OpenFiction [Blog]

Another (less profound) transition

Posted in MIT OpenCourseWare, open education, OpenCourseWare, OpenCourseWare Consortium by scarsonmsm on March 4, 2014

As I move to a new professional chapter in my life, I am also moving to a new blogging home, and retiring OpenFiction.  Please follow my (probably occasional) bloggings about my new professional efforts on my new blog.

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A professional transition

With profound gratitude for the opportunities I’ve been given at MIT, I want to share that I have accepted a new position as Operations Director for the OPENPediatrics program at Boston Children’s Hospital.  My last day at MIT will be March 31st.

I’ve always felt that my work at OCW might be a once in a lifetime opportunity to make a profound difference in the lives of people worldwide, and I am humbled to have found another opportunity to have such an impact.  Every year, more than 10 million children die of preventable causes, and OPENPediatrics (http://openpediatrics.org) seeks to address this challenge using the principles of open sharing and scalable education that animate OCW and MITx to improve the care of critically ill children on a global scale.

While I am excited by this new opportunity, I am sad to part ways with the many friends and colleagues who mean so much to me.  I will spend much of the next few years wondering (and maybe occasionally even asking) how the ODL and OCWC teams would have handled situations I will face.

I’m also sad to be unable to join my MIT colleagues in the engaging work that awaits ODL in the next few years.  Amid the uncertainty of the shifting higher education landscape and the organizational changes at MIT, I have total confidence in the amazing people brought together under the ODL banner.  I have no doubt that they will all do as they have always done–transform the way we think about the intersection of education and digital technologies, and how it can be used to make ours a better world.

I’m optimistic my new position will allow me to remain engaged in the open education community, and will regardless keep in touch with my friends at MIT and the OCWC.  Thank you again to the friends and colleagues who have made my work at OCW, the OCW Consortium, and the Office of Digital Learning such a wonderful experience.

Why the “open” in MOOC matters

Posted in Evaluation, Mechanical MOOC, MIT OpenCourseWare, MOOC, open education by scarsonmsm on March 4, 2013

Jeff Young has a great piece in the Chronicle of Higher Ed today about what he calls the “bandwidth divide” and how most MOOCs require learners to have persistent high-speed internet access.  When we created the Mechanical MOOC course, we built it on existing open resources mostly because we though it was the most efficient and cost effective way to do it–by leveraging the investments already made in creating MIT OpenCourseWare, OpenStudy and Codecademy.

We realized very quickly that a lot of additional flexibility came with leveraging these resources.  Because they were from mature projects focused on openly sharing their resources and functionality, they had developed alternate modes of delivery to address bandwidth issues:

  • the 6.189 course used an open textbook that was downloadable
  • the 6.189 course materials (assignments, notes) themselves could be downloaded in a single zip file
  • the 6.00SC videos used were downloadable from iTunes U and the Internet Archive
  • OpenStudy was launching a beta mobile interface just as the course kicked off

And our learners downloaded the materials is large numbers:

Screen Shot 2013-03-04 at 7.53.26 AM

Beyond that, we were able to also leverage the deep investments made in translating these open resources.  The text is available in a dozen languages, and the course materials have been translated into Chinese.  By building our course on open resources, we saved money and leveraged the work that these projects have already put into reaching audiences working without persistent internet or in other languages.  A win-win-win.

New free course by human genome pioneer Dr. Eric Lander announced

Posted in MIT OpenCourseWare, mitx by scarsonmsm on January 30, 2013

Massive open online course to share how genetics is transforming our understanding of human biology and disease.

CAMBRIDGE, MA, January 30, 2013 — In the 1990’s and early ’00s, Dr. Eric Lander led the Human Genome Project’s efforts to sequence the entire human genome; now he brings that wealth of experience to a unique new free course that will share how human genetics is answering some of the most difficult questions about human life at its most fundamental level. In the coming decades, scientists will be able to understand how cells are “wired” and how that wiring is disrupted in human diseases ranging from diabetes to cancer to schizophrenia.

The course, 7.00x Introductory Biology: “The Secret of Life”, is slated to start March 5th, and registration is now open. In addition revealing the cutting edge of human genetics, the course also promises to be an innovative educational experience. Developed out of Professor Lander’s 20 years of experience teaching MIT undergraduates, the course has been completely rethought and retooled, incorporating cutting-edge online interactive tools as well as community-building contests and milestone-based prizes.

“Introducing the freshman class of MIT to the basics of biology is exhilarating,” said Lander. “Now, with this edX course, I look forward to teaching people around the world. There are no prerequisites for this course – other than curiosity and an interest in understanding some of the greatest scientific challenges of our time.”

