we assess work that doesn’t have right and wrong answers, like creative writing or digital media projects?
  • How will we assess work students complete in teams? (It’s hard enough to assess students individually! But we know collaboration is an essential skill—so how do we measure it in a way that’s fair to individuals?)
  • How will we effectively communicate feedback to students (Via rubrics? Written comments? Oral exams that function as educative conversations?)
  • How will we use assessment to improve our own teaching? (When should curricular iteration occur?)

For every group of students, there’s a different combination of productive approaches to assessment that instructors need to configure. It’s a shape-shifting puzzle that can be exciting, enervating, and downright addictive. If you’re an educator and you’re intrigued by “the assessment challenge,” you’re not alone. MIT instructors are thinking hard about measuring student learning, providing feedback, and improving their teaching based on what they learn through assessments. In the following short videos, six MIT instructors candidly share the assessment strategies they’ve been trying in their own classrooms:

  • In 16.842 Fundamentals of Systems Engineering, students in a Small Private Online Course (SPOC) worked in teams to participate in an international imitation satellite design competition. Aero/Astro Professor Olivier de Weck shares how he assessed work students completed as teams, how he conducted online written and oral exams, and how made use of students’ personal reflective memos to understand what they learned in the course.
  • Elizabeth Choe gets into the nitty gritty of how she approached assessment and feedback in the creative context of 20.219 Becoming the Next Bill Nye, a course in which students conceptualized and produced educational videos (no multiple choice tests here!).
  • Takako Aikawa discusses how she used a daily grading system and interview tests to provide students with feedback about their language learning in 21G.503 Japanese III.  (You can view this video in Japanese, too.)
  • In CMS.611 Creating Video Games, students worked in teams to develop games for a real client: The Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Center. Sara Verrilli shares how instructors assessed these projects, emphasizing that students’ processes and project management skills were more important than the final products.
  • Professor Joe Schindall opens up about grading in ESD.051J Engineering Innovation and Design, noting that students’ “passion of engagement” and their willingness to try new things were factors the instructors considered when assessing student learning in this Engineering Systems Division course.
  • Professor Catherine Drennan shares how she uses clicker competitions to engage students and formatively assess learning in 5.111SC Principles of Chemical Science. (Spoiler Alert: Things get heated.)

Want more MIT instructor insights about assessment? Head over to our OCW Educator portal and click “Assessment.” Then filter your results by topic, such as feedback, formative assessment, performance assessment, student self-assessment, and more.

If you find a strategy on our site that helps you solve (or inspires you to think differently about) your assessment puzzle, we want to hear from you! We’ll share some of the trickiest puzzles with the most creative solutions on our Facebook page. Go!

Insights on Teaching Japanese, in Japanese (and English)

Traditional Japanese masks at Senso-ji (浅草寺) in Tokyo, Japan. (Image courtesy of rita11836 on Flickr. License CC BY-NC-SA.)

By Joe Pickett, OCW Publication Director

OCW has just published 21G.503 Japanese III, the third in a four-course sequence on Japanese taught at MIT. With relatively few Japanese speakers on the MIT campus, the instructors must make the most of what happens in the classroom and motivate students to work hard outside it.

The course site’s Instructor Insights feature brief video interviews with one of the instructors, Takako Aikawa. She addresses key topics in language instruction, such as grammar and drill sessions, developing students’ language skills, assessing students, and teaching language through culture.

Each interview is presented twice: once in English…

…and again in Japanese.

OCW has published similar interviews in two languages for 21G.101 Chinese I (Regular) and 21G.108 Chinese II (Streamlined).

Instructors of any language will surely benefit from the reflections and advice offered in all of these interviews. Maybe students even more!