Lander’s materials were also used in the creation of MIT OpenCourseWare’s 7.01SC Fundamentals of Biology, one of our unique OCW Scholar courses. OCW Scholar courses provide MIT course materials in a self-guided format that can be accessed at any time, but do not include instructor support or recognition for completion.

In addition to Professor Lander’s class, MIT has announced two additional new courses to be offered through edX, Electricity and Magnetism by Walter Lewin and The Challenges of Global Poverty from Esther Duflo. Introduction to Computer Science and Programming, Circuits and Electronics and Introduction to Solid State Chemistry, offered in 2012, are again available in 2013.

About Professor Lander

Dr. Eric Lander is President and Founding Director of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, a new kind of collaborative biomedical research institution focused on genomic medicine. Dr. Lander is also Professor of Biology at MIT and Professor of Systems Biology at the Harvard Medical School. In addition, Dr. Lander serves as Co-Chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, which advises the White House on science and technology. A geneticist, molecular biologist and mathematician, Dr. Lander has played a pioneering role in all aspects of the reading, understanding and medical application of the human genome. He was a principal leader of the international Human Genome Project (HGP) from 1990-2003, with his group being the largest contributor to the mapping and sequencing of the human genetic blueprint. Dr. Lander was an early pioneer in the free availability of genomic tools and information. Finally, he has mentored an extraordinary cadre of young scientists who have become the next generation of leaders in medical genomics. The recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees, Dr. Lander was elected a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 1997 and of the U.S. Institute of Medicine in 1999.

About edX

EdX is a not-for-profit enterprise of its founding partners Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology focused on transforming online and on-campus learning through groundbreaking methodologies, game-like experiences and cutting-edge research. EdX provides inspirational and transformative knowledge to students of all ages, social status, and income who form worldwide communities of learners. EdX uses its open source technology to transcend physical and social borders. We’re focused on people, not profit. EdX is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the USA.

About MIT OpenCourseWare

MIT OpenCourseWare makes the materials used in the teaching of substantially all of MIT’s undergraduate and graduate courses—more than 2,150 in all—available on the Web, free of charge, to any user in the world. OCW receives an average of 2 million website visits per month from more than 215 countries and territories worldwide. To date, more than 150 million individuals have accessed OCW materials.

Contact:

Stephen Carson
External Relations Director
MIT OpenCourseWare
617-253-1250
scarson@mit.edu
http://ocw.mit.edu

Just what I need

Posted in media, MIT OpenCourseWare by scarsonmsm on January 30, 2013

Given my ability to keep up on this blog, and the demands of the Mechanical MOOC blog (http://mechanicalmooc.wordpress.com), about the last thing I need is to be responsible for the care and feeding of yet another. But despite my personal misgivings, we are launching an official MIT OpenCourseWare blog, Open Matters, at http://mitopencourseware.wordpress.com.

To be honest, we’ve needed it for some time, but weren’t sure we had the capacity to keep it stocked with good content; at this point, though, there is just so much going on in open ed that we need a more flexible way of getting news out. So, if you follow me here, please follow me there. For the time being there will likely be duplication here and there, but eventually the two paths will diverge in a yellow wood.

Higher Ed Today appearance

Posted in MIT OpenCourseWare, Open Educational Resources, OpenCourseWare by scarsonmsm on October 11, 2012

Had the pleasure of appearing last week on a DC cable show, Higher Ed Today, along with Candace Thille of CMU’s OLI.  Thanks, Steven!

For your viewing pleasure:

MIT OpenCourseWare Releases Episode 1 of ChemLab Boot Camp Series

Videos follow 14 MIT freshmen through their introduction to hands-on science.

CAMBRIDGE, MA, September 18, 2012 — MIT OpenCourseWare has released the first episode of its newest open educational offering, ChemLab Boot Camp, a video series that chronicles the experiences of 14 real MIT freshmen as they get their first taste of working in MIT chemistry labs.

Each year, groups of MIT freshmen are introduced to MIT’s laboratory environment through a four-week January course called 5.301 Chemistry Laboratory Techniques. In January 2012, a film crew followed these students as they competed to complete experiments. The stakes in the class are high—students who pass the class are guaranteed a job in an MIT research lab.

Watch Episode 1 of ChemLab Boot Camp.

Ten additional episodes will be released each week through the fall, and announced on the ChemLab Boot Camp e-mail list. The 2-5 minute episodes, shot in a style that mixes the geek fun of open educational resources with the immediacy of reality TV, brings viewers closer to the experience of being an MIT student than ever before. Follow the students as they struggle to master the intricacies of working with solvents and compete to create the largest crystals. The videos are part of a broader effort funded by The Dow Chemical Company to foster interest in science and engineering careers.

“Despite the critical need for more and more people trained in chemistry and chemical engineering, the fields have not been as attractive as they should be,” said MIT Professor John Essigmann in commenting on the inspiration for the series. “Dow and MIT have mobilized our collective resources to try to show high school and college students what it is like to be a chemist. We hope to show the human side of our field and to inspire young people to want to become the next generation of chemists.”

The MIT-Dow Outreach Fund is designed to develop and support the science and engineering careers of underrepresented minorities and women. A five-year, $2 million commitment from The Dow Chemical Company, the fund supports the advancement of the shared goals of both Dow and MIT to support science education throughout the entire pipeline. The establishment of this Outreach Program comes as MIT celebrates its 150th anniversary.

About Dow

Dow (NYSE: DOW) combines the power of science and technology to passionately innovate what is essential to human progress. The Company connects chemistry and innovation with the principles of sustainability to help address many of the world’s most challenging problems such as the need for clean water, renewable energy generation and conservation, and increasing agricultural productivity. Dow’s diversified industry-leading portfolio of specialty chemical, advanced materials, agrosciences and plastics businesses delivers a broad range of technology-based products and solutions to customers in approximately 160 countries and in high growth sectors such as electronics, water, energy, coatings and agriculture. In 2011, Dow had annual sales of $60 billion and employed approximately 52,000 people worldwide. The Company’s more than 5,000 products are manufactured at 197 sites in 36 countries across the globe. References to “Dow” or the “Company” mean The Dow Chemical Company and its consolidated subsidiaries unless otherwise expressly noted. More information about Dow can be found at www.dow.com.

About Highlights for High School

Highlights for High School organizes more than 70 introductory level courses from the OCW site, and indexes over 2,700 individual resources to the AP curricula for calculus, chemistry, physics and biology, helping United States AP students and educators to find resources quickly. Highlights also includes dozens of demonstrations, competitions and other activities from MIT classes that show how fun and challenging science and technology subjects can be, inspiring the next generation of US engineers and scientists.

About MIT OpenCourseWare

MIT OpenCourseWare makes the materials used in the teaching of substantially all of MIT’s undergraduate and graduate courses—more than 2,100 in all—available on the Web, free of charge, to any user in the world. OCW receives an average of 1.75 million web site visits per month from more than 215 countries and territories worldwide. To date, more than 100 million individuals have accessed OCW materials.

Contact:

Christine Welch
Echo Media
(714) 573-0899 ext. 225
Christine@echomediapr.com

Testing out the Mechanical MOOC – the unplatform

Posted in Mechanical MOOC, MIT OpenCourseWare, MOOC, Open Educational Resources, OpenCourseWare, Video by scarsonmsm on September 12, 2012

I’m working with a group of testers to run through the initial draft of the course sequence for the upcoming Mechanical MOOC Intro to Python course, and I have to say, I am really loving the unplatform aspects of it.  I live in one of the more wired cities in the US, and I still spend a fair amount of my time outside of WiFi range.  I tried to complete the Udacity Stats course this summer, but one of the challenges was that I always had to be connected. My biggest blocks of free time are during my train commute, when theoretically I have wireless service (from AT&T) but practically I have at best spotty cell coverage (from AT&T).  This meant no working on the Stats course during the ride.

Because the  Mechanical MOOC depends on existing open content outside of an enforced platform, I have other options.  MIT OpenCourseWare helpfully provides a course download option, so I have the 6.189 course installed locally.  The text for the course is an open resource downloadable as a PDF.  The videos from 6.00 are available through iTunes U, so accessible offline on both my laptop and phone.   As an added bonus, OpenStudy just released a mobile interface, so I can even ask and answer questions without a WiFi connection.  Codecademy even seems to be functional on my iPhone at some level, though I doubt I’ll try to complete those lessons on that platform.

By not creating and enforcing a single platform, the Mechanical MOOC gives up the opportunity to harvest lots of tightly integrated data about the learners, but it allows us to take advantage of all the hard work that the content and community providers have put into making their environment accessible and inviting.  Hopefully this model is going to allow us to meet the learners where they live.

Excerpt from my review of Unlocking the Gates

Posted in MIT OpenCourseWare, MOOC, Open Educational Resources, OpenCourseWare by scarsonmsm on August 27, 2012

Here’s a paragraph from my review of Taylor Walsh’s book Unlocking the Gates.  The review was published in the Continuing Higher Education Review, Vol. 76, 2012.  Walsh’s book reviews a number of the early online courseware efforts, including Fathom.com, MIT OpenCourseWare, Carnegie Mellon’s Open Learning Initiative and India’s National Program on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL).

What is consistent for me between these projects and the subsequent MOOCs at Stanford and MIT is that they are all in one way or another institutional answers to the question MIT president Charles Vest posed in 2000 to the committee that ultimately recommended MIT OpenCourseWare: How will the Internet change education, and what should our university do about it? That charge has echoed throughout the open-education community in the last decade as schools continue to grapple with these fundamental issues, and with the emergence of the newest generation of open online offerings, MOOCs, these questions take on increasing urgency.

ChemLab Boot Camp: MIT OpenCourseWare launches reality series

Posted in MIT OpenCourseWare, Open Educational Resources, OpenCourseWare, Video by scarsonmsm on August 14, 2012

A new series of videos to be published this fall follows 14 MIT freshmen through their introduction to hands-on science.

5.301 ChemLab Boot CampCAMBRIDGE, MA, August 14, 2012 — Each year, groups of MIT freshmen are introduced to MIT’s laboratory environment through a four-week January course called 5.301 Introductory Lab Techniques. In January 2012, a film crew followed 14 students as they struggled to complete experiments required in the class. The stakes are high—students who pass the class are guaranteed a job in an MIT research lab.

This fall, MIT OpenCourseWare will share videos that follow these students as they face the challenges of learning chemistry the MIT way through a unique series called ChemLab Boot Camp. The episodes will be released each week starting in September, and announced on the ChemLab Boot Camp e-mail list.

Watch the ChemLab Boot Camp trailer.

The 2-5 minute episodes, shot in a style that mixes the geek fun of open educational resources with the immediacy of reality TV, brings viewers closer to the experience of being an MIT student than ever before. The videos follow the students as they struggle to master lab techniques such as growing crystals and synthesizing antibiotics. The videos are part of a broader effort at MIT funded by The Dow Chemical Company to foster interest in science and engineering careers.

“Despite the critical need for more and more people trained in chemistry and chemical engineering, the fields have not been as attractive as they should be,” said MIT chemistry Professor John Essigmann in commenting on the idea behind the series. “Dow and MIT have mobilized our collective resources to try to show high school and college students what it is like to be a chemist. We hope to show the human side of our field and to inspire young people to want to become the next generation of chemists.”

The MIT-Dow Outreach Fund is designed to develop and support the science and engineering careers of underrepresented minorities and women. A five-year, $2 million commitment from Dow, the Outreach Fund is intended to support science education at all levels. The establishment of this Outreach Program comes as MIT celebrates its 150th anniversary.

About Dow

Dow (NYSE: DOW) combines the power of science and technology to advance what is essential to human progress. The Company connects chemistry and innovation with the principles of sustainability to help address many of the world’s most challenging problems, such as the need for clean water, the generation and conservation of renewable energy, and the improvement of agricultural productivity. Dow’s diversified portfolio of specialty businesses in chemistry, advanced materials, agrosciences and plastics delivers a broad range of technology-based products and solutions to customers around the world. In 2011, Dow had annual sales of $60 billion and employed approximately 52,000 people worldwide. The Company’s more than 5,000 products are manufactured at 197 sites in 36 countries across the globe. References to “Dow” or the “Company” mean The Dow Chemical Company and its consolidated subsidiaries unless otherwise expressly noted. More information about Dow can be found at (http://www.dow.com).

About Highlights for High School

Highlights for High School organizes more than 70 introductory level courses from the OCW site, and indexes over 2,700 individual resources to the AP curricula for calculus, chemistry, physics and biology, helping American students and educators find resources quickly. The Highlights site also includes dozens of demonstrations, competitions and other activities from MIT classes that show how fun and challenging science and technology subjects can be, inspiring the next generation of US engineers and scientists.

About MIT OpenCourseWare

MIT OpenCourseWare makes the materials used in the teaching of substantially all of MIT’s undergraduate and graduate courses—more than 2,100 in all—available on the Web, free of charge, to any user in the world. OCW receives an average of 1.75 million web site visits per month from more than 215 countries and territories worldwide. To date, more than 100 million individuals have accessed OCW materials.

Contact:

Christine Welch
Echo Media
(714) 573-0899 ext. 225
Christine@echomediapr.com